Expert explains how the recent developments regarding Russia’s proposed resolution to the Syrian Civil War represent major victories for Vladimir Putin and his nation.
Putin’s Five Victories
The plan for the resolution of the Syrian crisis, proposed by Russia, is swiftly becoming more concrete. Already this past Friday, when Russian-American consultations in Geneva were still ongoing, Syria began a full participant of the Convention on the Ban of Chemical Weapons, having signed the corresponding document. A government letter addressed to the General Secretary of the UN Ban Ki Moon states: “The Syrian Arabian Republic confirms that it pledges to follow the regulations of the Convention until they officially come into force on its territory.”
Russia’s transition from a defensive position to a diplomatic offensive turned out to be unexpected and very effective. Arriving at the limits of its tactic of blockage of possible Western aggressive activities against Syria, and understanding that Barack Obama, contrary to his unwillingness, was deciding on a military operation, Moscow suggested a satisfying way-out for everyone (perhaps, except militants and their sponsors). During the course of a week a diplomatic victory was accomplished, which has no analogues in post-Soviet history.
In the first place, Russia conclusively demonstrated that its position regarding international questions is constructive. It also demonstrated that its traditional noncompliance in matters of the use of force in international affairs is not a desire to put a spoke in the wheel of the USA and its allies at any cost, but a fundamental desire to search for political solutions. The symbol of this constructiveness of Russian politics was an unprecedented letter from Pope Francis to President Vladimir Putin, written even before the initiative of Syrian renunciation of chemical weapons, in which the pontiff urged to focus on the search for a peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict.
Secondly, we have been able to establish our foreign policy influence far beyond the borders of neighboring countries, for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. If in the beginning of the post-Soviet era we managed to stick to our line (the completion of the civil war in Tajikistan, peacekeeping in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the military presence in Armenia), after this, on the contrary, we were backing down for a long time. Even the clear military victory in Georgia did not transform into a diplomatic victory for us, as we remained in mild isolation.
In the third place, we defended (at least, for now) a country that is friendly and spiritually close to us. Syria is an important partner for us. This is not Iran, who is too powerful to be in need of our patronage; our influence on it is modest. At the same time, Syria is a strong and very important player in the Middle East region. Therefore, our special relations today, formed with the government of Bashar Assad, is a commitment of our presence here and of our interests. Our participation in Middle East processes, earlier rather nominal, is becoming more visible.
In the fourth place, this is a new turning point in our relations with the United States, in particular with the administration of Barack Obama. Obviously, this Russian initiative allowed the American president to break the impasse. He could not help but to bomb, while bombing would not only mean destroying his reputation in the world once and for all, but also severely undermine long-term security of the US for the sake of the interests of regional players, namely Saudi Arabia and Turkey. We have gone from a state of smoldering confrontation with the US to one of collaboration, which is very important, as it broadens the freedom of maneuverability with respect to other foreign policy issues.
Finally, there is the sensational article by Vladimir Putin in The New York Times. The publication evoked a stormy reaction from ordinary Americans and politicians, from delight to disgust. The scale of reactions is indicative in and of itself: it is hard to imagine anyone who could have written an article that would have provoked similar interest today in the United States. It is no surprise that Americans reacted the most to the concluding passage: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.” Possibly, many Americans were deeply exasperated by these words (which they hurried to write about on the Internet and letters to the media), although in the rest of the world, the number of those in solidarity with this opinion many times exceeds the number of indignant Americans.