Russia Will Decide the Fate of Syria Without America

By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with

On Saturday, a symbolic meeting of four national leaders took place in Istanbul. Vladimir Putin held talks with the presidents of France and Turkey, as well as with the Federal Chancellor of Germany. The topic of the Syrian settlement was mainly discussed.

The main conclusion that we can draw from this meeting is that the war in Syria was won not only against terrorists, but also against the United States. I know that there are a lot of “experts” who will say that Idlib will not return under Assad’s power tomorrow, that the North of Syria is controlled by pro-American Kurds, that in the area of Al-Tanf the Americans have not abandoned their base, and they will ask something like: where is the end of the war? Similarly, the same “experts” have been asking for already two or even three years: where is the collapse of the Ukrainian state?

A year ago Ukrainian analysts started to admit that state structures were degrading. Then opposition politicians followed suit. Now such pillars of the current regime as the head of “Naftogaz” Kobolev and the presidential candidate Gritsenko have already recognised it, and these are statements that were made on Saturday, but if we look at the last month, 90% of the leading politicians and experts of Ukraine noted the funeral of Ukraine. They finally “saw the light”. But not all of them.

Concerning the situation in Syria, here the epiphany should come much faster, since events develop faster and the reaction of the main players, which doesn’t allow for double interpretations, is more striking.

What gives us the right to claim victory in Syria? The answer is the fact that during the conference of leaders of four states the issues surrounding a peaceful settlement were considered: the problem of refugees, the maintenance of the demilitarised zone in Idlib, and the beginning of the constitutional process. But it was promised to continue to fight against terrorists. The realities of a beautiful new world start to be discussed only when the end of war is not far off, and its result is not in doubt (the Tehran conference – November 28th-December 1st, 1943 – took place after the battle of Kursk and the liberation of left-bank Ukraine; the Yalta conference – February 4th-11th, 1945 – took place after the Vistula-Oder operation).

Why do we think that not only terrorists were defeated in Syria, but also the United States? Because on the eve of the meeting in Istanbul, the US President’s national security adviser John Bolton, synopsising the results of his visit to Moscow, summed up the entire volume of American pretensions to Russia. Among them, a prominent place was occupied by “Russia’s incorrect behavior in Syria”. Barely a couple of days had passed and Russia expanded and deepened its “incorrect behavior” at the Istanbul meeting. I.e., the US’ opinion was ignored.

Three of the participants of the conference (Germany, France, Turkey) initially supported the aggression against Syria, and even took part in it as much as possible in the American coalition. All three countries in unison with the United States insisted that “Assad must go”. Now they all agree with Russia that “the fate of Assad will be decided by the Syrian people in free elections”. No one is even interested anymore in the “compromise” proposal put forward by the Americans last year: let Assad lead until the end of the war, but he can’t take part in the new post-war elections. The Russian concept – the Syrians will decide for themselves – was accepted unconditionally by all three, now we can say former, members of the US coalition in Syria. And the Americans themselves were not invited to the meeting in principle. The US’ allies at the same table with Russia were deciding the fate of the settlement of a crisis that is fundamentally important for the US in a strategically important region. They ignored Washington’s opinion and supported Moscow’s position, despite the fact that the day prior a high-ranking official of the Trump administration stressed that Russia’s position vis-a-vis Syria is unacceptable for the United States and Washington will fight for its correction.

If this is not a humiliating defeat for the US, then I don’t know what is. The allies did not flee with such speed and so demonstratively even from a disintegrating USSR. This can be compared only with the fleeing of the allies of the Third Reich to the camp of winners in 1943-1945. Back then Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and Finland progressively declared war on Germany. Hungary could not (although Horthy indeed planned to conclude a separate peace deal with the USSR), because it was occupied by Germany, which at the same time replaced the Hungarian government and replaced the Regency of Horthy with the dictatorship of Szálasi.

It should also be noted that the participation of France and Germany in the discussion on the Syrian issue became possible only after Russia’s repeated proposals to Paris and Berlin to think about their financial participation in the reconstruction of Syria began to find understanding. Merkel, and then also Macron in the summer of 2018, expressed themselves in the sense that there is a need to provide the Syrian people with humanitarian support. It’s just that back then “when Assad leaves” was added to this. As we see, they appeared at the negotiating table only when the demand of Assad’s resignation was removed, but the willingness to pay for the restoration of Syria remained. Moreover, both Merkel and Macron especially noted that the joint communiqué upon the results of the meeting became possible precisely because the parties do not have disagreements on key issues.

The key issues discussed at the meeting were the approval of the Russian-Turkish mission in Idlib (Russian initiative); work on a new Syrian Constitution, designated at the meeting as the “start of the constitutional process” (Russian initiative); and the continuation of the fight against terrorists (Russian initiative). The fact that Germany and France, like Turkey before them, withdrew the demand for Assad’s resignation from politics has already been mentioned above. Actually, after victory on the battlefields, Moscow forced its opponents to capitulate at the negotiating table too. Moreover, a precedent was created that can be used when the issue of the restoration of Ukraine becomes actual. France and Germany took a no less active part in its destruction than they did in the destruction of Syria.

I would pay special attention to the absence of the US at the meeting. This is the first time since the American-Spanish war of 1898 that a fundamental issue of international relations is being solved without the participation of the United States. This is the only case in all the history of modern Middle Eastern crises where a settlement is being achieved without the presence of Washington at the negotiating table. For the first time since 1945, Germany and Turkey, and for the first since 1956 (since the Anglo-Franco-Israeli aggression against Egypt), France too, supported military-political agenda that is contrary to the military-political agenda of the United States.

Of course, this can be explained by the serious political and financial-economic contradictions that divided the United States and its NATO allies. In Turkey Washington tried to organise a coup, and it wages an economic war against the EU, trying to force Germany to abandon “Nord stream-2” and also, together with France, to assume most of the costs of maintaining and increasing the US’ military presence on the European continent.

But the United States earlier supported the rebellious Turkish military, which has repeatedly changed civilian offices. And the United States has repeatedly forced its European allies to abandon lucrative contracts with Russia/USSR (for example, the attempt to disrupt the Soviet-German deal “gas-pipes” in 1970, or the disruption in 2009 of the already happened purchase of “Opel” by a consortium with the participation of Russian “Sberbank” and “GAZ Group”). While Washington was the hegemon of the West (and at the turn of the millennia – the planet), the EU and NATO countries allowed themselves to quietly grumble about American arrogance.

Now we see a completely different situation. They completely ignore the position of the United States that was stated unambiguously and in-advance. And they don’t just ignore it, they do it in favor of a country that the United States is in a state of fierce confrontation with and Germany and France, together with the United States, recently imposed sanctions on, threatening to introduce additional ones also because of disagreements on Syria.

In addition, exactly on the eve of the meeting in Istanbul it was finally announced that “Turkish stream” will enter into operation before the end of 2019, and will also be extended to Bulgaria, and maybe to Hungary. As far as I understand, Ukrainian Tomos is still a consolation prize for the Americans, which, however, still hasn’t been given by anyone

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