Russian Intervention In Syria Saves Damascus & Upgrades Moscow’s International Standing

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 27 December 2018
Russian Intervention In Syria Saves Damascus & Upgrades Moscow’s International Standing

The year 2018 is a year of many events in geopolitics and Russia has faced increased pressure from the West, but has won several major victories in the diplomatic arena that influenced the international situation.

What are major achievements of the Russian diplomacy in 2018?

The outgoing year turned out to be difficult for the international relations throughout the world. For Russia, it was marked by increased Western sanctions, pressure, and criticism by Europe of Russia’s policies, the Skripal case, the Kerch provocation and the weakening of the dialogue with the United States on the initiative of Washington, among other things.

Efforts of the Russian diplomacy, both this and the previous years, was aimed at preventing international conflicts, at resolving the tasks of helping the Syrian regime, and finally at countering tough Western policies in other areas.

Especially it is possible to single out the effective cooperation of Russia with China and India. Often, though not completely, the positions of Russia and these countries on the international agenda coincide, which give a wider space for diplomatic maneuvers.

Syria & once again Syria

Contrary to Western opinion about the problems with the implementation of Russia's policy, in fact, the year Russian diplomacy worked hard. What are the main successes of Russia in Syria?

Russia's actions on the Syrian direction are difficult to overestimate. Success in Syria is a merit of both the Russian Aerospace Forces and diplomacy. The Islamic State terrorist group has been defeated and almost completely defeated by the efforts of Moscow and Damascus with the help of both Turkey and Iran. At the same time, the US-led coalition acted in such a way that it was sometimes not clear on whose side, in fact, the Americans were fighting in Syria.

Here one can recall the American strike on the Syrian airbase Hmeymim in response to attributed to the Syrian authorities chemical attack in the province of Homs, and the drones of the coalition against civilians. In the end, only Russia has always advocated a diplomatic solution to the problems in Syria, which was gradually freed from terrorists. Russian diplomats are the authors of the initiative of the Astana process on a Syrian settlement, serious negotiations took place in Sochi.

An undoubted success was the signing in September 2018, together with Turkey, of a memorandum on the stabilization of the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone. This memorandum, which appeared and took place as a fact thanks to the efforts of Russian diplomacy, helps save the lives of thousands of peaceful Syrians. Success here is obtained not only diplomatic, but also through humanitarian, peacemaking efforts.

The memorandum involves the creation of a demilitarized zone of 15-20 kilometers along the line of contact of the Syrian armed opposition and government forces in the province of Idlib. The agreement on Idlib was signed by the presidents of Russia and Turkey on September 17 and already on October 10, Moscow and Ankara declared the complete withdrawal of heavy weapons from this zone. All tanks, multiple rocket launchers (MLRS), artillery of all groups of the Syrian opposition were withdrawn.

The latter also removed heavy weapons from the line of contact. The zone is controlled by Russian-Turkish patrol groups, and in the near future, transit traffic will be opened along Aleppo-Latakia and Aleppo-Hama highways. In short, Syria is gradually more and more confidently returning to peaceful life.

The efficiency of the Idlib agreement was previously recognized by the adviser to the US president on national security, John Bolton: “Indeed, we believe that the Idlib agreement is very important. President Trump said it avoided a humanitarian catastrophe. So far, the agreement reached by Russia, Syria and Turkey is being implemented, although there are still many unresolved issues.”

Finally, we should note the most high-profile event of the year - the announcement by Donald Trump about the withdrawal of US forces from Syria. As a justification, he declared victory over the terrorists. And this victory, in turn, was accomplished mainly by Russian and Syrian hands, which Trump, however, did not mention.

The United States now does not solve much

In general, many diplomatic successes of Russia are connected with the Syrian settlement. So, in Istanbul in late October, the Syria summit was held, in which Russia, Germany, France and Turkey took part. The United States was not on the guest list, because in fact, Washington almost does not solve anything.

The quadripartite meeting on the Syrian settlement was held with the participation of the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and it lasted for almost three hours. A joint statement was adopted. This is how German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the meeting: “There is an obligation to do everything so that further humanitarian disasters do not occur. The good news was that Turkey and Russia on September 17 were able to coordinate work on a truce in Idlib. Today we have committed ourselves to do everything so that it grows into a stable and lasting truce.”

Putin, in turn, noted that he hopes for the further withdrawal of heavy weapons and the disarmament of the opposition fighters in Idlib. However, the key point is that the United States no longer participates in the Syrian settlement process. Formally, they can still strike in Syria, but they are no longer involved in a political decision. This fact made the U.S. military presence almost meaningless. Even before the Russian Aerospace Forces helped the Syrian army to destroy the terrorists, Washington was politically out of place, did not participate in the Astana format and lost control of the situation, it was disarmed, including by Russian diplomatic efforts. Now the United States does not even require the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Nord Stream 2

Despite the resolutions adopted in the U.S. and the EU condemning Nord Stream II, the new gas pipeline continues to be built and has already reached the special economic zone of Sweden. The thing is that the resolutions against the implementation of the project have no legal force. It turned out that the European leaders publicly "spat" for the species, but in fact, continue to build the pipeline that promises them a profitable gas in the future.

The cornerstone here is the position of Germany. Berlin earlier, like Finland and Sweden, issued a permit for the construction of a gas pipeline, however, Chancellor Merkel was heavily pressured from Washington to supply Europe with its liquefied gas, which will be at least three times more expensive than Russian pipeline gas.

The fate of Nord Stream II was decided at the diplomatic negotiations and in many respects still depends on the political will of the countries participating in the project. At this stage, it can be stated that construction is continuing, and there are no signals from Berlin about the impending freezing of the project. At the same time, the demand to ban the gas pipeline continues to be Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. However, the weight of the same Ukraine or Poland is still incomparable with Germany.

On December 24, the world's largest pipe-laying vessel Pioneering Spirit commenced work on the installation of Nord Stream-2 pipes in the exclusive economic zone of Finland.