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July 3, 2022

Syria: The most serious crisis after the cold war (II)

The significance of Washington’s decision wasn’t ignored at all by the observers of the international scene. And it’s normal to be like this, since this decision is going to have a big systemic importance in today’s international context. Thus, Russia responded immediately by suspending a strategical agreement with the US on the destruction of the existing plutonium, a raw material for nuclear weapons. We’ll mention first an opinion coming from Russia about the American decision.

An editorial published on October 8 by the newspaper in English called “The Moscow Times”, simply noted: “Russia’s relations with the West, and with the United States in particular, have lapsed into a new Cold War. The window of opportunity that opened in the early 1990s, back when it seemed that Russia had every chance of genuine integration into the community of democratic countries, has now unfortunately closed — most likely for a long time.”

The above mentioned editorial is not limited to note this reality occurred on October 3, but appreciates that since 2014 “The West justifiably perceives President Vladimir Putin’s actions and rhetoric as threatening. Those in Russia who oppose the Putin regime also view the Kremlin’s actions as fuelling the risk of war. Putin, meanwhile, constantly tells his citizens that Washington is the true aggressor, and that he is just responding.”

In the international community of experts watching the development of the events, the objectives pursued by Putin in his foreign policy are assessed in different ways. We mention below some of the most important assessments present in the international media in this moment. Thus, it is considered that through the strategy implemented in Syria which caused US to react, Putin aims to regain the fame lost by its country after the Cold War. Besides, such an objective is mentioned by the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation, adopted on December 31, 2015: “consolidating the status of the Russian Federation as a leading world power”. An analysis published by “Geopolitical Monitor” (October 5) mentions that Russia pursues in Syria a package formed by 3 targets: to destroy the Islamist militias to prevent the expansion of their influence in Russia, especially in the Caucasus; to return in Mideast as a great force and to recover the fame held in the region by the former USSR.

The analysis concludes that “in a related way, the Kremlin wants to regain international prestige”. Another thesis exposed by the international media appreciates that, by acting this way in Syria, Moscow aims to force the reopening of the discussion on the strategical balance in the Euro-Atlantic space, specific in Europe. Since 2008, during the war with Georgia, the Russian President of the moment, D. Medvedev, launched a plan in this regard, detailed by the Russian diplomacy one year later. This plan actually proposes a new agreement like Helsinki-1975, by which the spheres of influence were established/frozen in Europe. According to a survey published two weeks ago, Jeffrey Mankoff appreciated that the main challenge to the international security lies in leaving by Russia the role of a guarantor of the system built after the Cold War (Paris, November 1990) and in its attempt to make West to agree its reformatting: “The bigger, longer term challenge lies in managing relations with a Russia that no longer conceives of itself as a partner in upholding the security of Europe, and in designing rules and institutions for this dangerous new era.” Of course, there are also other opinions related to this recent event.

Their authors take into account various aspects of the current complicated situation. From the Iranian factor – very important in the Syrian civil war equations, to the Israeli one, since Jerusalem is careful that the security will not turn into a prisoner of this civil war cruelly developed in its vicinity, the states who are interested in the battle for power in Damascus spend all the strategies and money to reach their own objectives. That’s what Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states from the Golf are doing. In this huge bundle of contradictions there are also some very clear things. One of them refers to Russia. Maintaining the regime that is loyal to Assad in Damascus is mentioned as Russia’s primary objective in Mideast in this moment.

This appears distinctly in a record of the conversation held on September 22, 2016, on the occasion of the UN General Meeting in New York, between the head of the American diplomacy J. Kerry, and representatives of the Syrian opposition against Assad, as well as several diplomats from allied states (the about 40 minutes discussion was held at the Dutch mission in New York). According to the transcript of that conversation, published by “NYT”, John Kerry would have said that during the negotiations with Russians for a ceasefire agreement in September 2016, his Russian counterpart rejected outright his new proposal to stop the bombing of Aleppo. Those setbacks were followed by days of crippling Russian and Syrian airstrikes in Aleppo /…/.” He would have also said that if Russia was legally invited by Syria (the Assad regime), the US have no legal justification to attack the Syrian governmental forces. In this context, stating that “The problem is the Russians don’t care about international law, and we do”, Kerry has clearly revealed the reality that Russia is relying on its position to support the Assad regime, while the American forces cannot neither perform a military attack against the Syrian army for legal reasons, nor protect the opposition forces against the governmental attacks.

The interesting thing is that Kerry would have declared the distinctions made by Washington between combatants: “The United States wants the rebels to help it fight the Islamic State and Al Qaeda because, as he put it, ‘both have basically declared war on us.’ But Washington will not join the same rebels in fighting Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia allied with Mr. Assad, even though the United States lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group like the others.” Moreover, Kerry also made a suggestion which was not agreed at all by the Syrian representatives who were present, namely that for the Syrian opposition “their best hope was a political solution to bring the opposition into a transitional government. Then, he said, ‘you can have an election and let the people of Syria decide: Who do they want?’”. We quoted these statements made by Kerry especially because they reveal how Russia benefitted from the opportunity of some difficulties met by the American partners to force reaching its own objectives.

But in the end, this thing displeased the American side and not only – especially since numerous civil victims recorded in Aleppo as a result of the Russian – Syrian (Assad) bombings – because apparently they would have been legitimated by an agreement concluded with Washington.

Or, in the encoded relationship between the two great forces, this meant the lack of trust and deference towards the delicate situation of the partner. This Russian negligence probably weighted a lot in Washington’s decision of October 3 on suspending cooperation. This thing made the commentators to consider that it’s the most serious crisis between the two capitals after the Cold War, exactly for the reason that dispelling of their mutual trust – which made possible both the Iranian nuclear agreement and one year of joint efforts to settle the conflict in Syria – announces a long period for its recovery.

Or, in this long period there are so many events that could happen and be exacerbated by a lack of communication between Washington and Moscow.


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