President Putin’s refusal last week to implement the crippling sanctions that the Duma earlier proposed allowed the Russian leader to present himself as a “moderate” in the eyes of the West and contributed to the ongoing rehabilitation of his reputation there as his country attempts to make progress on clinching a “New Detente” with the US and EU.
The members of the Alt-Media Community who were braying for blood following last month’s outbreak of anti-Russian Color Revolution unrest in Georgia and a TV present’s recent expletive-laden outburst against President Putin’s family were sorely disappointed when the Russian leader defied the Duma last week and refused to implement the crippling sanctions that it earlier proposed against the Caucasian country. The legislature wanted to ban the import of wine and water, as well as restrict remittance transfers, which would have almost immediately catalyzed an economic crisis in the neighboring nation, but President Putin rebuffed them “out of respect for its people” because he knew that going ahead with that plan would be tantamount to losing hearts and minds there forever.
It’s true that some de-facto sanctions just came into effect after Russia banned direct flights to Georgia, which is expected to hit its tourist sector real hard and deprive the country of millions of dollars of revenue that it would have otherwise received, but the explanation for doing so is a sound one since the authorities want to ensure that none of the Russophobic rioters target its citizens. In addition, intrepid Russians or those who already booked their holiday stay for later this year can always reroute their journey through third countries like Armenia in order to get to Georgia regardless, so the economic effect that this measure is expected to have will probably remain manageable for the meantime unlike the instantaneous consequences that would have occurred had the Duma’s proposed sanctions been implemented.
By defying the Duma, President Putin was able to powerfully present himself as a so-called “moderate” instead of the “hardliner” (to use the West’s preferred parlance for describing “deep state” factions in rival nations) that he’s been misportrayed as for over the past half-decade already. This in turn will go a long way towards rehabilitating his reputation in the West and complements the recent worldwide attention that he’s been given as a socio-conservative leader after his now-viral interview with the Financial Times, which contributes to the progress that Russia is trying to make in clinching a “New Detente” with the US and EU (the latter of which is being pursued through Moscow’s coordinated outreaches to Paris and Rome). Since it contradicts the general public’s expectations, it might also get them to reconsider whether they were lied to about him all along.
Furthermore, by refusing to impose the Duma’s sanctions against Georgia, Russia avoids falling into the strategic trap of furthering the seemingly self-sustaining cycle of ever-worsening bilateral relations with its neighbor, thereby representing a possible turning point in this latest crisis after Moscow’s mature de-escalation. The Georgian President also did her part just before this by condemning the TV host’s vile rant against her Russian counterpart, proving that the political will veritably exists between both parties to ensure that their political crisis doesn’t spill out of control. As such, the Russian and Georgian leaders should be commended for taking a step back from the brink and prioritizing the interests of their people and regional stability despite the heavy domestic pressure that they’re both under by nationalist elements to escalate the situation.
In hindsight, this move might also be seen as a different sort of turning point in that President Putin’s image could begin to soften in the eyes of the Western audience who have been heavily reconditioned with years of intense propaganda to expect him to at the very least rubber stamp whatever anti-Georgian sanctions the Duma proposed. In one fell swoop, the Russian leader proved that he’s a truly independent politician with natural “moderate” leanings that go against the “hardliner” reputation that Western media outlets have built for him. While this might upset some of his most zealous international supporters in the Alt-Media Community, it’s all for the greater good of dispelling the many myths that have been cultivated around his persona by both his sympathizers and critics alike, which consequently allows the world to finally see the real Putin.
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