Friday, May 31, 2013

Russia"s Syrian Strategy

Da, Tovarisch!!

Mother Russia's recent UPSing of naughty air defense systems like the much hello"d S 300 missile stuff to "deter hotheads" has like finally arrived!

Sooo, what exactly is Commonwealth Russia"s Syrian Gambit?

3 bits, actually -
At the center of the Russian approach to Syria lies a sober assessment of both the Assad regime and the opposition to it. The regime, while unquestionably brutal and too inflexible from Moscow’s perspective, is credited with having considerable toughness and staying power—an assessment that has proved correct despite countless predictions to the contrary by Western and regional leaders. Moreover, the urban merchant classes of Damascus and Aleppo have so far not turned against Assad, probably fearing the alternative more than the regime in place. As to the alternative, the Russians soon noted that what had begun as a democratic protest movement was predictably taken over by radicals and extremists whose triumph, should it come, would turn Syria into a haven for al-Qaida-style terrorists. From Moscow’s perspective, Assad may be problematic insofar as his methods are concerned—but his enemies constitute a real threat not just to Syria, but also to other countries, including Russia.

Finally, and this is both last and least, in the order of priorities: Russia’s Syria policies are guided by its interests on the ground in Syria, namely the arms-trade relationship; the modest naval resupply facility at Tartus; and the humanitarian concerns for several thousand Russian citizens who are married to Syrians and for Syria’s Orthodox Christian community.

In terms of both the underlying geopolitical logic and the actual calculus, Russia’s approach is more solid than either the West’s or Turkey’s. Moscow’s vision is not distorted by taking sides in the regional Sunni-Shia struggle whose primary battleground now is Syria. Neither is it led by wishful thinking about the longevity of the regime in Damascus. Yet Russia’s image has suffered in many parts of the Arab world, where it is portrayed as a friend of authoritarian regimes and as an ally of and arms supplier to Bashar al-Assad and therefore as a friend of Iran. More important for Moscow, the developments in Syria appear to be leading to the worst possible outcome: the overthrow of the Assad government and the ensuing chaos, with the extremist elements in the strongest position. As a result, Moscow has long been advocating a Yemen-style power-sharing deal in Syria, only to meet with a lack of interest among the opposition groups and their Gulf, Turkish, and Western backers.

To speak of a coherent Russian strategy in the Middle East is therefore premature. What is clear is that Moscow is beginning to step out of its post-Soviet self-absorption. Its main preoccupation is with security—and Islamist extremism features as a primary threat. This is a big issue. By contrast, Russia’s interests in the Middle East are relatively modest. They are centered on oil and gas exploration deals, pipeline geopolitics, and pricing arrangements; other energy opportunities beckon in the nuclear area. While Russia’s position in the regional arms bazaar has suffered in the last decade as a result of developments in Iraq and Libya (and may yet suffer more in Syria), Moscow is clearly determined to stay in the arms business. Finally, as Russia recasts itself as a defender of traditional Christian values as well as a land of moderate Islam, it is discovering a range of humanitarian causes in the birthplace of both global religions.

It is using the U.N. Security Council to limit the liberty of Great Satan to intervene militarily and to block all attempts at regime change from the outside. Such defense of traditional international law and state sovereignty is linked not only to the Russian leadership’s generally conservative worldview but equally, if not more, to the Kremlin’s wariness toward Western democracy promotion. In an effort to upgrade Russia’s role in the region itself, Moscow has revived, albeit on a small scale, the Russian Navy’s permanent presence in the Mediterranean. To prevent the rise of a nuclear-armed Iran, Russia prefers international negotiations but with the military option kept off the table.

Pic - "According to the Air Defense Forces command, Favorit is now the world's most powerful and efficient air defense system."


Leif said...

This is pure disinformation. The Russians would *never* announce that the S-300 was shipped until it after was fully operational. The system will be most vulnerable during the shipping, set-up and shakedown phases. This is just Putin PR ("Crazy Vlad's, with easy credit and reliable service to dictators the world over!").

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Hi Leif,
Whale, SA 300 delivery and deployment deets aside, it prett much backs up earlier assessments that when it comes to the ME Commonwealth Russia usually sees two types of cats: those with beards and those with ties. They generally appear to dig the ones with ties over the ones with beards - Gay Free, Girl Hating Persia's Ayatollahs as the exceptional exception of course