Vladimir Putin is “on our side,” said a top British political leader this week, who urged the West to back off and let Putin take over Ukraine so that the Russian strongman can “join forces” with Britain and the U.S. in the battle against ISIS.
Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party — an ultra-conservative political party that holds about one-third of the U.K.’s 73 seats in the European Parliament — scolded the West about what he characterized as its naive approach to Vladimir Putin, who Farage has earlier praised as his most admired world leader. Western nations must stop “provoking” Putin by “poking the Russian bear with a stick,” Farage said.
“I suggest we grow up,” Farage told the European governing body on Tuesday. “I suggest we recognize the real threat facing all of our countries, communities and societies, we stop playing war games in the Ukraine and we start to prepare a plan like Syria, like Iraq, like Kenya like Nigeria or Syria and help the deal with the real threat that faces us. Let’s not go on provoking Putin whether we like him or not.”
Western nations should stop opposing Putin’s push into Ukraine, Farage said, in order to enlist Putin in the battle against ISIS, the so-called “Islamic State” terror group which Farage deemed “the biggest threat and crisis to our way of life we have seen for over 70 years.”
In fact, the situation regarding Vladimir Putin and ISIS is more complicated that Farage makes it seem.
Russia took part in the 30-country meeting in Paris last Monday, at which the Western nations attempted to hash up a joint plan for crushing ISIS. At the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia would be part of “joint efforts in the specific area of ensuring security in Iraq through consolidating society and mobilizing it in a fight with terrorism and extremism.”
But Russia opposes airstrikes against ISIS within Syria, fearing that any military action there could backfire and end up weakening embattled Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad, who is backed strongly by Vladimir Putin.
“The U.S. places blame for the growth of ISIS on Putin, due to his unflagging support for Assad — support which helped stifle the uprising against the Syrian president and allowed the opportunistic Islamic extremists to step into the void where ‘moderate’ anti-Assad forces failed. The U.S. opposes Assad, backing the moderate rebels in Syria.”
Putin is said to fear that the U.S. fight against ISIS in Syria will be used as a sneaky way to unseat Assad. But Putin has his own ISIS problems. In June, ISIS released a video directly threatening Putin after capturing a Syrian government air field stocked with Russian-made fighter planes.
ISIS promised Putin, “[T]hese are your aircraft which you sent to Bashar, and with the help of Allah we’ll send them back to you. Remember this. And with the permission of Allah, we’ll liberate Chechnya and all the Caucasus.”
One expert on the region called the prospect of ISIS-trained militants re-entering Russia to join Chechen insurgents “a chronic nightmare” for Vladimir Putin.