Syria Defining Russia’s Relations With The West

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What Russian military intervention in Syria means for the West and how it has affected Russia-West relations in a negative way is something that has got Russian strategists worried and top experts from Russia have highlighted the seriousness of this issue on various platforms.

Russian experts are worried that Moscow’s increasing presence in neighboring countries could have serious implications for Russia in the long run. Several analysts examined the country’s ongoing military intervention in Syria where they have been conducting regular airstrikes against the infamous ISIS group. The think tank reported that these actions in Syria have further dented the relations between Moscow and the West. In addition to that, the threat of terrorism in the Middle East is far from over and international terrorism is still as strong as it was before Russian intervention in the region.

Russian analysts worried about adventures in Syria

Russian security practitioners have been working on the issue of how to enhance Russian security in the wake of recent events. Vasily  Kuznetsov, a security expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), has warned Vladimir Putin that his actions can have grave consequences for Russian security itself. He warned that Russian actions in Syria will not have as much impact as Moscow had earlier predicted and the position of Russian Rebels in Syria will stay the same more or less. However, these actions will further ruin the image of Russia in the eyes of the Muslim world.

Sunni Muslim countries in particular, have raised their voices against Russian intervention in Syria. Saudi Arabia, the self-claimed leader of the Muslim world, has openly warned Russia of facing grave consequences for its actions in Syria. Bashar al Assad is not acceptable to majority of the Muslim world and by joining hands with him, Moscow has hurt the feelings of Muslims across the globe.

Vasily Kuznetsov stated that Russian support for Bashar al Assad will be viewed as an out of the way support for a dictator, who is not very famous even in his own country. Bashar al Assad has bombed civilians in order to maintain his rule of law in the country and defending him is only making Moscow look bad.

Open invitation to Jihadists? 

One of the major issues that were discussed during the October meeting of the Russian think tanks was the threat of Jihad. Russian actions can promote Jihad in the region and the analysts used the term “export of Jihad” to define the course Moscow is headed for. Russian actions against Syrian rebels will provoke Sunni Muslim groups to join the fight against Russian forces and that will further export jihad in the region. In addition to that, Russian military intervention in Syria has put the country in direct confrontation with these extremists groups and they can exploit Russia’s Muslim majority areas, which as a consequence will help export terrorism into Russian territory. This has undermined Russia’s own security and that is not a good omen for a country whose economy has been suffering of late.

While discussing the negative aspects of Russian military intervention in Syria, Alexander Golts, representing the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (CFDP), stated that Russia’s main goal from all this was to make its presence felt on the world stage once more and Moscow has achieved that already. The West is talking about Russia once more and continuing this operation in Syria seems meaningless now. Russian activities in Syria are absurd and continuing with something that has no long term goals or objectives seems meaningless and foolish.

He further added that it was a mistake to initiate this operation in the first place. Moscow only wanted to push the West to listen to it and to negotiate with Russia on international matters. Russia wanted to get out of the international isolation it was thrust into following the annexation of Crimea and the ensuing proxy war in Ukraine.

A political analyst from Carnegie Moscow Center, Arkady Dubnov stated that lack of international support to Moscow in Syrian operation should be a cause of concern for Putin’s administration. He added that not even states from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are supporting Russian activities in Syria. Even at the CIS summit in October, there was not a single debate on the topic of Russian fight against Terrorism in Syria but that could also be due to the fact that it is hard to find any state on the forum that can say what it wants to in Putin’s face.

Conflicting views over Syria

However, there are many experts who are backing Kremlin’s stance involving Syrian intervention. Andrey Kazantsev of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO-University) slammed international community for not supporting Russian fight against terrorism in Syria. He stated that international community has failed to get on board with Russian stance in all this. Moscow’s major motive is not to help Bashar al Assad strengthen his regime in Syria, it is rather the elimination of terrorist groups in Syria that are posing a serious and direct threat to Russian sovereignty.

He added that whatever happens in Syria, the West cannot blame Russia for that. Even if terrorism has increased in the region, it should not be considered the fault of Russia. Russia is only trying to eliminate terrorism from the region and the West should respect Russia for that instead of bashing its sincere efforts.

In the backdrop of Russian intervention in Syria, analysts have been talking about Russia posing direct threat to the US hegemony. That has prompted some analysts to talk about the possibility of another Cold War. However, most of the Russian analysts have downplayed such concerns and have assured that the relationship between Moscow and Washington remains stable as ever.

Obviously, there will be times when the United States and Russia will come face to face and the atmosphere will be less than cordial, but that cannot be put in the same brackets to that of the Cold War. Even in the case of Syria, although United States and Russia are not on the same page about the issue of Bashar al Assad regime, they still have a common enemy in the form of ISIS. And here the two powers have made sure that they stay out of each other’s way and do not get involved in what we call friendly fire.

The mistrust between the two countries is still very critical and it would be a mistake to think that Washington and Moscow will coordinate with each other in the wake of Syrian crisis. However, the important point is to understand that even in this hostile environment, Russia and United States have acted sensibly and that reflects the maturity of their respective governments. And this could very well be the turning point in Russia relations with the West.


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