Much is made of Russia’s move in Syria. Understandably. It has changed the basis of world power, possibly as an exception and possibly for the long term.
As one reads the Western media one gets the impression that this is the actions of a military based approach to global politics by Russia acting irresponsibly and endangering world peace, requiring a tough response. But it may be that the Western response is more nuanced than we realise.
Europe seems to have a greater concern about the refugees crisis that has occurred that has created major problems in Europe. There are suggestions that the culprit is Turkey angered by Germany and France not allowing them entry into the E.U. as a Christian response to a Muslim aspirant. Turkey were further angered by the failure of NATO to back them against what they saw as Kurdish incursions into Turkey. Turkey sees any growth of the Kurdish fledgling state in Northern Iraq as a potential threat to the stability of Turkey.
The final attacks on Assad were coming from ISIL already in the suburbs of Damascus and soon to be backed by a USA-Turkey no fly restriction on Syria which would likely have finished Assad.
It is not surprising that Russia suspected the USA of prioritising the removal of Assad over the destruction of ISIL, and that they thought that the USA and Turkey would rather have tolerated a failed state than allow Assad to continue.
Russian thinking suspected that ISIL was really Saddam Hussein’s former army cloaked in a profile of some extremist factions of Fundamentalism. Russia probably working with support from Iran moved to undermine any attempt at creating a no-fly zone over Syria by taking control of the air, and moving to protect Assad’s forces and to destroy ISIL in Syria.
It may be that ISIL will withdraw its forces to northern Iraq and accept some settlement with its new adversaries. It may be that it thought that there was some tacit support in NATO for ISIL while it focused on removing Assad.
It may be that the Russian incursions into Turkish airspace were no accident but a warning to Turkey to stay out of Syria and to stop releasing refugees.
It certainly seemed to tv observers that most of the “refugees” were young men. Were they the Saddam army soldiers and who has entered Europe? For sure one can understand some in Europe being relieved that some actions were being taken by the Russians that might affect the flow of refugees, although this remains to be seen.
The USA was concerned about Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria as the allies of Iran in the Middle East. The Sunni nations of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Gulf fighting the Shia in Yemen also have been pitted against the Shia across the region and in Syria where Assad represents their stronghold.
The USA interest had moved from oil to Iran’s potential increased regional power with a nuclear capability.
Having pushed Iran into a deal to put nuclear arms development to one side, the USA must now be debating whether its pursuit of Assad’s demise is worth pursuing. It was primarily to weaken and undermine the Iranians. The USA might think it has worked and now they are better off beginning to work with Iran, Saudi and Turkey to create a new regional security structure.
But the Russians have intervened decisively and Iran and Saudi Arabia will be thinking again about the form and shape of regional power that might emerge. Even Turkey will think again. Its forthcoming election and internal crisis with the Kurds will postpone their responses, but they will seek economic advances and influence over a regional war.
The balance of power has been changed for sure. The USA support for the change of power in Ukraine, where an old corrupt government was replaced with a pro NATO government, has changed the role of Russia in the world. Only NATO can change that back. Russia is now a militarised nation and its actions can be seen as prompted by responses to NATO.
Are we wise to have found that Russia was a bear hiding under oligarch’s clothing? We now have a more dangerous world. Russia is an issue that will dominate American thinking just as it consider sending navy ships through Chinese- built islands in the South China Sea.
Within the USA there are two lines of thought. One is that of Brzezinski and friends who think this is a battle with Russia that must be won.
Another, may be represented by Kissinger who led the withdrawal from a faulted incursion into Vietnam. Protecting USA economic interests is the Kissinger guiding light although as the bombing of Cambodia showed his thinking is not military adverse.
TPPA/TTIP reflect more the Kissinger brand of approach, which appears to promote containment of China in its approach to Asian participants. Perhaps it is just like the creation of ASEAN and ultimately was not a China containment strategy. Perhaps like ASEAN and its evolving Free Trade Area, TPPA is merely an American attempt to recover leadership in Asia.
But these two approaches in the USA are clearer to see and which will be the greater power is yet to become clear.
If it is Brzezinski and NATO then we might be in for a tough period of wars as they press Russia, and maybe China – with their navy sailing through China’s newly built islands – and Iran if they continue to back regional responses to American plans.
If it is Kissinger then we may see a cooling of the situation.
Clearly Europe has had enough of the battles on its border areas and wants the Kissinger approach to lead.
But the election campaign in the USA has told us that the identity of the new President may not be very relevant as the new super-pacs have produced a weakened political class governed by funds not ideas. Whilst it may delay the appearance of an American decision on how to respond, it will not be decisive.
The visit of Xi Jing ping to London comes, therefore, at a crossroads in world affairs, and the UK role can be muted or influential.
As a close ally of the USA and the special relationship one might expect the British to reflect the NATO line. It will be interesting for the Chinese to see if British diplomacy or military approaches are most in evidence during the few days of the President’s visit to London.
China’s Silk Road project could stretch through Asia to Europe, the Middle East and Africa in a building of a new continental mass, bringing growth and sustainability to the world.
Or it could be delayed from coming to the West and stay mainly in Asia. The next 5 years will determine Chinese policy.
It is in the British interest to encourage the creation of the new Eurasia/Africa – three continents merging into one market over the next 50 years .
The Middle East would get drawn in and development would be the antidote to fundamentalism.
We shall see which way the world goes and if NATO and Russia can find an accord.
It matters to the British economy , to London. We do not have to be outspoken but we can support development or ideological based wars.
If we support development then we must take the lead in creating new institutions which balance the power and protect the West in this new world. It is not difficult for the British. We know this terrain well.