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Syria And The Return Of ‘Soviet’ Russia – OpEd

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To deny Russia its due place in world affairs and contain it from all possible sides, the US and its imperialist allies keep raising the bogey of Russian “intention” to revive the Soviet empire, even as the US, NATO and EU make strenuous efforts to keep the former Socialist bloc of nations under its political and military control.

As Russia ventured military action in Ukraine and Syria, the Western powers cry about the return of Soviet empire under “dictator” Putin. Russia annexed Crimea because it had been a part of Russia even before Soviet Union came into existence by adding neighboring nations and it did so in order to teach a lesson to Ukraine trying to be a part of western military alliance to target Russia.

Russia’s intervention in European Ukraine, followed by its annexation of Crimea, now direct intervention in West Asian Syria, among other Russo-US conflictual seeds, have sent unmistaken signals to the US and EU that Russia is back to reassert its super power status. In its military intervention in Syria, which is not a part of its backyard zone of former Soviet space, Russia has clearly let the US know that it can’t , in order for securing its energy requirements on permanent basis, go on invading energy rich Arab nations like wild beast in modern times.

Most Russians feel Russian non-interference policy pursued since the end of the so-called Cold War did embolden the US and its NATO allies to step up its unilateral military actions leading to invasions in Mideast after success in
Afghanistan following Sept-11. Russia’s reassertion of its military prowess now under strongman President Putin is meant to reveal its resolve to come out its “neutral” position of avoiding direct confrontational approach towards USA and reinvigorate the cold war phase.

The Kremlin has a point to make: it does not fear US military prowess as it is capable of directly challenging it easily but it perhaps expected if it stayed out of confrontation with the West international peace as consequence of ending Cold war could take shape. Now that USA and NATO team nations have clearly established full control over the world and its military plus energy resources in the absence of any other super power, Moscow has also decided to reactivate and step up its military presence by entering into the Syrian conflict.

Ever since Vladimir Putin became Russia’s president he has pursued aggressive foreign as well as domestic policy. Putin’s military intervention into Syria to support President Bashar al Assad’s failing regime against a broad US
supported opposition, including the ISIS and al-Qaeda, certainly surprised many on both sides of the Atlantic. While that deployment is militarily modest so far politically, psychologically and geostrategically it has had far greater impact. And its launch of several dozen Kaliber cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea to attack Syrian opposition targets nine hundred miles away surely made certain political statements.

Russian antagonism against US military arrogance is well known but its military adventures in West Asia, besides Ukraine and earlier Georgia before that, expressed through a series of military actions, does not in any way indicate its love for Islamic or Arab world or it wants to defend energy rich Arab world its enemies in favor of Islam or Islamic world facing civilizational threat.

Not at all! Russian is not even protecting Syria or Assad in the real sense. It just challenges US/NATO militarism, though some experts feel USA and Russia coordinate their military operations in Syria and around with help from Israel. Russia just wants to showcase its military muscle to its former chief Cold war foe by trying to restrict the US/NATO military operations. Russia wants the West to know that it can intervene if the USA continues with its unchecked military interventions and invasions globally.

Russia does this mainly because USA, as per the secret agreement among veto members, would not attack Russia directly.

There is a fundamental difference between Soviet and Russian policies: while fighting the US, Soviet Russia also defended other weak nations, helped freedom movement in third world leading to independence of countries like Pakistan and India against the will of the US and UK; Russia today pursues its military operations only to announce its return to world stage as a virtual super power and to increase its military trade volumes. While earlier it has provided economic assistance to the needy nations, Russia only sells today and seeks service charges for any service it renders to another nation. This also explains Russian move today to strike economic and military deals with Pakistan, a traditional American ally. Moscow-Islamabad ties make both the US and India nervous and would coerce India to strike more military deals with Russia without hesitation. Putin’s message is loud and clear: consider Russia
as a credible equal partner face our military opposition where necessary.

Not long ago (Soviet) Russia was a super power very actively opposing capitalist-imperialist policies of the other super power US and its allies. In fact, the US then saw Russia as being a serious problem for capitalism and obstruction for the imperialist bloc of countries and sought to end socialist construction process globally. Western world succeeded in dismantling Soviet and socialist system as corrupt elements in Soviet Union deliberately spoiled the system, aided the Western efforts to destabilize Soviet Union and East Europe. Not only the Berlin Wall fell, but even the mighty Soviet Union broke into pieces — most of them now are with the US and NATO.

When Vladimir Putin assumed power in the Kremlin in 2000 following the incapacitation conditions, the first ever popularly elected president of new of Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin, by cruelly dealing stock and barrel with the
Chechen Muslim youths seeking freedom from Russian yoke, he, a former KGB man in civil dress, began reasserting Russian prowess lost with the collapse of USSR and socialist system, though he never initiated steps to revisit Socialist aspirations of many Russians. Putin does not want to annoy the West.

Not impressed by Russian efforts for “democracy” the US has not accepted Moscow as a truly equal partner because , according Washington, Russians do not share core “values” of the US and it wants to use Russia when needed and for which some “concessions” are readily provided off and on to Moscow. But USA refused to treat Russia either as an equal partner or a new super power. In fact, the US would never accept any power as its equal, not even the United Kingdom but Moscow refuses to accept that truth.

Today Russia and the US share terror values. Russian leaders have with enthusiasm made efforts to oblige and appease Washington. When a new Russia was born out of the collapse of the mighty Soviet Union, the new President Boris Yeltsin went all out to embrace western capitalism and even ready to share military based imperialist values. Later, following Sept-11, Russia was quick to come forward to “stand” by the affected America and south US opposition to the Chechen problem and support for the action of the Putin government in Chechnya. However, while
supporting Russia on Chechnya issue, the US was certainly not impressed by Russian support for the US and NATO military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That the US still refuses to treat Russia as a trusted strategic partner sharing “values” annoys Russia which has, since the end of Cold War, made strenuous efforts to come closer to Washington by making maximum use of all available opportunities after the collapse of USSR. Both found a common enemy in Islam and Moscow sought US support to crush the Chechens seeking freedom. Disappointed by the US’ cold attitude, eventually Yeltsin talked about US-Russia relations as being based on “Hot Peace” in place of cold war.

It might look strange that Russia has not yet come out of shame feelings that it had lost the WWII to the US and then lost the Cold War also to the US again. Possibly, therefore, many Americans believe Russia has taught a valuable lesson to them by Sept-11 and they think Russia had engineered as part of winning the ideological and military rivalry with the US. Accordingly, the attacks well inside the US would have given Russia the much needed victory and overall moral advantages. Although there were reports of terror attacks inside Russia a few years after the Sept-11, those were considered less important as they could not make Sept-11 small or meaningless. Even the blasts in India, an emerging strategic partner of the US, particularly in Mumbai could not outwit  Sept-11.

Very important information should be shared here to explain the new post-cold war superpower rivalry clear. Russia is gradually making its arrival known to the US as a new super power. There is a clear agreement among the veto powers not to wage war against one another and each should, in case of mutual tensions, use diplomatic channels and threats along with hot lines to resolve them. Both the US and Russia use proxy wars in a third country by getting their allies on board to fight one another.

That is why USA has never attacked Russia – or vice versa – over the Sept-II attack or tensions they create elsewhere even if it was convinced of American or Moscow’s role in it. For instance, the US did not attack Russia over Cuban missile crisis during the cold war or when Russia annexed Crimea deliberately; Moscow knows well the US can never attack Russia for whatever reason as it would never directly breach the Russian boundaries. Seemingly, the US does not seek to annoy Russia and rekindle the cold war rivalry.

NATO is planning to expand its strength in Europe by getting more East European nations. The final decision is expected to be a priority for its Warsaw Summit in July. Russia has repeatedly opposed the NATO move to expand itself eastward by taking into its fold more East European states, thereby bringing its military directly to Russian borders.

Russia is genuinely concerned that the NATO has not given up its containment policy towards Russia. Even while expanding itself to reach the Russian borders, NATO tells Russia it does not have any hidden agenda against Russia.

One consequence of Putin’s expansive strategy has been a direct challenge to the West and to NATO and not just in Europe. So far, NATO responses to Russia’s increasingly active involvement in Europe and West Asia have been just tactical, not strategic.

The US uses former allies of Russia in East Europe to challenge the Kremlin and threaten Russia’s empire ambitions, if any, by taking them into NATO. In order to deter Russia, the Baltic States as well as Poland repeatedly asked for permanent NATO alliance’s forces deployment on their soil. From the strategic point of view provoking Russia with such steps may have serious consequences for the Baltic region and Europe as a whole. However, NATO is opposed to additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces, maybe to assure the Kremlin of any European
aggression.

Poland and the Baltic States drive themselves into a corner insisting on permanent NATO troops’ deployment on their territories and create conditions under which NATO could even frustrate some of its short-sighted member-states preferring to calm Russia in order to prevent the new Cold War. Three small Baltic nations Lithuania that border Russian territory, Latvia and Estonia joined NATO in 2004 for gaining protection from any possible attacks from Russia. The Baltic States will willfully continue to urge the need for permanent of NATO forces regardless on possible political implications.

What does Russian president Putin’s challenge mean for NATO today? Do Russian incursions in Middle East through intervention in Syria mean anything significant for NATO? Is NATO ready or prepared to deal strategically with Russia in Europe and, as after the end of the Cold War, is the alliance prepared to look beyond Europe’s borders to the south and east and take a larger role in promoting global stability?

At times it appears Russia is aiming at a closer alliance with NATO. But Russia’s annexation of Crimea and intrusion into Ukraine, and now Syria indicate their tensions. Russia is trying to assure the NATO that Crimea was just one time affair and it does not have other agenda in store.

Dr. Abdul Ruff

Dr. Abdul Ruff

Dr. Abdul Ruff is a columnist contributing articles to many newspapers and journals on world politics. He is an expert on Mideast affairs, as well as a chronicler of foreign occupations and freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.). Dr. Ruff is a specialist on state terrorism, the Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA), commentator on world affairs and sport fixings, and a former university teacher. He is the author of various eBooks/books and editor for INTERNATIONAL OPINION and editor for FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES; Palestine Times.

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