Russia, the West and the war in Syria

Russia, the West and the war in Syria

by Karl Müller

To make one thing clear: in summer 2013, when the US, together with a “coalition of the willing” were starting their direct military intervention in Syria, Pope Francis turned to the people on St Peter’s Square in Rome in a central prayer vigil for peace: “May the sound of weapons cease! War is always the failure of peace; it is always a defeat for mankind.” Even now, two years later and after the military involvement of Russia in the Syrian theatre, the deep truth of this statement is unchanged.
But still: The lamentation of western media and politicians about the Russian intervention in the war is hypocritical – and the truth is getting lost. But this hypocrisy is not only (again) directed against Russia; it is also directed against those who want to end the war with Syria, knowing that this will take a joint effort of the global community – the term is suitable here.

A task for the global community

This is not only the view of the Russian government – the Russian President’s speech at the general assembly of the United Nations on 28 September 2015 in New York, the efforts of the Russian UN Security Council Presidency in September 2015, the Russian resolution draft for the Security Council of 1 October 2015 and the statements of the Russian Foreign Ministry are proving this. There are also considerate western voices sharing this view. But these voices are under strong pressure and are on the verge of going down in the propaganda storm of the new Cold War. To realize where the front lines are, it is sufficient to study the media on any weekday.

There are not only media with a transatlantic background …

Let us take 22 October 2015: The morning after the Syrian President’s visit in Moscow, the German daily newspapers are commenting it with snappish lines. Be it the allegedly conservative “Welt” or the supposedly left-alternative “Tageszeitung”, the allegedly left-liberal “Süddeutsche Zeitung” or the supposedly economic-liberal “Handelsblatt” – none of them is detecting anything positive in the Russian President’s attempt to achieve, together with the incumbent Syrian President, progress towards ending the civil war in this abused country. The accusations even go as far as even blaming Russia with the refugee problem in the Middle East. What reader of these comments is aware that he is dealing with media which are involved in transatlantic networks?

… but also voices for a collaboration with Russia

But a little later, different voices can be heard in the Deutschlandfunk, not from the radio station itself but from its interview partners. Jochen Hippler of the Institut für Entwicklung und Frieden at the University of Duisburg states: “Without Assad, the Syria problem can probably not be solved. Not only Vladimir Putin is convinced of this, this insight is gaining ground in the West as well.” Hippler adds in explanation: “The opposition, the rebels, are completely fragmented, fighting each other. Moreover, there is the IS luring in the background, which means that, without a political alternative capable of taking over the government, the [claim for] the dictatorship’s demission is more flowery wording than political concept.” On the same morning, Harald Kujat is interviewed in the Deutschlandfunk. Kujat had been Inspector General of the German “Bundeswehr” and also head of the NATO military committee. Other than the newspapers of the day, he sees a sign of hope in the Russian military intervention in Syria: “I think that we currently see a development by which we gather the impression that reason may prevail.” Some days before, on 10 October, the former Inspector General commented on Syria at length. Asked to comment NATO’s sharp criticism of the Russian Syria initiative, he said: “I’d like to recommend more composure here.” Specifically he was commenting on the Turkish government’s claims that Russian planes had violated Turkish airspace, an event to which NATO had reacted sharply. Kujat: “My recommendation is not to escalate – neither verbally nor militarily. Especially Turkey is often tending to bring NATO in situations where it has to declare that we stand by Turkey; that we will defend Turkey. I think we should be careful with statements like this. As I said, verbal de-escalation is the order of the day.” Kujat stated also that Russia “had no interest whatsoever to attack Turkey.”

Ex-General Kujat: Claim for immediate demission of Assad is absurd

In addition, there was a common interest between the West and Russia: fighting the IS. To achieve this, however, ground forces are needed, which only the current President Assad can provide. He deems the West’s claim absurd that Assad first had to step back. Moreover such claim was in contradiction of international conferences decrees: “That was a position which had been agreed upon back in 2012 [in Geneva]. So it is not a completely new situation. We simply have to return to what has been reasonably decided back then.”
Kujat is not a spokesman for the Russian government. He alleges Russia to have substantial stakes in Syria. But for him the fight against the IS, that is to end the war in Syria is the higher-ranking goal: “It is possible to drive the IS out of Syria.” Together with Russia, this might be achieved, even after the West had been looking on for years, Kujat says.
So the question remains: Why did Western media and politicians start an anti-Russian propaganda over Syria? Does the fight against Russia have a higher priority than the fight against the IS for the leading politicians and main-stream media? Did the West even actively promote the advance of the IS? There are many indications for this. Meanwhile it is a known fact that the Turkish and some Arabic governments are supporting the IS. What is the Western governments’ share in this?

In a multi-polar world: dialogue on equal footing of states at the negotiation table

Is it not a legal and moral declaration of bankruptcy to play a secret game with a regime like IS – simply in order to enforce one’s power politics and one’s imperial goals? Wouldn’t it be about time for the responsible class in politics and media to step back, in order to make room for a different kind of politics oriented towards the values which have once been authoritative for the global community and international law? The world is still far from this. The old powers are still not willing to accept that the world is in the process of becoming multi-polar. And also that in a multi-polar world only one path is acceptable: the path of an equal and honest dialogue of the states and their governments at the negotiation table. Then the Pope’s profound truth “May the sound of weapons cease” has a chance to be realized.     •

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