Russia is positioned to take a leading role on the international stage. With its annexation of Crimea and their support of separatists in the Ukraine, Russia’s place in the world was clearly in opposition to that of the U.S. and Europe. Strict economic sanctions as a result of aggressive tactics in the Ukraine created an environment reminiscent of the Cold War. Recent events in Paris, combined with the Russian airliner bombing, have presented an opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to change the political narrative.
Mashable reported that Putin took immediate action in reaching out to French President Francois Hollande upon hearing of the attacks in Paris. Putin deployed warships to the Mediterranean in order to coordinate with the French already engaging ISIS. Working in unison, the two nations have intensified bombing raids on ISIS targets and seemingly are in agreement regarding strategy towards the Syrian conflict.
Encouraging as this collaborative effort appears, foreign policy experts in the U.S. warn that Putin’s new role is merely an attempt to gain an advantage, as a result of Western weakness. In a recent report by The Washington Post, current developments are an example of Putin making the best out of a weak political position. Politically, keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power is integral in maintaining relations with Iran. The same report also characterized his strategy as being linked to domestic interests. Known to effectively propagandize Russian strength and international relevance, Putin will craft his message to the Russian people in order to build confidence in his leadership.
Further evidence that Russia is positioned to take a leading role on the international stage was reported by The Washington Post covering President Obama’s comments at the United Nations on Syria. Obama was quoted as saying, “The United States has learned over the past decade that it cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land.” Moreover, he also made pointed statements specifically directed towards Syria, “The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict.” The Washington Post reports that many hearing Obama’s statements interpreted them as being an indication that the U.S. and Europeans are willing to concede control to Putin. Politically, the verbiage within Obama’s speech is seen to imply ineffectiveness regarding U.S. policy towards ISIS and Syria. The political vacuum created by policy impotence has created an opportunity for Putin to reshape the narrative.
Newly positioned as a leading nation within the international community, Putin is balancing relationships with the West and Iran. Iran has actively advocated on behalf of Assad to retain power. The Wall Street Journal outlined in a recent report that Iran’s partnership with Moscow will be tested as western powers refuse to shift from the desire to replace the Syrian dictator. As political pressure intensifies, it will necessitate Putin either to commit to a Western vision for Syria’s future or continue to partner with Iran. The Wall Street Journal also reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reaffirmed his government’s official position that preconditions not be set regarding the Syrian dictator’s departure as negotiations for peace move forward. Iran supporting a Syria without Assad is unlikely. However, The Wall Street Journal reports that both U.S. and European officials remain confident that the Kremlin will be open to Assad stepping down.
Russia is positioned to take a leading role on the international stage while Syria remains a fluid situation. As Moscow moves to fill the leadership vacuum, several potential hazards are on the horizon. European nations will meet in January 2016, in order to continue enforcement of economic sanctions placed on Russia or remove them altogether. The Wall Street Journal has reported that in the event the U.S. and Europe decide to leverage economic sanctions in exchange for Assad’s removal, Iran will be isolated politically. Furthermore, the report describes Vladimir Putin as a leader situated to possibly displace Iran’s role, or to commit to collaborative actions with the West.
By Garrett Sayers
Edited by Leigh Haugh
Mashable: How ISIS Brought Russia and The West Together
The Washington Post: Teaming Up With Russia in Syria Could Be a Dangerous False Step For The U.S.
The Washington Post: How America Can Counter Putin’s Moves In Syria
The Washington Post: The U.S. Cannot Pass Syria Onto Putin
The Wall Street Journal: U.S Eyes Russia Iran Split In Bid To End Syria Conflict
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