The West cannot ignore Russia; dazed Germany sitting on the fence

Russian President Vladimir Putin presides a meeting on relief efforts following a fire in Kemerovo. March 27, 2018. Kemerovo. Presidency of Russia photo.

After the missile attacks by the Western trio of US, Britain and France against Damascus and other positions in war torn Syria, the Russian overlords and Assad regime in that part of the world, continues pursuing their agenda, as if nothing happened. From a certain angle truly nothing has changed regarding the military and political situation on the ground. The dynamics of the Bashar al-Assad government forces, fully supported and controlled by Russia, don’t seem to have been damaged. Even the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, confirmed, that the missile attack was not actually aimed and changing the military situation on the ground or undermining the Damascus regime.

No later than a few days after the attacks and the Assad army is preparing one more major military aggression against the opposition forces. According to information published by the Reuters agency on 17 April, “The Syrian army started shelling a jihadist enclave south of Damascus on Tuesday in preparation for an operation to retake the area, a commander in a pro-Damascus regional military alliance said. The commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the operation would target the Islamic State and the Nusra Front groups in Yarmouk Camp and the adjoining al-Hajar al-Aswad area”.

Who is winning?

One after the other, the Assad enemies are being targeted and exterminated, because the West has committed not only tactical blunders by changing targets all the time, but also by not having clear strategic goals. The previous US administration under former President Barack Obama was too late to understand what was at stake in Syria. As for Donald Trump, the President of ‘America first’, one week after he had asked his generals to prepare a withdrawal from Syria, he ordered the firing of tens of Tomahawks in a face saving effort.

It’s not an exaggeration to allege that Trump reacted to the TV images of children being affected by Assad’s poisonous bombs, in a media persona’s way he definitely is. We cannot believe, though, that a person like Trump was truly and deeply moved by the suffering of the Syrian people. No doubt then, Trump’s reaction to attack Damascus with missiles, was more of a media affair rather than a calculated tactical step serving a clearly set strategy to solidify US position in the region.

The bigger picture

So, today, the West under the leadership of Washington, appears not only indecisive about Syria, but also deeply divided in relation not only to targets but also about alliances. The tight bonding of France and Britain in Syria and more so vis-à-vis Russia has created a deep European divide. There is a lot more at stake than the future of Assad. In the wider image, what happens in the devastated country has opened the way for Russia to assume a really pivotal role in the Middle East and strengthen her role elsewhere.

Moscow has not only cemented a pivotal role in shaping the future of Syria. It has achieved to develop close relations with both the major Muslim countries of the Region. Russia has a close political and military alliance with Iran in Syria and, on this base, she has developed strong political and economic relations with the Shia Muslim leadership in Tehran. At the same time, Putin has managed to conclude a very important agreement with the Sunni Saudi Arabia about the pricing and the production of crude oil.

This pact has helped the two countries to significantly increase their income from the exports of crude. They both badly need the extra profits, being totally dependent on oil exports and both encountering grave problems in financing their government budgets. Not difficult to explain then why King Salman is the first Saudi monarch to have visited Moscow. The Russia-Saudi pact is so economically important for both sides, that none of them would easily endanger it for anything.

Russia’s grip on the Middle East

Apart from that, Russia has up to certain degree dragged Turkey away from the Western block and Putin has paid good attention to maintain a good level of working relations with Israel and more so with Egypt. The result is Russia, with an economy thirteen times smaller than the US, has managed to restore its sway in the Middle East, a region of global strategic importance, where the old USSR had a leading role. All that makes Russia not only a casual contender of US’s position, but a real challenger of American supremacy. More so because Moscow has based its relations with the two major powers of the region, Iran and Saudi Arabia on sound business deals.

The turn of Europe

Also, in Europe, Moscow has primarily based its political standing on sound economic facts. Germany depends on Russian natural gas. The two are currently working hard to further increase this link, by building a second pipeline through the Baltic Sea alongside the first one. It’s about the Nord Stream Line I and II. No wonder then if Germany, the largest and richest European Union country, can’t really decide on which side she stands. The Syrian knot revealed that Berlin watches Russia with awe. This was more than evident in relation to the Western missile attack against the Assad regime and his Russian masters.

Germany is so confused by the West-Russia division, that members of the government in Berlin cannot find a compromise between them, about the challenging questions of our times. According to the respected and reliable news group Handelsblatt, Heiko Mass, German Foreign Minister said “Nobody can imagine that anyone who uses chemical weapons against their people can be part of that solution”. At the same time and in direct contrast with Mass, Jürgen Hardt, the leading foreign affairs spokesmen for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, “quickly rejected that notion. It is obvious that Russia cannot agree to a solution without Assad he said”.

Germany frozen

Clearly Germany feels tied with Russia in a way that brings the country in direct conflict with her closest European ally, France. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared overtaken by what happens in Syria between Russia and the West. She said, “To simply do nothing is also difficult.” It’s as if the largest and richest European Union country has developed reflexes and attitude of an overgrown Belgium.

All in all, Russia has managed to gain a strong position in world affairs and this probably has repercussions even on the US political agenda. The alleged implication of Moscow in the American presidential election of November 2016 and the current judicial prosecution of Trump’s top aides for colluding with Russians to help him get to the White House, are very characteristic.

In short, the world that was united after the fall of communism in Europe, is now taking some steps backwards. The fact, though, that there are no two well shaped and structured camps, which can be centrally controlled as in the old days may prove to be a problem. This makes an accidental ignition of a wider military confrontation more plausible and more difficult to control, because some players may chose the…difficult position of ‘doing nothing’.

 

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