The Sept. 17 Bloomberg article by Dmitri Trenin, “Why the West misread Russia,” provides deep insights into the thinking behind Russia’s proposed arrangement to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons — without the use of force.

If Trenin’s analysis is accurate and truly indicative of Putin’s political philosophy, Putin may be providing an opportunity for humanity to avoid, or at least delay, Armageddon.

Putin’s vision of international crisis management by a consensus of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — while certainly not perfect — is better than the unilateralism motivated by exceptionalism backed by threat and use of force. After all, “exceptionalism” was a factor in the precipitation of World War II.

Perhaps Putin’s gambit will prove contagious. Now Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has made a case to the American people and the world for a “constructive approach” to contentious issues including his nation’s nuclear program.

Could we be witnessing a revival of belief in and compliance with U.N. Charter principles, first and foremost the eschewing of the use of force in international relations?

Just as the League of Nations and the United Nations were conceived and born of war, these initiatives regarding very difficult and dangerous situations may be heralding and stimulating a breakthrough in the way international relations are conducted. They may or may not work, and for the Syrian situation, it is up to Putin and Russia to make it happen. But at least the gesture and attempt are progress toward that ideal.

Hopefully U.S. President Barack Obama — by most accounts an intelligent and deep thinker — shares this vision of a better world and will help implement it in the interest of long-term “human national security.” But can and will Obama rise to the occasion? If he does, he will certainly improve his place in history.

The alternative for humanity is more of the same — the dominance of cultural arrogance, the use of force to settle disputes and ultimately the apocalypse.

mark j. valencia
kaneohe, hawaii

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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