News / Middle East

Russia's Syria Policy Planners Look for 'Plan B'

U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton listens during a news conference in Riga, Latvia June 28, 2012.
U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton listens during a news conference in Riga, Latvia June 28, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
MOSCOW — On the eve of Saturday's international meeting in Geneva on the future of Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed Syria with her Russian counterpart in a meeting Friday in St. Petersburg.

Before the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov distanced himself from a draft United Nations resolution that signaled peace will only come to Syria if President Bashar al-Assad steps down.

He says a Syrian solution can only be made by Syrians.

That said, Russia will participate in the Syria conference Saturday - a meeting that will have no Syrian participants.

Analysts here say the Kremlin is starting to think that Mr. Assad may not survive as president much longer. They say Russia is working on "Plan B."  This would be a negotiated political solution that would include members of the Assad government, but not President Assad.

"The Russians now realize that it would be very difficult, if possible at all, to keep Bashar al-Assad in power, even if he is ready to make serious concessions to the opposition," Andrei Kortunov, president of the New Eurasia Foundation, a non-profit group in Moscow.

Kortunov and other analysts say Russian demands would include safety for the Syrian president and his family, participation of existing government figures in a coalition government, and protection for Syrian minorities such as Christians, Armenians and Circassians - descendants of a group deported from Czarist Russia in the 1860s.

Russia is often seen as President Assad's closest big-power ally. Moscow's state-controlled television and newspapers routinely relay the official line of Damascus, saying that the 16-month-old uprising is the work of foreign powers and "terrorists."

For 40 years, the Kremlin has maintained close ties with the Assad family. Today, Russia is Syria's biggest military supplier and maintains a naval station on Syria's Mediterranean coast. Russia is completing contracts to modernize 20 attack helicopters and 100 Soviet era tanks.

Ruslan Aliyev, an analyst with the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow research organization close to Russia's defense industry, says the ties with Damascus are often more emotional than rational.

He says Syria is not a major market for Russian arms sales "Syria is not a principle customer for Russia.  It's not the most be weapons' market in the world, or in the region for that matter," Aliyev said in an interview.

"In regards to the Naval base, strictly speaking, it's not really a base at all. It's a small point on the global map where Russian ships can occasionally stop off to get food
and water supplies, and where ships can have minor repairs."

He and other analysts here say Russia main interest is to keep Syria from disintegrating into a failed state where Islamic radicalism would thrive.

Mark Galeotti, chairman of New York University's Center for Global Affairs, agrees.

"It's important to stress that it's not that Russia has some particular enthusiasm for the Assad regime," said Galeotti, a Russia expert. "They are desperate to avoid chaos in the area. And their experience is that, on the whole, Western experiments and regime
change have always led to, not just chaos, but the rise of Islamist governments that frankly would be very bad news for Moscow."

Moscow has been battling Islamic radicalism for more than three decades - since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. A central thrust of Kremlin policy has been to avoid - or at least contain - this radicalism.

Galeotti and others say Russia's goal in Syria is to move from the current state of civil war to a moderate, tolerant Sunni regime.

"They would much rather see some stable regime," he said Friday. "I think in this respect, the Russians would be very happy to broker some kind of deal, which would see maybe the Assad family depart from Syria. "

The Kremlin's challenge will be to get from here to there - without being seen as following Washington's lead.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: James Livingston from: New Zealand
July 15, 2012 8:28 PM
Excellent and objective column. Thank you James Brooke and VOA. I am quite mystified as to why the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain are such strong proponents of another war rather than a negotiated peace.


by: Anonymous
June 30, 2012 9:34 PM
I can't believe Kofi would even try to make a deal with Assad, Assad is a cold blooded terrorist ring leader. There should be no dealings with Assad whatsoever. Kofi trying to make the FSA and Assad kiss each other and become friends again is an entire insult to humanity. Are you going to shake the hand of a killer after it wipes out your family who was unarmed? Give me a break , what Anan is doing is actually making things worse. Give Assad an ultimatium is all that should be done. Either get lost Assad, or we are coming in. We can do it the easy way or the hard way, we need it dealt with yesterday.
It's disgusting what people can get away with this day and age.


by: Karen Holmes from: USA
June 29, 2012 4:18 PM
In a dilemma, we always have three choices. Up, down or straight ahead. Only two choices are obvious, and both are untenable. The third choice, which gets us out of the crisis, is to do what is in everyone's best interest.


by: vis8 from: NJ, USA
June 29, 2012 3:13 PM
The UN monitoring mission found out that the "Syrian Rebels" were no different to al-quaeda: jihadi hooligans, gratefully accepting the help form Obam and Clinton. The US is funding, arming and providing favorable media coverage to these terrorists in the guise of 'rebellious fighters'.....

Libya, once a prosperous country, lies in ruins, and in the hands of Muslim extremists, and we all know what the 'Muslim Brotherhood' in Egypt is... With Obama/Clinton's help, jihadists are gaining power (something they havent had, ever) in the Mid East.

It is surprising that Israel hasn't seen this, yet. If this "Arab Spring" continues, these terrorists will unleash an exponential level of terror on Israel... and, then the US will spend trillions fighting the very jihadists they are supporting now.


by: Gregory Allen Leeds from: Lewes, Delaware, USA
June 29, 2012 11:36 AM
The reports from a defecting Syrian army chemical warfare officer about the Iranian and Russian military personel supervising the use of internationaly banned chemical nerve agent on Syrian civilians in Homs, Syria (if confirmed) would automatically lead to war crimes tribunals against Assad, Amendinijad and Putin as head of their respective govenments. The 72 "Yakhont" supersonic criuse missiles (two batteries) that Russia emplaced in Syria are an clear and present danger to both Turkey, Israel, the United States, NATO and the allies in the region. Those missiles cannot be stopped by Partiot or Iron Dome systems. Explain the concequences to Russia if there used, and explain the ramifications of use of chemical/biological weapons use to Moscow, Tehran and Damascus if the nerve agent use is confirmed. This will not be another Anfal campaign. That is what hung Sadaam, not the charges he was tried for. That trial would include the imagry the United States provided to Iraq about Iranian position's, and that would have come out in trial. that would have put the U.S. administration in the position of being charged with aiding and abetting crimes againt humanity. Have Putin dismantle and remove those batteries of missiles. No one would like those missiles used againt the country that installed them.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid