News / Middle East

Russia Looks Ahead to a Post-Assad Syria

FILE - In this Monday, July 11, 2011 file photo from left : European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Yakovlev, attend a dinner at the State Department in Washington. FILE - In this Monday, July 11, 2011 file photo from left : European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Yakovlev, attend a dinner at the State Department in Washington.
x
FILE - In this Monday, July 11, 2011 file photo from left : European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Yakovlev, attend a dinner at the State Department in Washington.
FILE - In this Monday, July 11, 2011 file photo from left : European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Yakovlev, attend a dinner at the State Department in Washington.
Cecily Hilleary
— Russia backtracked Friday on comments about Syria made by a key official only a day earlier. 

On Thursday, Russia's state-run RIA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov as saying that an opposition victory over the Assad regime could not be “ruled out."  Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that Russia’s Syria policy remains unchanged.

''There has not been any deviation from our principle line on Syrian affairs, and nor will there be in the future,” Lukashevich said.  “Our only goal is to end the violence in Syria as quickly as possible, to start a dialogue between the Syrians, between the government and the opposition, and to work out a formula for advancing a political process in the future.”

Analysts have been left guessing at Moscow’s intentions.  Was it simply a case of mixed signals between a diplomat and his head office? Or were Bogdanov’s comments a signal to the Syrian opposition that Russia is ready to shift its policy?  Or could they have been a signal to the U.S. and Turkey that Russia is ready to take a more active role in achieving a diplomatic solution to the Syria crisis?

A grain of salt

Joseph Olmert, a Syria expert and adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina, says, Bogdanov’s comments -- along with the Foreign Ministry’s subsequent clarification – were no accident.  He says the Russians are likely very pleased with themselves today, because they have positioned itself back in “the diplomatic game” over Syria and Assad’s fate.
    
“Even clumsy Russian explanations that the statement was taken out of context should be taken with a grain of salt," Olmert said.

“In a system of government like Russia's, there is a ‘good and bad cop’ technique at play,” he continued. “What Bogdanov said indicates the Russians’ attempt to position themselves in line for talks about the future of Syria, post-Bashar.”

Olmert says that Moscow under Vladimir Putin is pragmatic and is clearly  acknowledging the reality of the situation on the ground.

“The Russians never intended to fight for Bashar Al-Assad, and on occasions in the past they have actually distanced from him,” he said. 

Olmert believes Russia’s policy all along has been to demonstrate, as it did with regard to Iran, that Moscow has a role to play and does not want to see any of what Olmert calls a “one-sided pax Americana” take place.

“I do not rule out a granting of safe passage to Bashar and his immediate family to Moscow,” Olmert said. “And surely, the Russians will seek to protect their military installations in Syria, particularly in Tartus.” 

Moscow has only one naval presence in the Mediterranean -- the naval supply base at Tartus, which Russia says has more symbolic than strategic value.

Too Little Too Late?

Whatever Russia does, how will the Syrian opposition feel about Moscow if Assad falls and it takes power?

Radwan Ziadeh, spokesperson for the Syrian National Council and a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, D.C., believes that it will be very difficult for any future Syrian government to deal with the Russians.

“We have many opposition figures and activists inside Syria who believe that Russia should be held accountable for what happened to the Syrian people.  The historical relationship between Russia and Syria will come to an end,” he said.

Ziadeh says he has visited Moscow for talks on two occasions and repeated this message many times. 

“But it looks as if they don’t care," he said. "Now that the opposition is very close to Damascus, it isn’t clear if their opinion is still the same or there has been a change in their position.”

Jeffrey Mankoff is deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York City.  He says Russia has been trying to keep the lines of communication open with the Syrian opposition. 

“But it’s been pretty clear that Russia is probably the most important and steadfast foreign supporter of Assad, apart from countries like Iran,” Mankoff said.

In fact, Mankoff believes that Russia has handled the entire “Arab Spring phenomenon” badly, also damaging relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. 

“So I think the Russians are now trying to make the best of what is clearly for them a bad situation,” he said.

At the end of the day, Mankoff does not rule out the possibility that Moscow will be able to strike a deal with a post-Assad government to protecting Russia’s vital interests in Syria.

But in terms of actually being able to influence and shape the post-Assad government, Mankoff thinks Russia has most certainly missed the boat.

 

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ***Prophecy*** from: The US
December 16, 2012 6:10 AM
“Putin will lose Syria and Iran forever, and Vietnamese Communists will also lose Putin eternally”.


by: Anonymous
December 15, 2012 7:56 PM
As demonstrated today the Russian Government treats its civillians no different than Assad does. Arrest anyone who opposes the current government, yea that's the thinking, arrest them if they don't like you.... There is no democracy in Russia.


by: Grin Olsson from: USA
December 15, 2012 4:54 AM
Russia has nothing to do with the Syrian government problem with Sunnis. The problem began when the Ottoman Empire was split up in World War 1. To deprive the Sunni and Sunni Wahhabi of any political clout in post WW1, France and Britain created secular governments over large swaths of Sunnis. To accomplish this minority religions came into government. And, that is Syria's problem in that with democratic considerations, surely the Sunni ideology was rule the region and eradicate secular gains on freedom and protection of minority religions.

To be honest, it is my opinion, the United States is on the wrong side and should support Russia and the Syrian government.


by: grasspress from: western united states
December 15, 2012 12:18 AM
the russians are going to regret not cooperating with the west to help solve the syrian crisis. it now looks like the syrian citizens are going to oust assad and his henchmen and then the russians will be next and they will lose their precious sea base and all their influence in the area. they could have maintained their status as a friend of syria if they had tried more diligently to persuade assad to initiate reforms and accept the inevitable. and when they have to use force themselves to regain their sea base they will be accused of doing exactly what they have accused the west of doing and they will have to use the same explanations that assad is using. they will become russians again.


by: Anonymous
December 14, 2012 9:52 PM
Russia has proven by inaction to get Assad out of power has lead to the many many thousands of people in Syria killed. Russian Government cared nothing about the Syrian people, but instead about arming a terrorist named Assad. It's too little too late Putin, you cared NOTHING about the Syrian people. Hopefully the people of Syria unite and kick Russian government off their soil for the future. It's too late to play stupid Putin... As for the Syrians they will win this war, it is Assad against an entire country, Assad will not win.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid