The French daily newspaper, Le Figaro, has suggested that the success of the Russian strategy abroad is largely linked to the profound knowledge of geography that President Vladimir Putin has shown.
The publication cited an illustrative example that took place in October 2017, when Putin interrupted the speech of Alexander Tkachov, the agriculture minister, who was addressing pork exports to Indonesia. The Russian president explained that he was wrong because Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country (about 87 percent of the population), which means Russia cannot sell them pork.
Unlike his Western counterparts, President Putin has an excellent understanding of cultural differences due to the high quality of Soviet education, as well as his personal interest in geography, which allows him to conduct a more elaborate policy, Le Figaro noted.
The media outlet also stressed that, for instance, former French and US presidents, Nicolas Sarkozy and George Bush, couldn’t distinguish between Shia and Sunni Muslims at the beginning of their tenures, which led to catastrophe in the Middle East.
In a similar way, Le Figaro wrote, the current French president, Emmanuel Macron, made a geographical blunder, by calling Guiana, a French overseas territory in South America, an island.
Such low-level knowledge of geography leads them to a total misunderstanding of the major international geostrategic issues, consecutively monopolised by economic lobbies, which defend their own short term interests and not those of the nation in the long term, the newspaper says.
“For example, in Mali, Islamists were considered a threat to French interests, but in Syria they were a strong ally against Bashar Assad, who is perceived (for what objective reason?) as an enemy to be defeated at any cost”, Le Figaro wrote.
As a result, the West does not have a clear long-term strategy, defining who its enemies and friends are, which countries should be avoided from being destabilised to maintain peace in the world, or what the ratio is between real and unwanted actors in different states.
It has led to a number of geopolitical mistakes for which the world has to pay the price. For instance, the emergence of Daesh*, which is both a consequence of the US destruction of Iraq in 2003 and of armed support for rebels in Syria.
*Daesh, also known as ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State, is a terrorist organisation outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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