Flash - 26 Septembrie | publicatii - Politica La Est

Flash - 26 Septembrie

          Recently Russia  announced that is deploying its own military forces in Syria, and Western media signaled that it is about  several tanks around an airport and some fighters ready to act alongside the Bashar Al-Assad’s forces. The West-even US President Obama had expressed this opinion - warned Russia that the future of Syria is without Assad. What is worthy to be mentioned in this context also is the fact that the recent Moscow’s move is corresponding to the decision of other great powers interested in the future of Syria, like France and UK. They  already begun to attack ISIL’s positions in that country ( of course, this Western powers’ move could and   should be connected with the not yet solved  EU crisis of the migrants waves ). Are we in front of a new episode of the face-off between Russia and the West, which began with the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 or it is about anything else?

          Two analysis published recently in “The National Interest” is trying to answer that very important question. The first is detailing Russia interests in Syria which were founded during the early stages of the Cold War. According to the author “Moscow has a long history with Syria, based on multiple modes of cooperation that preceded Bashar al-Assad, and even his wily, pitiless and long-reigning father, Hafez (prime minister from 1970-71, president from 1971-2000).The Damascus-Moscow alignment has endured for various reasons. During the Cold War, the Kremlin regarded Syria’s Ba’ath Party, whose ideology is a mélange of pan-Arab nationalism and socialism, as a “progressive force.” This assessment was reinforced by the Syrian government’s refusal to participate in Washington’s Containment strategy. Furthermore, Syria is geopolitically significant. When the civil war began in 2011, its population was 23 million, making it the eighth most populous Arab country. It has a long Mediterranean coast and good ports. Its military has relied almost completely on Soviet and Russian armaments, the cumulative tally of its purchases totaling billions of dollars. Its leaders have been willing to provide Russia (and the USSR before it) access to naval bases and airfields.”[1] Not only that long and mutually beneficial relationship had driven the Moscow policy towards Syria today, but also internal security interests . It si about the threat of Islamic extremism. According to the author, professor at the City University of New York ,  “One consequence of the near-constant war Moscow has waged in the North Caucasus since 1994 is that it faces an Islamist insurgency in that region (a largely mountainous strip between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea). To make matters worse, the Islamic State (ISIS), which has built a state-within-a-state in Syria and Iraq and gained pledges of fealty (bayat) from acolytes in various parts of the word, has made inroads in the North Caucasus and recently even proclaimed a wilayaat (province ) there. Russia has some 17 million Muslims [12]—no EU country has even a third as many—and is expected to have 2 million-plus more by 2030. The point is certainly not that many of Russia’s Muslims are extremists—hardly the case—but that this demographic reality colors the Kremlin’s conduct in Syria, in particular its decision to back Assad against an opposition in which militant Sunni Islamists, in particular ISIS, are the most powerful elements.”
          Due to that reasons Russia acted recently in accordance with its own interests. Of course, that have been done without informing and coordinating with the West, which could be considered , in Moscow perception, as a way to reciprocate US behavior on the international arena ( initiatives taken without prior information of Russia even if it is of sensitive importance for her ).
          What next? Should we expect more deterioration of the relations already strained between Russia and the West? Or it is possible a compromise and identification a solution which could be beneficial for both, Russia and the West?
          At least, the opinion which we recommend here lists the options available for the future which is considered to be thought by Putin when he decided to act as we are seeing now: ”One possible outcome in Syria is an Alawite-dominated Ba’athist statelet, sandwiched between the coast and the Nusayriyah mountain range/…/The second is the ouster of Assad by members of his inner circle desperate to make the regime acceptable to the opposition in talks aimed at ending the war and creating a transitional coalition government. The third is the collapse of Assad’s state, followed by a protracted intramural fight to the finish among the multiple jihadist militias, with one or more emerging victorious and building theocratic polity.” And the author expresses his disappointment ( which he said is probably equally to Putin’s ) “ by Washington’s inability to realize that these are the realistic possibilities in Syria.” According to this article          “ Putin must be no less puzzled by the insistence of the United States (and Saudi Arabia and Turkey) that Assad must quit before there can be peace negotiations.”
          The second article is more straight in conclusions and recommendations on this complicated issue. Firstly, it is about the motivation of the recent Syrian’s move of Kremlin : “ Putin has made it clear that his goal is to counter the growing threat of ISIS in part by defending Assad.The threat from ISIS is real: Indeed, in April, Foreign Minister Lavrov called it “the main threat” to Russia today. The reasons are many. Russian authorities estimate the number of Russian citizens who have joined ISIS at as high as 2,000. Many have returned home, presumably some to commit acts of terrorism, a fear fed by the mounting turmoil surrounding the migration crisis and similar concerns in Europe. ISIS supporters have been uncovered across Russia, including in and around Moscow. Moreover, jihadis long active in the Russian North Caucasus are drawing closer to ISIS. This summer, key leaders of the Caucasus Emirate, an umbrella group for terrorists in the region, switched their loyalty from Al Qaeda to ISIS, and the latter declared the North Caucasus a wilayat, or one of its provinces. At the same, ISIS has been fostering links with extremist forces throughout the fragile states of Central Asia along Russia’s southern periphery.[2]
          Secondly, the author said that is clear that it is necessary to recognize that there is “The immediate threat is ISIS and other extremist forces.” Accordingly should be tested the will of Putin that “he wants to build a multinational coalition against ISIS, something he will likely press when he speaks at the United Nations later this month.
          Consequently, “we need to work with Moscow on a political transition in Syria, no matter how frustrating that might be. The beginning point is accepting that no one can put Syria back together again. A set of autonomous enclaves will likely emerge, if ISIS can be defeated, with the borders of some eventually extending beyond current Syrian territory.” Of course, one of these enclaves will be for Alawites, and consequently for Assad, but that arrangement will be only for the beginning. The Russians will be of course a key player in that initial arrangement due to their connections with the Alawite regime . And later on “Moscow will be a key player in setting the boundaries of the enclaves. We would increase our leverage with Moscow, if we were finally prepared to undertake a concerted effort to build a moderate opposition to Assad, regardless of how formidable a challenge that might now appear to be.”
          Without doubt, the geopolitical competition in the Middle East will go on relentlessly. Here are the actors, according to the author: “Russia will be a factor but far from the most important one. Iran is now exercising the strategic initiative, and will continue to do so with or without Russian support. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and Egypt—all American partners—will play a larger role than Russia in determining the contours of the new Middle East. And the United States’ influence in the Middle East exceeds Russia’s by orders of magnitude. Unlike Russia, we/ USA/ could play a decisive role in shaping the region’s future, if only we had a strategy.”
          To that target ( having a US strategy ), considers the author, “Putin's Russia is not the reason we lack one, but maybe its actions in Syria will finally persuade us to devise one.”
          That said we have to ask ourselves if that kind of analysis- undoubtedly clarifying the environment of otherwise a very complicated issue for the untrained readers-  if Russia is seeking something else.  As in recent article in NYT the author has pointed out: “To much of the world, Syria is a scene of unending tragedy, but to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia it is a golden opportunity, a way out of the isolation he and Russia have endured since the West imposed sanctions over Ukraine — with the added bonus of wagging an ‘I  told you so’ finger at the White House.[3]
          Would the West offers this golden opportunity to Putin’s Russia ?
          Sept. 18, 2015

[1] Rajan Menon ,Why Russia's Actions in Syria Are No Shocker, September 15, 2015, http://nationalinterest.org/print/feature/why-russias-actions-syria-are-no-shocker-13843
[2] Thomas E. Graham ,Russia's Syria Surprise (And What America Should Do about It), September 15, 2015-http://nationalinterest.org/print/feature/russias-syria-surprise-what-america-should-do-about-it-13844?page=show
[3] Neil MacFarquahar,Andrew E.Kramer, Putin Sees Path to Diplomacy Through Syria, Sept.16.2015-http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/17/world/putin-sees-syria-as-russias-path-back-into-good-graces-of-west.html?_r=0


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