News / Europe

Syria Deal to Test Putin’s Peacemaking Powers

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin addressing media after national call-in TV show, Moscow, Dec. 15, 2011file photo.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin addressing media after national call-in TV show, Moscow, Dec. 15, 2011file photo.
James Brooke
Russians are celebrating as a diplomatic victory President Barack Obama’s decision to hold off on military strikes against Syria in return for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. After two years as deal breakers in Syria’s civil war, Russians suddenly see themselves as peacemakers.
 
“Russia just used a very good opportunity to step in and take initiative to a peaceful solution of a very important issue,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs journal.
 
After the humiliations of the post-Soviet era, Russians relish once again being center stage, this time as peacemakers.
 
It was in Moscow where Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem broke a decades-old taboo and admitted Tuesday that his government possesses a chemical weapons arsenal. Looking grim for the cameras, he promised to put this arsenal under international controls and to sign the international treaty banning chemical weapons.
 
International support
 
Hinting at future obstacles for Moscow, however, Damascus state-controlled media downplayed the Syrian minister’s comments, forcing Russian diplomats to work overtime to build world political support.

Story continues below photo gallery:
  • This citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network shows anti-Syrian regime protesters hold a poster depicting U.S. President Barack Obama during a demonstration in Kafr Nabil, Idlib province, Sept. 20, 2013.
  • Children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • Debris is seen on the ground after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • An injured man walks along a street after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad shows a Syrian military tank on fire during clashes with Free Syrian army fighters in Joubar, a suburb of Damascus, Sept. 18, 2013.
  • A member of the Shohadaa Badr Brigade, which operates under the Free Syrian Army, stands in shooting position behind sandbags in Ashrafieh, Aleppo, September 17, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters walk through rubble inside the old city of Aleppo, Sept. 16, 2013.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he stands on rubble of damaged buildings in al-Aseela neighborhood near Aleppo's historic citadel, Sept. 13, 2013.
  • In this citizen journalism image provided by the United media office of Arbeen, a Syrian protester chants slogans during a demonstration in Arbeen, a suburb of Damascus, Sept. 13, 2013.

 
They have already collected backing from China and Iran, and gone out of their way to credit the United States with co-authorship of the disarmament proposal.
 
“For all in the United States it might be a good solution, because Obama can say — and everybody, Congress, can say — that's because of us,” said Lukyanov. “'We pressed, made big pressure on Assad. We threatened him with war and then he gave up. For the Russian side, this is a very good opportunity to show that the Russian position did make sense."
 
But first Syria’s leaders may test Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new role as peacemaker.
 
Daunting challenges
 
According to Alexander Golts, a military expert and deputy editor of the online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnal, the Russian president has had bad experiences with leaders of North Korea and Iran.
 
“The basic question about the Russian initiative is, can you trust the words of Syrian officials, or not?” Golts asked. “Unfortunately, Russian leader Vladimir Putin had a rather bad story with two leaders of specific countries — [late North Korean leader] Kim Jong Il and [former Iranian President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. Putin met each of them, received the promises he wanted, and the next day both of these men said they were misunderstood and joking.”
 
And then there are daunting technical challenges: Over the last 15 years, Russia has gained weapons disposal experience, gradually destroying its own chemical arsenal.
 
Syria is believed to have 1,000 tons of highly toxic agents, spread over 60 locations. But all this is in the middle of a raging civil war that has claimed 100,000 lives and has displaced one-third of the population, which means the best disposal strategy might be mobile incinerators protected by international peacekeeping soldiers.
 
“When Russia stood before the problem of dismantling its own chemical weapons," said Golts, "it preferred not to move these agents all over the country, but to build plants and special facilities for destroying these weapons directly in places where these weapons were stored.”
 
By next week Russia is to have assembled a naval task force of 10 warships off the coast of Syria, whereas just last week many people assumed the fleet was steaming toward Syria in a gesture of gunboat diplomacy, aimed at the U.S. Navy.
 
Now, conceivably, the cannons could point the other way, encouraging Syria to keep its promise to destroy its chemical arsenal.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Hans from: Germany
September 12, 2013 1:37 AM
the truth is that with 1.5 Million Russian Oligarchs and over 2 Million ardent American Tea Party Patriots among its citizens - Israel is not sentimental any longer... and this latest Putin gesture may yet seal the fate of Iran in the Middle East...
Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia is a formidable alliance - the Mullahs will be very stupid to ignore the famous "red line"...

by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
September 11, 2013 8:51 PM
President Obama was out witted by Putin of Russia by initiating the proposal for the Syrian surrender of all chemical weapons to international authority. Putin was also successful to bring China and Iran into his fold, increasing the possibility of UN Security Council resolution for procuring and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons. President Obama was off guard and now he is on defensive both in the US and rest of the world. All the announcements and declarations of President Obama regarding Assad is drowned in the glory of Putin. The only question is whether the people in the US and the rest of the world can trust the political gyrations of Obama, Putin, China, Iran and Assad in the implementation of the expected Security Council resolution. The implementation of the surrender and destruction of all chemical weapons and chemical ingredients is an expensive process with technical, safety and security problems in a country torn apart by civil war with no body in control of the areas where the chemical weapons and ingredients are stored. Putin save the embarrassment of Obama in his failure to implement his various announcements; the expected defeat in the House and Senate to authorize military action against Assad; failure in helping the Free Syrian Army; and his threat of punishing Assad for the use of chemical weapons.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs