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Wed. Jun 29th, 2022

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.

More from The New York Times Video:
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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26 thoughts on “Twenty Years of Putin Playing the West in 3 Minutes | NYT Opinion”
  1. Hi, I’m Adam and I produced this piece for Opinion Video. Looking back at footage from 20 years ago it was eerie to see world leaders being warm and friendly with Putin — and how much Putin seemed to want to be liked, at least at the beginning. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but should Bush, Obama and Trump have acted any differently?

  2. What president Trump meant by he's not going into Ukraine is "He's not going into Ukraine ON MY WATCH"

  3. Putin tries to undermind the U.S he was trained to be a spy it's in his blood to be against democracy

  4. F biden if you want him out so bad go yourself , stop luring my people to go and fight for ur own convenience ,.

  5. I find it bewildering how most people in the west are ignorant to the fact the NATO expansion to Ukraine is a genuine security concern for Russia. It’s as if people don’t understand the historical and political context of NATO, a United Western organisation formed in opposition to the USSR. After the collapse of the USSR, at the Munich meeting, it was further agreed that NATO would not expand past Germany…a discussion that did not make it to a formal agreement.

    It’s hypocritical of the West to condemn preemptive force considering it’s past record. It only took missiles in Cuba to provoke the US to employ pre-emptive blockade. Then there was the supposed WMD in Iraq to justify a preemptive war in 2003. Now I’m not justifying Russian aggression per se on the basis of US precedents that have violated the prohibition on the use of force under Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. Despite these violations, it’s clearly that the use of force remains prohibited under International Law. However it’s clear that Russia’s security concerns in the region are not a product of ‘Putin fanaticism’. These are rational, strategic concerns that for years the West has failed to take seriously.

    Unfortunately, it seems like this war may last for years and to me, the only way it can end is with a peace agreement, ensuring that Ukraine never joins NATO. However considering the West seems to be winning the ‘media battle’ in this conflict, it’s unlikely that the West will push for such an agreement. It will instead continue to ensure the conflict lasts as long as possible by supplying weaponry and continuing to pump propaganda villainizing Russia. While Russia is wrong to invade, it’s just purely simplistic to describe the political context of this conflict as black and white.

  6. Putin is not our enemy … are! Just wait as Americans eyes are opened. “What has been done in secret is now being unveiled.”

  7. The central and eastern European countries always knew what to expect (those that were/are not autocratic and ultranationalistic like Hungary and Serbia)

  8. It’s a bit like in a marriage when you realise that you married Satan’s favourite daughter. At first she said you can trust her and she promised all sorts of things. Then you later find out who you really married. For Putin there will be no coming back because the west doesn’t have to guess anymore if he can be trusted.

  9. And all of this happened because Russia got scared that their imports of gas and oil to Europe would be cut by Ukraine

  10. NATO, the EU, and the USA should have taken action against Putin’s Russia much sooner

  11. All the worlds a stage … forever to deal with
    Putin … only by design … Cahoots with others

  12. ‘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

  13. The New York Times published an article saying that Ukraine should give some land to Russia, to finish war faster. This is the same as saying that Poland, France, etc, should have given land to Hitler/Germany in order to stop war faster. Or surrendering to Stalin. Or giving Taiwan to the Communist Chinese to avoid war. The New Tork Times prefers a Masonic position in the world: values are not important, relations of power are more important. For the New York Times it is not important to do what's right, preferring to do what is more convenient.

  14. I wish you also used the footage of Mitt Romney being right during the 2012 presidential campaign.

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