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.
James Brooke
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.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid