Russia's Vladimir Putin says West is fomenting jihadi 'blowback'
Moscow is criticized for weak support of the Arab Spring, and for actively backing Bashir al-Assad in Syria. But the Kremlin says its policies are consistent and the West is exporting revolt.
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The critique targets Western backing of anti-dictator rebellions in Libya and Syria, which, as Mr. Putin tells it, only fuels the spreading flames of extreme Islamist insurrection, including the current war in Mali and last week's terrorist strike on a gas complex in Algeria.
"The Syrian conflict has been raging for almost two years now. Upheaval in Libya, accompanied by the uncontrolled spread of weapons, contributed to the deterioration of the situation in Mali," Mr. Putin said at a meeting with new ambassadors in the Kremlin Thursday.
"The tragic consequences of these events led to a terrorist attack in Algeria which took the lives of civilians, including foreigners," he added.
"Those whom the French and Africans are fighting now in Mali are the same people who . . . our Western partners armed so that they would overthrow the Gaddafi regime," in Libya in 2011, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference Wednesday.
Many in the West may be inclined to shrug off Russian criticism as the routine sniping of a government whose Mideast influence has slumped since the Arab Spring began, or the self-serving rationale of an autocratic regime that fears popular revolution and automatically backs authoritarian rulers.
But many Russian experts, including sharp critics of the Kremlin on other issues, argue that Russian leaders are being realists about the blowback that has followed Western interventions in the Muslim world.
They say Moscow has been dealing with the threat of militant jihadists since the Soviet Union's disastrous 1980s war in Afghanistan, and has watched as it has shown up in parts of Russia's heartland. Kremlin leaders accuse the West of an enthusiasm for toppling dictators that has led, not to democracy, but to spreading mayhem and rising Islamist militancy across West Asia and North Africa.