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The opinions expressed by the authors of the articles in this section are for discussion purposes only and may not coincide with the position of the Russian Government and the Embassy


Syria: stopping one step to chaos

Yevgeny Primakov, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences: I believe that the position of the two UN Security Council permanent members, the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, on Syria is quite justified. Firstly, the events in Syria, as well as in Libya, from the very beginning failed to sit well with the idea of the “Arab spring” as popular demonstrations against authoritarian regimes in the Arab world. Right from the start, armed actions against the authorities took place in these two countries. Who provided the arms and encouraged their use, I am sure, will eventually become clear.
Secondly, from the very outset, the media in the majority of Western and Arab countries displayed an absolutely biased attitude, unilaterally presenting Syrian events as suppression by force of peaceful marches seeking democracy. The Syrian authorities lifted the state of emergency, renounced the monopoly of the Ba’ath Party, pledged to introduce a multi-party system and hold democratic parliamentary and presidential elections and so on. The opposition made no reciprocal moves whatsoever. Meanwhile, it appears that a significant proportion of the country’s population, if not a majority, still supports Bashar al-Assad.
Thirdly, concerned over the situation, Moscow offered help to facilitate negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition. Despite some voices of the opposition camp in favour of a dialogue with the Syrian government, the opposition on the whole flatly refused to have any contacts with the authorities. They frustrated multiple attempts to organize negotiations to help stop the bloodshed. It is not ruled out that these actions were prompted from outside. 
Fourthly, instead of rejecting its adoption, Russia and China offered to bring the language of the UN Security Council Resolution as close to reality as possible, which would ensure its eventual effectiveness. They spoke in favour of omitting the demand for the duly elected President Bashar al-Assad to be removed from power as unacceptable under the international law. They argued that it is wrong to put all responsibility for the bloodshed on one party to the conflict – the Syrian government, while taking the heat off the other party, and impose sanctions on Syria. They were also concerned with some of the provisions put forward by a number of Western and Arab states in the draft resolution. These provisions, as was shown by the events in Libya, could have been used to justify an armed intervention into Syria. As I see it, Russia and China refused to be fooled twice. Not so long ago, the US asked them not to veto the UN Resolution on Libya, presenting it as a demand to establish a no-fly zone over the country to prevent Gaddafi air force from striking at peaceful population. That amorphous part of the UN Resolution was directly used to overthrow the Gaddafi regime.
What stands behind the current anti-Syrian position? The US and their NATO allies wish to capitalize on the situation that has existed in the Arab world from spring 2011 in an effort to remove unwanted Arab regimes. Syria became victim mainly due to its closeness to Iran. The removal of the current regime from power makes part of the plan to isolate Iran.  Damascus and Tehran were urged to become closer by the fact that there still remains an unresolved conflict between Israel and the Arabs. I remember that in one of my conversations with Hafez al-Assad, the father of the incumbent Syrian President, he said that he would do his best to avoid ending up “one on one with Israel”.  The failure to settle the dangerous Middle Eastern conflict, which constantly tends to grow into a crisis, prompted Damascus to establish an Iranian rear “just in case”.
Why did the majority of Arab states take the stand against the Bashar al-Assad administration? I think that it happened mainly due to increasing differences between the two major denominations of Islam – the Sunnis and the Shiahs. After the American military operation in Iraq, these differences exacerbated. The Syrian authorities are mainly made up of Alawis, an Islamic branch close to Shiism. Consequently, the Arab League, which predominantly consists of “Sunni countries”, feared that this might point to an emerging “Shiah belt” across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
What will happen if the current Syrian regime gets overthrown? I wish that the authors of the failed draft resolution of the UN Security Council would give it a thought. There already exist eloquent examples of what an irresponsible policy in the Middle East and Northern Africa might lead to. It must be countered with collective efforts, which are, after all, indispensable for preventing the situation from slipping into chaos and civil war and eventually avoiding failure of the much needed measures aimed at a settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict.


20.08.2015 - The Interview: Henry Kissinger

The National Interest’s editor, Jacob Heilbrunn, spoke with Henry Kissinger in early July in New York.

10.08.2015 - "Shame on UK for Sham Litvinenko Trial", by William Dunkerley for "Eurasia review"

What started off as a massive fabrication in 2006 just received a great boost from a complicit British government. The mysterious polonium death of reputed former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko is the focus. An inexplicably long series of official UK hearings on this nearly 9 year old case has just concluded. That’s prompted a new flurry of sensational media reports.

02.06.2015 - Eurasian Way Out of the European Crisis (Article by Sergei Karaganov, to be published in late June in "Russian in Global Affairs")

I have already written before that having emerged victorious from the Cold War, Europe lost the post-war peace. The continent is on the verge of strategic degradation that may either become a caricature of military-political division into opposing blocs or a time of disquieting uncertainty. The military-political conflict over Ukraine can escalate as well.

13.03.2015 - NEW RULES OR NO RULES? XI Annual Valdai Discussion Club Meeting Participants' Report

In Search of an Order For those who believe in the magic of numbers, the year 2014 was further proof in its existence. The World War I centenary had been anticipated in awe and History, by taking another dramatic twist, confirmed the worst of expectations. It pronounced that centuries-old conflicts are still with us and that such concepts as the balance of powers, borders, and sovereignty are still relevant even in the era of a global interdependence.

15.09.2014 - Western delusions triggered this conflict and Russians will not yield (by Professor Sergey Karaganov for FT)

The west is without direction and losing sight of moral convictions, writes Sergey Karaganov

29.05.2014 - It’s not just about gas: why China needs Russia (by Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor in chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy)

In a pre-election article published a little over two years ago, Vladimir Putin wrote that Russia wanted to harness the Chinese wind for its sails of development. Every sailor knows that in stormy weather, and the world is a stormy place today, controlling a sailing ship is incredibly difficult. But by working skilfully there is a chance of inching one's goal much faster.

29.05.2014 - HARDtalk: Professor Sergey Karaganov

Stephen Sackur asks one of President Putin's influential former advisors about the next stage of Russia's apparent neo-imperialist foreign policy after developments in Crimea.

28.05.2014 - Anatol Lieven: Ukraine should be a bridge, not a battleground

Anatol Lieven has published a brilliant essay that should be read and absorbed by everyone who wishes to understand what is happening in and around Ukraine today. I quote it with thanks to the author for permission to do so.

23.04.2014 - I'm confused, can anyone help me? (by Neil Clark, journalist, writer and broadcaster for Russia Today)

I'm confused. A few weeks ago we were told in the West that people occupying government buildings in Ukraine was a very good thing. These people, we were told by our political leaders and elite media commentators, were 'pro-democracy protestors'.

22.04.2014 - How to Save Ukraine (by Igor Ivanov RIAC President, Professor of MGIMO-University of the RF MFA, RAS Corresponding Member for Moscow Times)

A couple of days ago in Washington, a former high-level U.S. government official mentioned to me that if a civil war breaks out in Ukraine, it would follow not the Bosnian scenario, but the Spanish one.

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