News / Middle East

    Clock Ticking for Russian Political Solution in Syria

    In this Jan. 25, 2005 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a signing ceremony in the Kremlin, Moscow.In this Jan. 25, 2005 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a signing ceremony in the Kremlin, Moscow.
    x
    In this Jan. 25, 2005 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a signing ceremony in the Kremlin, Moscow.
    In this Jan. 25, 2005 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a signing ceremony in the Kremlin, Moscow.
    James Brooke
    MOSCOW - Russia is Syria's biggest ally. Over the last year, the Kremlin has painted the Syrian revolt as a proxy war between East and West. Now with Syria slipping more and more into a civil war, can Moscow use its influence over Damascus to forge a political solution? 
     
    Syria’s ambassador to Russia told reporters in Moscow Thursday that “armed terrorist groups” are committing massacres in order “to excuse foreign intervention, foreign interference and buffer zones.”
     
    Ambassador Riyad Haddad said that 1,500 Syrian soldiers have been killed in the two months since the cease-fire announced under the Kofi Annan peace plan for Syria.
     
    On Monday, Hervé Ladsous, the head of U.N. peacekeeping operations, said Syria is now in a civil war.
     
    But blaming the escalating violence on Western-backed terrorists is music to many ears in Moscow, a close ally of Syria’s ruling Assad family for the last 40 years. Long the largest source of arms for Syria, Russia maintains its only naval base outside the former Soviet Union at the Syrian port of Tartus.
     
    In Moscow, Russian analysts casually dismiss reports of government massacres of Syrian civilians as part of a “Western media war.”
     
    This view is shared by Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Institute of Near Eastern Studies. He has his own solution to Syria.

    “The only way is the same that was during the Vietnam War - Yankee Go Home. In this time, we can say, Europeans, Americans, Gulf monarchies and all other idiots trying to play a game in Syria, including Turkey, can take their luggage, go home, and sleep well," he said. 
     
    Asked about Russia, he said Moscow has no involvement in Syria’s internal conflict.
     
    This week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton charged that Russia is shipping attack helicopters to Syria. This shipment would come after at least three Russian ships delivered arms to Syria in recent months.
     
    Next week, Syria is likely to be discussed when Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have their first presidential-level meeting. The meeting may well be tense. Mr. Putin is never known to have used in public the word "reset", a code word for the détente policy favored by his predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev.
     
    Carnegie Moscow Center’s Masha Lipman predicts that progress on Syria will fall victim to Mr. Putin’s desire to block Washington at every turn.

    “The distrust, the suspicion that America is a threat, that America is there to weaken Russia remains the basis of their relations, and given the inauspicious environment these days,  inside Russia, outside Russia, I think the contradictions come to the fore," she said. 
     
    With the Annan peace plan due for renewal by the United Nations in one month, many analysts say the clock is running out before Syria descends into the kind of sectarian civil war seen in neighboring Lebanon in the 1980s.
     
    In the 15 months since the fighting broke out in Syria, the opposition calculates that 13,000 people have been killed.
     
    In Moscow, Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, writes that Russia and Iran must act now “to prevent [an] avalanche that would bury their interests in Syria.”
     
    He writes that the solution is for the two nations to push for a gradual change of power from the Assad family.
     
    Despite the anti-Western fireworks often heard in Russia on Syria, Moscow may be coming around to that view.
     
    On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave a press conference in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi. Lavrov stressed that Russia’s ties and interests are with the Syrian people, not with the Assad clan.
     
    Now, it remains to be seen if Moscow can move fast enough to broker a political solution, before Syria descends into a full-fledged civil war. 
     

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: kafantaris from: USA
    June 15, 2012 11:44 AM
    Why exactly do we expect Russia to act differently than it has on Syria? Can we not see that Syria is a microcosm of Russia? For decades a strong ruler has governed both countries -- effectively denying citizens a say so in their government. If Russia helps fix this in Syria, it might have to fix it next at home.
    Why would Putin want to do that at when Syria has become a diversion at home where he needs to play up Russia's strength in the world? Better to stick with the old script and keep on raiding the offices of political opponents or drumming up bogus charges against businessmen.
    Forget Russia then. When the ground begins to shake below your feet, you stick with your friends.
    Though the steamroller of the Information Age is getting closer and closer to their nose, the Putins, the al-Assads and the Ayatollahs of this world are too drunk with power to get out of the way.

    by: StigP in Sweden from: Sweden
    June 15, 2012 4:56 AM
    "Lavrov stressed that Russia’s ties and interests are with the Syrian people, not with the Assad clan."
    So the attack helicopters that Russia is providing Syria belongs to the Syria people.? And all the weapon systems that Russia has sold to Syria also belongs to Syria people? Lavrov is such a jerk that he deserves a visit in Homs and live shoulder to shoulder with people who has been robbed of their weapons that was meant for them...

    by: vasili basayev from: Москва́
    June 14, 2012 10:24 PM
    Russia hates Turkey people. weapons for Syria to kill Turk

    by: chuy n from: New York
    June 14, 2012 9:42 PM
    China is no joke. Arabs are joke !! arabs all the same - syrian egyptians palestians all same arabs - really ugly

    by: Bassam Ismail from: Allepo
    June 14, 2012 9:37 PM
    Voice of Amrica, listen, Bashar is going to attack Turkey

    by: Mike
    June 14, 2012 7:38 PM
    Putin is the criminal person like Assad and of course Putin has supported and will always support dictators around the world. Throne of the Russian Tsar Putin is staggered, because the opposition in Russia has increased its strength. So the world can not to get support from Putin in the dissolution of the Assad regime in Syria. The West needs to stop empty diplomacy with Russia and to show its strength, as it did in Libya.

    by: r.b. from: u.s
    June 14, 2012 7:20 PM
    thats all china does is TALK,what a JOKE THEY ARE

    by: shafiq suliman from: Lebanon
    June 14, 2012 5:49 PM
    Russian weapon influx to Syria is aimed at Turkey. once again the Turk has proven himself treacherous and without honor so now he will learn a lesson in civility

    by: JoeBob from: Planet Earth
    June 14, 2012 5:14 PM
    Why do you say America? Its the United States.. America is 2 continents and contains many countries...

    by: MissClarity from: USA
    June 14, 2012 3:30 PM
    Make money on sale of helicopters while supporting the Russian belief that ethnic cleansing is good. A two-fold philosophy that is a win/win for Russia and a win for Syria.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.