War of words: what will the disputes between Russia and USA on Syria


A symmetrical response

All last week the Russian authorities and Western countries (mainly USA) exchanged mutual recriminations, accusations and threats. The reason for this was primarily the worsening situation in Syria.

On Wednesday, the state Department reported on a telephone conversation between John Kerry and Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (who, according to Moscow, was initiated by the American side). Kerry explained to his colleague that the United States considers Russia responsible for the bombing of Aleppo, it also bears “the burden of ending this storm.” Otherwise, Washington is threatening to suspend all cooperation with Moscow on Syria.

Speaking shortly afterwards at a daily press briefing, state Department spokesman John Kirby warned that in the context of the ongoing civil war in Syria, the extremists and terrorists will plan attacks on Russian interests, perhaps even in Russian cities”, and the Russian army will continue to suffer human and material losses.

The Russian foreign Ministry considered such rhetoric a sign of support of terrorists, and the Kremlin called the statement of Kirby’s “clumsy”: in the words of press Secretary of Russian President Dmitry Peskov, Moscow says quite unconstructive rhetoric that we hear from Washington in the last days.” At the weekly briefing on Thursday the official representative of the foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova criticized the States, but through the prism of the strikes of the U.S. air force on Afghanistan: “against the background of erroneous air strikes of the USA in Afghanistan I remember a recent situation in Deir ez-Zor. Question — on whose side the United States?”

These are the results of only the last two days of diplomatic pique” between Russia and the West, not counting the harsh statements in the meeting of the UN Security Council last weekend. Then the representative of the United States called Russia’s actions in Syria “barbaric”. On Thursday, the regular meeting of the security Council, following which the head of the French delegation françois Delattre said about preparing a new resolution on Syria.

Younger brother

The extremely harsh statements of U.S. diplomats, the newspaper the Wall Street Journal compared with ultimatum, the toughest since the beginning of negotiations on the peaceful settlement. Many experts are confident that the situation has come this far largely due to the fact that Moscow was a hostage of the unpredictable actions of their ally — the official Syrian authorities, the interests of which she still defends.

“If Russia adhered to the initially declared goal to destroy ISIS and nothing more, such an operation is, in principle, could be successful,” says the orientalist Grigory Melamed. In his opinion, Moscow did not consider the task of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, for whom “Islamic state” (LIH, banned terrorist group) is not the main enemy in contrast to the opposition.

The ceasefire in Syria came into force on September 12. During the truce, the Russian defense Ministry repeatedly documented abuses by opposition groups. And 17 September, the American coalition aircraft launched several attacks on government positions in the province of Deir ez-Zor. More than 60 soldiers were killed, 100 were injured, destroyed 20 units.

Two days later the command of the Syrian army announced its withdrawal from the ceasefire. A few days later resumed strikes of the Syrian air force on the city of Aleppo, where for many months there are battles between the troops of Damascus and the armed opposition. Finally, on September 25 from the negotiation process went 30 opposition groups, led by the “Free Syrian army” — the largest grouping of “moderate” opposition.

“After the release of the opposition of negotiations, Russia has ceased to be an international mediator,” — said the Director of the center for analysis of middle East conflicts of the Institute of USA and Canada Alexander Shumilin. According to him, Russia was dependent on the decisions of Assad that has exacerbated after a failed ceasefire in September. This focuses and senior lecturer in the Department of political science school of Economics Leonid Isaev: “Moscow, on the one hand, acts as a guarantor of the implementation of the agreements. But we have to be on the battlefield and not be a party to the conflict”.

The patient is still alive

The ongoing exchange of threats between Russia and the US are key partners for the settlement of the Syrian conflict puts under question the peaceful settlement of the civil war and forced the parties to adjust their strategic and tactical goals, experts say.

“In the near future Russia and the United States would be extremely difficult to revive the negotiation process”, — said Isayev from the HSE. According to Melamedov, this process will not be successful unless you’re serious objective of economic and social preconditions for the unification of Syrian society into something coherent. When this will happen is unclear, according to the orientalist.

The maximum optimistic outcome of the campaign for Moscow to maintain military bases on the territory of the country, and extensive coordination with the Western coalition, experts believe. In addition, they note, Russia will be able in the future to use the negotiations to improve relations with the West. Also, according to WSJ sources in the U.S. government about covering the military channel of communication between Moscow and Washington speech yet.

A large number of participants of hostilities and negotiations could have a big impact on this scenario, says the program Director of the discussion club “Valdai” by Andrey sushentsov: “someone from the regional players, Iran or Saudi Arabia can take the nerves, and they will go to all lengths”. It will transform a local conflict into an international force and global players — Russia and the United States is to use serious force.

Russia had to endure periods and more complex relations with the United States, the head of the defense Committee of the Federation Council Viktor Ozerov. The US also has politicians interested in achieving longer-term goals, such as combating terrorism, he stressed, adding that this problem is a common problem for Russia and America.

In any case, a new truce in Syria is unlikely, given the mutual distrust of the Armed forces of Russia and the USA to each other, said military expert of the Institute of CIS countries Vladimir Evseev. “No matter what, diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis will continue, although the chances of settlement or the notorious “section of Syria are small because of the upcoming elections and the change of presidential administration in the United States,” he says.

Meanwhile, on Thursday fighting in Aleppo continued. Government troops recaptured the “terrorists” in the refugee camp of Handarat in the outskirts of Aleppo, reports “RIA Novosti” with reference to the Syrian military source. Handarat is approximately 11 km North from the centre of Aleppo and is of strategic importance because of its location next to the road of Castello, which is the route of supply. Also on Thursday, the Deputy UN Secretary-General for humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’brien in a statement addressed to the UN security Council, reported that in the period after 22 September, when the Syrian defense Ministry announced the attack in the town killed about 320 civilians and 765 were wounded.

On Thursday evening the Russian foreign Ministry has issued a warning for being outside the country of the Russians: on Friday, September 30, the expected number of protest actions in the framework of the “global day of rage” against the attacks on Aleppo. “We urge Russians to refrain from visiting places where the “anger and protest” can be turned against their dignity and security”, — says the message of the foreign Ministry.

With the participation of Elizabeth Antonova

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