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New York times: Russia’s Return does not stop with Syria

Нью Йорк Таймс: Возвращение России не прекращается с Сирией

Get used to it, because Russia’s influence extends to a region near you.


For many in the West, the return of Russia on the world stage over the last few years was unexpected and not particularly pleasant. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the country was written off as a regional power, a petrol station masquerading as a country.

However, five years later, Russia is still steady, despite Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine. He effectively won militarily in Syria: today, he is an influential person in that country; the victory raised its credibility in the middle East and provided material support to claims of Moscow to once again become a great power.

Those who are experiencing this time with some discomfort, should be used to it: Russia is not a superpower, but she returned as an important independent player. And it will play in different regions of the world in the coming years.

For the Russians it seems quite natural. In 1990-e years when the world saw Russia on the back, Russian leaders have never looked at the country as a complete. Rather, they believed that its post-Soviet decline and departure from the world scene are merely temporary – that Russia has experienced before, and eventually overcome. The only question was what form it will take.

In 2000-ies Moscow was disappointed in his desire to become part of an extended Euro-Atlantic community: its request that the United States considered their equal, not impressed Washington, and its requirement to respect the interests of their national security were ignored. in the process of NATO enlargement. And therefore, since the beginning of the 2010s, the Kremlin began to chart a course that clearly diverged from his previous policy of Western integration.

With the Russian military intervention in Ukraine in 2014, after the end of the cold war, which was dominated by the West, the procedure has been completed. The seizure of Crimea and support for separatism in the Donbas were no signs of a policy of conquest of Eastern Europe, as many had feared in the West, but was clearly limited the Ukraine and other former Soviet republics from any future expansion of NATO. The security buffer is returned. If the use of force in Ukraine from the point of view of the Kremlin, was essentially defensive, Russia’s intervention in Syria in 2015 was a risky gambit to determine geopolitical outcomes in the middle East is a well – known treacherous territory for strangers, abandoned by the Soviet Union at the time. the Gulf war of 1991, Since then the results of military operations and diplomatic maneuvering was not only confused by the first critics, but exceeded even the expectations of the President Vladimir Putin.

Russia’s achievements in the middle East go far beyond success in Syria. Moscow benefits from flexible Poluboyarinov with Turkey and Iran, agreement on the price of oil with Saudi Arabia and the revived military ties with Egypt. He again played a role in Libya, the power, which many Lebanese hope to help them unite their country, and the potential mediator in the field of security between Iran and the Gulf countries – all while maintaining close relations with Israel.

Today this level of engagement with the Middle East stands out in the Russian foreign policy landscape. Tomorrow is unlikely to be an exception. For some time Moscow is parallel with Washington engaged in political settlement in Afghanistan. It requires maneuvering between Kabul and the Taliban; Pakistan and India; and China and the United States. Last month, Mr. Putin held court for 43 African leaders in Sochi, the first Russian summit with the continent, where Moscow advertises itself primarily as a partner for security.

The accuracy of this assertion is confirmed not only by the experience of Syria, but also political and material support of Russia of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, who still kept, despite the fact that almost a year ago it was declared illegal some 50 countries led by the United States. Cuba, again under pressure from the administration trump, is strengthening its ties with Russia, as evidenced by recent double visits to Havana, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Russian President Miguel Diaz-Carnell. In addition to the Latin American leftist regimes, Moscow is drawn to Brazil (the BRICS member), Argentina and Mexico.

If the middle East achievements will serve as a guide, the new Russian foreign policy not so much about the world order, but about Russia’s place in that order. The Soviet Union went around the world, spending huge resources on a lost ideological thing and a huge geopolitical ambitions. The Russian Federation has learned from this. When he travels abroad, he uses protective buffers, as in Ukraine, the status in Syria and most of the money in other places. There’s no grandiose plan, but many search capabilities based on the merits of each potential agreement. Russia is not imposing any models of others and in its current state is unlikely to be a model for anyone.

And here is a big caveat. Russia is clearly finding its weight. His foreign policy from major powers is not based on proportionate economic power. His previous technological skill was badly dented. Its ruling elite is too busy chasing money to give enough time for reflection and action in the national interest. And of course, the recent Russia’s foreign policy had its own share of failures and blunders.

For example, the choice of using weapons of Internet technologies to influence the internal politics of other countries has resulted in accusations from these important partners, as Germany and France, but failed to achieve the political goals of Russia. With regard to interference in the election, Russia as any other country, it would be wise to refrain from entering political bedrooms of other countries – not because gentlemen do not, but because, as a rule, no gain, but only a setback.

Whatever it was, but Russia came back and stayed here. Others it is better to accept it and learn to cope with it – without excessive expectations and without undue fear. In a world where more and more dominated by the rivalry between the US and China, a major independent actors, such as Russia, can play an important role in preventing costly bipolar confrontation.


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