Washington recently accused Russia of throwing ‘gasoline on the fire’, in response to Russian air-strikes against west backed rebel forces in the Syrian Civil War. However, Russia denied such allegations and claimed its attacks were against the Islamic State (IS), and that it is dedicated to wipe out that terrorist threat.
Lack of co-ordination between the forces of the two Cold War adversaries had raised concerns of a confrontation between them. The US backed coalition that had been warring with IS asked for a conference between the two parties to resolve issues. Russia, however, went a step ahead and offered increased co-ordination and a level of partnership between them, allowing for more effectiveness in the fight against IS. The Russian deputy defence minister stated that it is sad how ‘the Americans narrow down our co-operation to technical issues between military, instead of wider partnership’.
However, the recent teleconferencing between officials of the two forces did not go very far and was abandoned. But, another date has been set for another attempt.
Syria has been a close ally of Russia since 1944, when it got formal recognition of its statehood. In 2011, when civil war broke out, Syria was one of the closest middle-eastern allies of Russia. It was only natural that it will get military supplies from its ally. However, the Assad regime is accused of human rights violation, among numerous other international law violations, and hence this act raised the hackles of the West. Now, though, Russian forces appear to have actively injected themselves into the conflict on the side of their allies, even if the official line denies it vehemently. But the facts claim otherwise; Russia blocked numerous motions in the UNSC for action against the Assad regime. Another cause for concern in that the build-up is not in proportion to the threat posed by IS; it exceeds it exponentially. There are even rumours of elite Russian troops on the ground as well. In Russia’s defence, it tried to broker a failed peace treaty between warring parties to allow Syria to focus on the greater danger on its West.
However, Washington has assertively warned against interference in the 65 member states’ international coalition’s campaign against IS. They condemned the support of Russia to Assad’s regime, pointing out his lost ‘legitimacy’ to the Syrian people. Assad has, reportedly, lost the moral authority to lead his country and lost the support of 80 percent of the population.
Russia’s new pro-active actions come after a long hiatus, as the Afghanistan debacle has been buried in our minds. It seems to be fuelled in part by the wave of nationalism sweeping across the country, and the machismo of Vladimir Putin, or the struggle to establish it.
Assad, meanwhile, is more concerned with the state of his army, whittled down to a mere 80,000 from 300,000 by many factors like desertion, and the looming threat of IS that refuses to go down.