News / Middle East

Would the Loss of Ukraine Harden Russia Policy on Syria?

FILE- Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, on Dec. 17, 2013
FILE- Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, on Dec. 17, 2013
Why do despots invariably have such atrocious taste?  Ukrainians wandering wide-eyed through the palace outside Kyiv of fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych simultaneously marveled and gagged at the gilded furniture, stuffed dead cats and gold bathroom fixtures. But their elation at overturning their corrupt, if elected, president could fade quickly if Russia’s elected, if authoritarian, president Vladimir Putin decides that Ukraine cannot be allowed to turn west in its political and economic orientation.
 
Like the Soviet leaders he resembles, Putin seems desperate to retain what remains of Russia’s regional and global influence. That is presumably why he backed Yanukovych all these years, mobilized troops Wednesday on the border with Ukraine for military “exercises,” and appears to have given the Ukrainian president safe haven in Russia.  It also explains, in part, Putin’s refusal to end Russia’s support for the blood-stained Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad.
 
Before the Sochi Olympics, some in the West speculated that a successful, terrorism-free Games would increase Putin’s self-confidence sufficiently that he would soften policy toward Ukraine and Syria. One positive outcome was Russia’s agreement – on the eve of the closing of the Olympics – not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that urges all sides in Syria’s civil war to allow humanitarian access to civilians for the delivery of urgently needed food and medical supplies.
 
The resolution – the first the Russians have allowed in three years on Syria – also demands that combatants “cease all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs, and methods of warfare ... to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.” It threatens “further steps” if the resolution is not implemented but does not specify what those might be.
 
However, Russia’s behavior at recent Geneva talks showed no diminution of support for Assad in contradiction to Russia’s previous agreement requiring multilateral negotiations to focus on a post-Assad political transition. The tribulations of the Yanukovych government in Ukraine could make Putin even more loath to jettison his old ally in Syria.
 
Russia is right to be concerned about the character of the Syrian opposition and the rising profile of Sunni militant groups. However, by refusing to shape a new government for Syria, Putin and his diplomats are insuring that the civil war continues to act as a magnet and school for jihadists from his own country as well as elsewhere in Europe and the Middle East.
 
According to U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, there are now more than 7,000 foreign fighters in Syria opposing the Assad regime.

Vitaly Naumkin, director of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, has written that  hundreds of people from Russia have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and other jihadist groups. They include ethnic Russians and 250 from the restive province of Chechnya alone. There are fears that some may return to Russia to commit terrorist acts, such as the bombings that preceded the Sochi Olympics.
 
The longer the war goes on, the more Syria will become a hothouse for extremism and violence and the bigger the political vacuum will become.
 
 A four-month study conducted recently showed that the Syrian government and the externally-based opposition – which failed in Geneva to come to any accommodation – together have the support of less than 15 percent of the residents of Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city. ISIS controls a fifth of the city’s neighborhoods, the study said, although it has alienated many Syrians and is being confronted by other Islamic groups, including al-Qaida’s official affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra (the Nusra Front).
 
David Kilcullen, founder of Caerus Associates which organized the study and an Australian counter-insurgency expert and former aide to retired Gen. David Petraeus, said at a Washington forum earlier this month that Nusra is using tactics perfected by groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah to attract  support by providing social services to those under its control.
 
“If al-Qaida and Hezbollah had fallen in love and gotten it on, their love child would be Jabhat al-Nusra,” Kilcullen said.
 
While no country is volunteering troops to pacify a collapsing Syria, the international community cannot allow the war to go on indefinitely. Despite generous contributions from the United States, the price tag for caring for refugees is too high and the ramifications of a lost generation of young Syrians too frightening to contemplate.
 
Somehow Putin must be convinced that Russia will ultimately lose more than it gains through association with unsavory regimes like those of Yanukovych and Assad. Gilded palaces cannot protect such men from the wrath of their people – and those who are brave enough to rise up will remember who sided with and against them.

Barbara Slavin

Barbara Slavin is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center and a correspondent for Al-Monitor.com, a website specializing in the Middle East. She is the author of a 2007 book, Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation, and is a regular commentator on U.S. foreign policy and Iran on NPR, PBS, C-SPAN and the Voice of America.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: mig from: tx
March 02, 2014 12:28 AM
The writer of this article was day dreaming when he wrote this, it is far from reality and full of lies ,all of who only an ignorant would believe.

by: Anonymous
March 01, 2014 6:46 AM
What would happen if majority of Russia tried to overthrow Putin?
Would it be just like Syria?

I think the world will look at Putin differently once a warrant is out for bashar al assads arrest for his crimes in Syria. Assad must go to trial for his crimes against the Syrian Nation, he is a war criminal. Putin has been aiding and protecting the fugitive assad, who has been detaining, killing, and displacing Syrians.

The entire world will frown upon Putins actions including the Russian people, and likely less countries will want to do business with Putin at any cost.
This will not only prove Putin is up to no good, but also reinforce the people of Russia to stand even stronger against Putin for his acts. Personally I think they should remove him from power and elect someone entirely different (easier said than done of course) to promote business and peace if they want to prosper. The people of Russia will be standing up stronger than ever against Putin for his actions that do not represent the hearts and minds of the Russian people. His brazen stupid acts will have a negative impact on the population of Russia, not a positive one. Russian people are seeing now more than ever with their own eyes the true colours just who their so called "leader" truely is. He is taking the Russians freedom away more and more. Detaining opposition, is also not a good thing.

Also:
As a president, judging ones sexuality and banning the discussion shows disrespect for the people of Russia, they should be able to do what they want and discuss it with whoever they want. Since when does a leader decide someone elses sexual preferences and interests...

It's all about respect, Russian people are respectful, their leader isnt proving to be however.

What would happen if everyone in Russia tried to overthrow Putin? Would he sick his military on them? Would he kill them and detain them trying to force him out of power? very good question one must ask ones self.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
February 28, 2014 6:04 AM
It will definitely harden Russia's stand as well impact the nuclear negotiations now going on between Iran and the six world powers. Much more than ever, it's going to make Russia take a harder look at the international approach to the Iran nuclear program wherein Iran's Zarif has begun to talk tough - 'Iran nuclear program will remain intact'. This is because Russia will have resolved to become stronger for its allies who may be losing faith because of Russia's possible weakness in international diplomatic circles. Yes it will, as well as strengthen its resolve to gravitate toward improved relations with China while fortifying its position with Iran, Africa and South America, though it is touted that Russia is ambiguous about Iran's nuclear program's purposes and intent.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More