Twenty Years of Putin Playing the West in 3 Minutes | NYT Opinion

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Vladimir Putin, especially these days, is widely reviled. To some he’s a war criminal, to others he’s a dictator, and to many he’s simply a very bad man.

But it wasn’t always this way.

We trawled through video footage from 20 years of international summits, speeches and news conferences and discovered a man who once basked in high regard: the one who went fishing and dancing with George W. Bush, who fell into warm embraces with Tony Blair and whose jokes had NATO’s leaders rolling on the floor with laughter.

As the Opinion Video above starkly reveals, Western leaders once considered Vladimir Putin not just an ally, but also, apparently, a friend.

Even if they were simply giving him the benefit of the doubt for political purposes, they were taking a naïve gamble of historic proportions: Be nice to Putin, and maybe he would be nice back.

It’s true that this brand of personal diplomacy scored some significant security victories. Arms control treaties were signed, and Putin allowed U.S. jets to strike the Taliban from bases in Russia’s satellite states.

But as Russian tanks rolled into Georgia in August 2008, Bush learned that his eight-year friendship with the Russian leader had earned him zero leverage over Putin’s territorial ambitions.

While it’s debatable whether Western governments could have foreseen the bloody horizon of Putin’s vision, let’s now be clear about one thing: Personal diplomacy doesn’t work when you need it most.

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Whether it's reporting on conflicts abroad and political divisions at home, or covering the latest style trends and scientific developments, New York Times video journalists provide a revealing and unforgettable view of the world. It's all the news that's fit to watch.
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Author

As far as I can see he was totally honest and clear. Problem was that nobody took him serious.

anonjan
Author

Now do 100 years of the US playing with the World in 30 hours.

natedeichard
Author

Putin: "I am not friend, foe, bride or groom for West. I am President of Russia".

kamrad_ichu
Author

It's adorable how the NY Times makes it seem like they weren't played in all these years as well.

Moribus_Artibus
Author

"He's not going into Ukraine"

Well, technically, it's true, he's still in Moscow

heristyono
Author

He has not played the west, he has always been clear on what he wants

sonsoeg
Author

For people confused with the “soviet” joke - its a wordplay. “Soviet” means “council” in russian.

alexanderkuznetsov
Author

Never try hide and seek with an ex veteran KGB-soldier.

jr.fidelcastro
Author

Putin: “I suggest from now on, the head quarters of Nato should be renamed The Council of Soviets” really hits hard.

benaldinhomasaba
Author

You can't claim that he was playing the West if the West was trying to play him at the same time problem is we couldn't keep our story straight because we kept electing people who disagreed with each other so we feel like he was getting over on us the whole time

josephhebert
Author

NATO played Russia by bringing NATO to Russia's border.

yll
Author

West loved him while they expected him to hand over Russia. Once he showed he is not going to, he became a 'dictator', etc, etc.

NightOwl
Author

The Soviet joke was wild 😅 especially when the person asks if it was a joke and then he just smiles.

miguelpoky
Author

‘I looked the man (Putin) in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country."
- George W. Bush on Putin, 2007

Frederick.J.Marshall
Author

More like the west playing Putin and he had enough.

LukaBEET
Author

Bush: I can see through your soul.

Putin: laughing hysterically.

Meghnaaad
Author

“Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer.”

-Sun Tzu

vasilimici
Author

And he wasn't gonna go to the Ukraine but the americans made him do the move. Don't be fooled people.

stefm.
Author

When you sit on the same chair for more than 20 years, you know how the game played.

HFDLI
Author

“History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme.” --Mark Twain

ChrisPeck-niganma