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The Russian Intervention in Syria is Part of a Broader Strategic Picture

Assessing Moscow’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, Anna Borshchevskaya seeks to put it in the context of Vladimir Putin’s worldview and goals, and to demonstrate its continuity with the 2008 Russian war with Georgia and the invasion of Ukraine that began in 2014. First, she notes what might be called an ideological motivation for defending Bashar al-Assad:

November 2003 marked the beginning of the “color revolutions”—peaceful uprisings against corrupt regimes that swept the post-Soviet space, beginning with Georgia’s Rose Revolution and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of late 2004-05. . . . Putin saw the hand of Washington behind these events. As a KGB man, he had watched the Soviet Union itself instigate uprisings to undermine unfriendly regimes. Putin, whose understanding of the West and especially the United States has always been limited, could not imagine that the West would behave any differently toward him. . . .

When the Arab upheavals began in December 2010, the Kremlin viewed them the same way it saw the color revolutions—and by this time Putin had become much more belligerent. . . . It is no accident that the Kremlin has always insisted that it went into Syria at Assad’s request to protect a “legitimate government” against terrorists. This line was designed to pound into the Russian audience the message that revolt against any government is always wrong. . . .

The Russian intervention in Syria saved Assad, enabled Putin to project great-power status at the expense of the West, and entrenched Moscow further in the region. . . . Putin can also claim partial success in deterring Washington in the Middle East. His military moves, from Georgia to Ukraine to Syria, show he aims to reestablish a Russian presence across the Black Sea and the Mediterranean by creating and extending buffer zones along Russia’s periphery.

While seeing ideological, geostrategic, and economic reason behind Russia’s actions in Syria, Borshchevskaya finds unconvincing the Kremlin’s claim that it is interested in fighting terrorism. “If Moscow’s priority were in fact to target Islamist terrorism,” she writes, “it would have focused its campaign in Syria on Islamic State rather than on protecting Assad.” She also notes that “years of Western enabling—perceived by Moscow as weakness—emboldened Putin to intervene” in Syria and warns that American “cooperation with Russia will not bring stability.”

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, Vladimir Putin, War in Ukraine

 

Europe Has a Chance to Change Its Attitude toward Israel

Dec. 15 2017

In Europe earlier this week, Benjamin Netanyahu met with several officials and heads of state. Ahead of his visit, the former Italian parliamentarian Fiamma Nirenstein addressed a letter to these European leaders, urging them to reevaluate their attitudes toward the status of Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israel-Palestinian peace process, the gravity of European anti-Semitism, and the threat posed by Hamas and Hizballah. In it she writes:

For years, the relationship between Europe and Israel has been strained. Europe tends to criticize Israel for simply defending itself against the continual threats and terrorist attacks it faces on all its borders and inside its cities. Europe too often disregards not only Israel’s most evident attempts to bring about peace—such as its disengagement from Gaza—but also chides it for its cautiousness when considering what solutions are risky and which will truly ensure the security of its citizens.

The EU has never recognized the dangers posed by Hamas and Hizballah, as well as by many other jihadist groups—some of which are backed by [the allegedly moderate] Fatah. The EU constantly blames Israel in its decisions, resolutions, papers and “non-papers,” letters, and appeals. Some of Europe’s most important figures insist that sanctions against the “territories” are necessary—a political stance that will certainly not bring about a solution to this conflict that . . . the Israelis would sincerely like to resolve. Israel has repeated many times that it is ready for direct negotiation without preconditions with the Palestinians. No answer has been received.

The European Union continues to put forth unrealistic solutions to the Israel-Palestinian issue, and the results have only aggravated the situation further. Such was the case in 2015 when it sanctioned Israeli companies and businesses in the territories over the Green Line, forcing them to close industrial centers that provided work to hundreds of Palestinians. The Europeans promoted the harmful idea that delegitimizing Israel can be accomplished through international pressure and that negotiations and direct talks with Israel can be avoided. . . .

[Meanwhile], Iran’s imperialist designs now touch all of Israel’s borders and put the entire world at risk of a disastrous war while Iran’s closest proxy, Hizballah, armed with hundreds of thousands of missiles, proudly presents the most explicit terrorist threat. Europe must confront these risks for the benefit of its citizens, first by placing Hizballah on its list of terrorist organizations and secondly, by reconsidering and revising its relationship with Iran.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Europe and Israel, European Union, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy