Judy Asks: Should the West Work With Russia on Syria?
By massively boosting its military presence in Syria over recent weeks, Russia has created irreversible facts on the ground. It has done so to demonstrate that Russia reserves the right to be involved in resolving any conflict or crisis, wherever in the world it may occur. The Kremlin sees this indispensability—together with its sphere of influence, which is at the root of the Ukraine crisis—as a key ingredient that defines Russia as a global power.
Russia has effectively succeeded. As of now, a unilateral Western intervention in Syria like that in Libya in 2011 has become impossible, as it would risk a direct military confrontation between Russia and the West. Instead, the West will now have no choice but to accept the negotiation format, which Russian President Vladimir Putin will propose at the upcoming meeting of the UN General Assembly. The drawn-out process that is likely to follow will do nothing to ease the pain of Syrians but everything to safeguard the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Yet with its actions in Syria, Russia has shattered all the hopes that emerged in the wake of the July 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program. This global agreement had suggested that Russia might be a cooperative partner on conflicts outside its immediate neighborhood. Over time, such cooperation would serve as a confidence-building measure, eventually allowing for the joint resolution of conflicts closer to Russian borders, such as that in Ukraine. As is now obvious, Russia is determined to act as a spoiler, thwarting Western efforts at conflict resolution the world over.
In short, the question is no longer whether the West should work with Russia on Syria (or anywhere else). Instead, it is how the West can do so on anything other than Russia’s terms.