Mikhail Leontieff ponders the situation in Syria, the agreement between Moscow and Washington, and the prospects of cooperation on some other contentious issues.
- Mikhail Leontieff
US media reported that the White House would agree to leave Assad in power in Syria, at least for a transition period. Does this mean that the United States is back-pedalling and that Putin has pulled his policies through?
That is exactly what this means. As it were, the US position has been blessed by Moscow. And thus, de facto, certain areas of responsibilities for combating IS ("Islamic state" has been outlawed in the Russian Federation) have been shared between the US and Russia.
The Americans said they would "chaperone" the Kurds, and they meant the armed forces of the Kurdish Democratic Party- that is the northern part of Syria along the border with Turkey. And they would obviously support the Kurds in every respect, and, politically, they would "keep an eye" on Turkey. That is, the United States are forcing Erdogan to stop the bombing of the part of land that happens to be under "the tutelage" of this particular Kurdish group, and this land just happens to be in the territory of Syria, thus allowing Erdogan to bomb the same people but on the Turkish side of the same land (it is , really, an extended territory, populated by the same Kurds, belonging to the same political party, etc.).
No wonder Erdogan made a very strong statement, that speaks of the double standards of the West and of an attempt to divide terrorists into "the good" and "the bad" ones.
Now the situation really depends on Turkey. It turns out that when the positions of Russia and the United States come closer together on the Syrian issue, Erdogan loses room for maneuver. But he still could blackmail the Americans with reanimation of the "Turkish stream," and us with the closure of the "Turkish stream".
Erdogan always had a very good relationship with Assad, close personal and family ties, and he had no issues with the Syrian president . These issues came to existance because he was "lead up the garden path" by the West , which later reneged on the fulfilling of any of the promises made.
As for Russian-American relations, I think that our mutual political understanding goes much deeper than it is reflected in the official rhetoric. Obama can ill-afford to give up all the previously employed rhetoric against Assad. It’s not just the matter of words, certain political groups had really been heavily backed in the recent past. And Obama can’t simply announce Assad to be an acceptable political figure now.
Therefore,in the end, the US will seek to remove Assad from power in Syria- at least for face-saving purposes. So, the intermittent negotiating position of the US looks like this: Assad is needed because without him, it would be impossible to carry out the transition, but then he has to go - "...we can not back-pedal that much, and you need to step into our shoes..."..
You can read into it the strong probability that United States will leave Assad in peace, at least for the time being.
It appears that Moscow and Washington have come to a compromise. Does this mean that the contradictions are resolved and is it now possible to move on to a new phase of cooperation?
No, of course not. Neither any contradictions have been, nor any will be -ever- removed. But there is a high level of agreement - an important understanding has been achieved , which is currently the highest point in Russia’s relations with the United States. When it comes to American side, this kind of deal is extremely difficult to agree on, because this kind of relationship implies relative parity of the parties and compromise, that is agreed upon by taking into account the interests of both parties. I am surprised that our diplomats are embarrassed to use the word "deal". A deal with the global power, as Washington still sees itself to be, is always an outstanding political and diplomatic achievement.
Moreover, a deal in one area opens up the opportunity of possible agreement on some other issues. The deal on Syria is also remarkable as becoming an evidence that the "self-developing machine of continuous escalation of the conflict," launched by Americans, including the conflict in Ukraine, may be forced into a reverse gear. This may not happen, but the possibility of this exists.