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Former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, doing his best to spread Western propaganda
The London Guardian recently quoted former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari who, as mediator between the 5 permanent UN Security Council members, said that the West "ignored an offer from Russia in 2012 to have Syria's Assad step aside". On the face of it, this appears to reflect positively on Putin and Russia: they were trying to be diplomatic and help end the Syrian civil war. By extension, it would also appear as though he is criticizing the West for turning down the Russian proposal.
"It was an opportunity lost in 2012," Ahtisaari said in an interview.
Ostensibly, Ahtisaari was making the West look bad by saying that Western leaders were so sure Assad was going to fall that they rejected the offer. But is that the real message that is being transmitted, and received, here? Will anyone really see the West as the bad guys here, or will the suggestion of Russian involvement in deciding the fate of another sovereign country (by going behind Assad's back) be the more important point that is taken away? It seems more likely that this 'news bite' coming out at this time of increased cooperation between Assad and Putin is an attempt to drive a wedge between the Syrian and Russian governments. Not that either of them are likely to take the bait.

There is another subtext to Ahtisaari's remarks. First, that 'regime change' is "the right thing to do" when the circumstances call for it. The authors of the Guardian piece are careful to refer to democratically-elected Syrian president Bashar al-Assad as a "dictator", as if it were an objective fact. In reality, Assad is the democratically-elected leader of Syria who still enjoys the support of the majority of the Syrian population. Not that petty things like facts or reality have ever gotten in the way of Western narratives, but still, it was a sneaky, if all-too-common, piece of Western propaganda.

There's also the attempted smear of suggesting that Putin was eager to meddle in the affairs of the government of another nation. Now this might be old hat and no big deal to observers of the U.S. government's foreign policy over the past 100 years, what with their panoply of puppet states and politicians in their pockets, but for countries who aren't already slaves to the American Empire, it's not something they would willingly connect themselves, at least not overtly.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that Putin was quick to deny the accusation. He is not dumb. His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said what Putin has been repeating for quite a while now:
Mr Peskov dismissed the claim, saying that "it's very easy to trace chronologically that from the start of the Syrian crisis, Russia repeated at many different levels that only the Syrian people can determine its future, only through democratic elections".
So what we have here is a nefarious and subtle piece of propaganda from a very pro-Western diplomat who oversaw Finland joining the EU and also urged them to join NATO. Both institutions exist for the U.S. to push their foreign policy onto European nations and to push American military infrastructure closer to Russia and China in an effort to intimidate them. So Ahtisaari is clearly a hatchet-man for the West, not someone who wants to shine light on the U.S. refusal to accept a proposal to have Assad step down and push for manufactured civil war in Syria.

On the contrary, Ahtisaari is trying to make Russia look more like the imperial U.S. i.e. energetic proponents of regime change and manufacture a certain 'hypocrisy' between Putin's words and his supposed attempt to influence the Syrian government. The U.S. and their propaganda outfits can then jump on that idea and further demonize Putin and Russia. Putin quickly shot down the report, but the initial Guardian report has reverberated across the net, even to alternative news sites who have repeated it as though it was truth. The Kremlin denial, on the other hand, has a far smaller footprint. Something tells me that that is not by accident. The Western propaganda machine is out in full force spreading this particular lie.

But then, as I already noted, there's nothing new about that. Like all good psychopaths and their minions, the primary way in which they 'infect' the minds of millions with their pathological version of reality is to unashamedly accuse others of what they themselves do.