Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Is Russia throwing in the towel for Assad?

The short answer is "no!".  However,

There are clear signs of two things happening:

a)  Russian politicians and decision makers have different views about the situation in Syria.  Some think that Assad will lose, while others think that government forces have inflicted serious losses on the insurgency.
Keep in mind: differences in opinion between experts do NOT AT ALL mean a change in policies.  Russia's policy towards Syria is one based on principles and not one which will change depending on circumstances.  Russia has clearly said that it will never allow a "Libya #2" in Syria.  That is a principled position which in itself does not secure an outcome, only excludes a specific scenario.
b) The Kremlin is clearly working on contingency plans which include a possible evacuation of Russian citizens should the insurgency present an even bigger threat to Russian nationals.
Keep in mind: several Russian (and Ukrainian) nationals have been kidnapped by the insurgents which, in a typical Wahabi-thug manner, are now demanding a ransom in US dollars.  This is an ominous development which the Kremlin cannot ignore.  Again, contingency plans do NOT AT ALL mean a change in policies.  To take all the necessary measures to protect its nationals is an inherent obligation of any state and not an original policy.
In the past I wrote several posts to the effect that the "Russians are not coming"  (to rescue Assad) and now I have to post again saying that "the Russians are not leaving either"...

M. K. Bhadrakumar, whom I respect a lot and whom I consider a very good expert, has, this time, gotten it fundamentally wrong when he says that Russia changes tack on Syria.  Russian policy on Syria has not changed one bit: Russia will oppose the US/NATO/Wahabi war on Syria by all political means, Russia will remain open to a negotiated political solution as long as it approved by the UN Security Council and Russia reserves the right to take any action needed in defense of its nationals.  That's it - no more, no less.

Frankly, I find this policy rather simple, clear and rational and I don't see why so many experts are zig-zagging between predictions of "Russia sends its Navy to stop NATO's aggression against Syria" to "Russia has given up on Syria" or "Russia and US in secret deal over Assad".

Fundamentally, Russia is using the power that it has (veto at the UNSC) and stays away from pretending to use the power it does not have (military intervention).  By the way, this is also exactly what China is doing, all for the same reasons, yet nobody is constantly speaking about Chinese zig-zags on China.  Why?  Because China is not the ex-Soviet Union with global ambitions.

This is the key thing which so many experts simply cannot get used to: Russia is not a global power anymore.  In fact, it has absolutely no desire to become one again.  Russia is, of course, a major power which, in theory, could challenge the USA, just like China could.  However, both Russia and China could only do that a great, immense, risk for themselves.

And then there is the time factor: both Russia and China fully realize that they, even more than the other BRICS countries, have time on their side and that each passing year makes them stronger.  The USA, in contrast, is globally overextended, burdened by a debt it will never pay, hated world wide, and the only thing which still keeps it going is the fact that the rest of the planet is too afraid of the US military to openly refuse to use the US dollar as a currency reserve and to pay for its energy.  The US is also socially dysfunctional, culturally sterile, militarily over-extended, economically de-industrialized, and politically "neo-feudal" (1% rule over 99% of serfs).  Sooner or later the USA will become weak enough to make it possible for any major power, including Russia or China, to openly defy it, but while it is still powerful but weakening it is an extremely dangerous foe which should not be under-estimated.  This is why Russia, along with the other regional powers on the planet, will continue to carefully wait for the right time and avoid any sudden move which would compromise all that it has achieved in the past 12 years.

One more thing: the EU.  I would argue that the current condition of the EU is even worse than the one of the USA.  Russian politicians look at the EU in total disgust.  Just yesterday I was listening to one Russian expert saying that all that the EU had to offer was a "never ending gay-pride parade combined with a massive Maghrebization of Africanization of its society".  That is not a bad way to put it.  The EU, as a political project, is dying, and the European society arguable even more dysfunctional than the US one.  The likes of Sarkozy and Merkel can delude themselves by playing big power politics, but the fact that French Rafales were the first to bomb Libya will change exactly nothing to prevent the French society from dying from the truly cataclysmic influx of immigrants, most of which come from the Maghreb.  From Estonia to Portugal and from Bulgaria to Iceland, Europe is nothing more than a US colony, totally ruined by a corrupt political elite, which is sinking as fast as the Titanic did, and whose orchestra (corporate media) is still playing its happy ballroom music.

But "dying" and "dead" are very different things.  The EU is still a huge market, and the EU elites have a lot of soft power to throw around, much more than Russia.  And this is why at least for the time being, Russia will try to avoid openly antagonizing the EU.

I hope that the above sheds some light on Russia's policies in general and Russia's policies towards Syria in particular.  If you have any questions, opinions or comments, please feel free to post them here.

The Saker