Russia’s patience with the illegal actions of the US and the coalition it leads in Syria is wearing thin. The statement released by the Russian Ministry of Defence after the US downed a Syrian jet in Syrian airspace announced that “it has ended its interaction with the US side under a memorandum for preventing incidents and providing for safe flights during operations in Syria”. That’s just the beginning of the statement. What follows is more relevant to the present discussion.
Russia had made a similar announcement back in April when the US fired Tomahawk missiles on a Syrian airbase but this is different. The announcement this time goes further. It is followed by strong words which stand in stark contrast with the diplomatic language Russia had been using to engage the US-led coalition ever since it entered the Syrian war-theatre in September 2015. These strong words were much-needed.
As reported by Tass, the statement went on to say: “The shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace is a cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty. The US’ repeated combat operations under the guise of ‘combating terrorism’ against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-state are a flagrant violation of international law, in addition to being actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic”.
It didn’t say that the US was actually facilitating the terrorists under the “guise of combating terrorism”, though that would have been more apt. But the statement did go on to say something which is far more serious than that: “Any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River by the Russian air forces will be followed by Russian ground-based air defence and air defence aircraft as air targets”. Wow!
Despite being aware of the two-faced terrorist-friendly regime-change game the US is playing in Syria, Russia had been somewhat tolerant of the illegal operations carried out by the US-led coalition in Syria, though they were as much a violation of Syrian sovereignty then as they are now. Has Russia been encouraged to take a tougher stance because its alliance with Iran and the Syrian government forces has the upper hand in Syria now?
Reports from Syria indicate that the proxy terrorist groups are on the run and the Syrian government and its allies are marching on, bringing chunks of Syrian territory under their control. Iraq is cooperating with Syria to secure their common border. Peace deals with opposition groups in de-confliction zones agreed upon by Russia-Turkey-Iran with the Syrian government have further strengthened the capacity of Syrian allies to confront the mother of all monsters on Syrian soil. This is something that Russia did everything in its power to avoid.
But the futility of efforts to bring the US around to a peaceful resolution of the conflict through negotiations is becoming clearer by the day. Trump’s election promise of cooperating with Russia in Syria was obviously a hoax as his administration has done no such thing. On the contrary, it has upped the ante against the Syrian government and its armed forces. It is obvious that calling the US a partner hasn’t helped matters and that ISIS is certainly not a ‘common enemy’.
Time and time again, under the guise of combating terrorism, US intervention has targeted the Syrian government forces and facilitated the terrorist groups. This is nothing new for the global badmash but a tried and tested regime-change strategy. I’m sure the leadership of Russia knew it all along but kept chanting the ‘American partners’ mantra to cajole the US to the negotiating table. Besides, taking on all the enemies at once would have created bigger problems.
Now that the tables in Syria have decidedly turned in favour of the Syrian government, and it has become abundantly clear that the US is in no mood to back off from using terrorist proxies as a tool against the Assad regime and facilitating them in very possible way, Russia is expected to give teeth to its principled position. In Beijing to attend the BRICS Foreign Ministers Summit earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: “All countries should respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and coordinate any actions ‘on the ground’ with Damascus”.
Hopefully, as the Syrian government and its allies liberate more territory from the clutches of proxy terrorists, we would see Russia join its Iranian and Syrian allies in calling out the two-faced US intervention in the country for what it is. The non-confrontational approach it has followed so far has only emboldened the global badmash to continue its sordid game in Syria and so many other places, and even start new ones as in the case of Philippines. It is time the multipolar leaders called a spade a spade.
In my opinion, the value-free non-confrontational approach, that seems to have captured the imagination of multipolar leaders, needs to take a backseat for the moment. It had a positive impact and it will again be useful in the coming days to bring more states to the multipolar fold. But given the increasingly aggressive posture of the US and its determination to escalate conflicts around the globe, a new approach is needed to defend and build world peace.
Determined actions to frustrate the imperial machinations of the US on the ground should be matched with strong words. The China-Russia nexus must not only articulate their vision for a new international order but also expose the hurdles that stand in its way without mincing any words. After all, how can we create a better world without clearly identifying the biggest problem that plagues it?
The shared values and core principles of the multipolar world should provide the foundation for a more concerted consolidation of relations within the bloc and the basis of relations with new entrants and potential partners. As world powers, both China and Russia must engage with each and every country in the world but it is time that their all-encompassing engagement became more focused to isolate the menace that is Uncle Sam.
n The writer is a freelance columnist.