By Ted Belman and Alexander Maistrovoy Feb 16/16
Before Donald Trump’s blowout win in New Hampshire he shocked the world by saying he would allow the Russians to do the “dirty work” and would “Let them beat the shit out of ISIS also.”. Trump went further, “I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect,”
Putin, responded by saying: “He (Trump) says that he wants to move to another level of relations, to a deeper level of relations with Russia. How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome it.”
The condemnation of Trump for his remarks was immediate but certainly not universal. Many American’s are beginning to see Russia in a new light.
Until the fall of the USSR, the 20th Century was dominated by an ideological struggle between American capitalism and Russian communism. But now that Russia has abandoned communism and the US is embracing socialism, as seen by the Sander’s victory in the New Hampshire primary, the two powers are more alike than ever before.
But now we have a different ideological struggle to contend with, namely a civilizational war between the Christian/Secular West and the Islamic Caliphate. They are both inimical to each other. North America, Europe and Russia are natural allies in this struggle as they are different daughters of one civilization.
In the past, both Russia and the US have backed different Arab states or Muslim groups, including radical Islamists. The end result of this US/Russia enmity was to destabilize the ME and Europe and to allow an Islamic fifth column into America and Europe.
The reality is that Russia, Europe and the US desperately need each other. Together they can withstand the hydra of pan-Islamism with its countless heads (ISIS, al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, Salafis, Muslim brothers, etc.), can stabilize the Middle East, the cradle of Islamic fanaticism and can stabilize Europe.
For Russia, the triumph of the Caliphate in any form will be a deadly threat to its “soft underbelly”: the Caucasus and Volga region with Tatarstan.
Penetration of Islamic militancy from Afghanistan into Central Asia means the appearance of the Islamists on the longest and vulnerable southeastern border of Russia.
From Europe’s point of view, a destabilized North Africa and Middle East is resulting in a mass migration of Muslims including radical Islamists which threaten to tear it apart and irreparably change it. This in turn will have dire consequences for both Russia and America.
Both US and Russia are not able to cope with the global “jihad” separately” especially when they are supporting different sides. Russia has no resources for a war against radical Islam made more difficult by western sanctions and pressure. The West, in spite of its material power, lacks the will needed to defeat such a savage and ruthless enemy.
Thus an alliance is imperative.
“New Middle East”
A new Middle East is in the making. It will not look like the “New Middle East” as envisioned by Shimon Peres. Syria, Iraq and Libya are no more. Lebanon looks like it will also fracture due to the influx of 1.5 million Sunnis, either Palestinian or Syrian. Hezbollah Shia have been reduced from 40% to 25% of the population so expect a power struggle to ensue there.
Alawite Syria, a strong Kurdish state in the north of former Iraq and Syria, tribal unions in Libya, Druze enclaves in Syria, a Christian enclave in Lebanon and perhaps in Iraq will appear on map of new Middle East. They will all need the support both militarily and diplomatically of either the US or Russia. Thus the west will be empowered to keep the radical Islamists out.
Russia already has supported the Kurdish PYD (Democratic Union Party) in northern Syria diplomatically (Kremlin insists on PYD’s participation in negotiations about the future of Syria) and by providing them with weapons. The US is also supportive of the Kurds but bas been restrained by Turkey’s insistence that the Kurds be denied independence. If the US forms an alliance with Russia it no longer needs an alliance with Turkey.
The American embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey must be seen as the aberration it is. Rather than support the Islamization of the Middle East and North Africa, America should fight it. Rather than embrace the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, the US should embrace Russia.
Pressure could then be brought to bear on Turkey to change its Islamist allegiances and to allow greater autonomy to its 10 million Kurdish citizens who otherwise will want to join the newly formed Kurdistan.
The US, by destroying Gadhafi and Mubarak, greatly destabilized North Africa. By waging war against Assad, the US has destabilized the Middle East and Europe. What is needed now is that the US and Russia come together to strengthen President al Sisi of Egypt to enable him to defeat ISIS in Sinai and Libya. Russia should be invited back into Libya to assist in its stabilization. Europe and Tunisia will also benefit from this stabilization as will African states to the south.
In addition, US and Russia should cut a deal for a political solution for Syria in which Syria is divided into three states based on ethnic lines; Alawite Syria in which Russia holds sway, Kurdish Syria which will join with Kurdistan in Iraq and a Sunni state amalgamating the Sunni areas of both Syria and Iraq.
Such a deal will involve cooperation between Russia, US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. ISIS must be defeated and non-Islamist Sunnis must be put in charge. Saudi Arabia would have a major role in the creation and maintenance of such a state. It is not inconceivable that Jordan would in the end, amalgamate with this state given the number of Sunni refugees it is now host to. This state would serve as a bulwark to an expansionist Iran.
It is in the interest of Russia to placate Saudi Arabia so that Saudi Arabia will cut down on her oil production and allow the price of oil to rise. Saudi Arabia would be agreeable to doing so and to such a division of Syria if Russia would restrain Iran.
Today, Russia is the de facto ally of Iran and the US is a wannabe. The Iranian star reached its zenith with the total capitulation of the US in the Iran Deal. Since then it’s been downhill all the way. Without the help of Russia they would have lost Syria as an ally and their connection to Hezbollah. But with that help, Russia is now calling the shots.
It wasn’t so long ago that Russia supported the sanctions on Iran and didn’t want to remove them because it meant the addition of Iranian oil to the world market and the weakening the already weak ruble. Kremlin couldn’t betray its ally but in fact (aside from rhetoric) will not object to a renewal of sanctions. This will save Russia from a powerful competitor in the energy market.
Moscow needs Iran primarily as a means to put pressure on the West but it can quite easily sacrifice it for the sake of strategic considerations. Iran is not a natural ally of Russian for it doesn’t have any historical or cultural connection similar to the connection both Serbia and Armenia have for example.
View from Kremlin
Since the 16th century, the main threat to Russia came from the West. Moscow was occupied by Poles in the 17th century and by Napoleon in the 19th century. In 1941, the troops of the Wehrmacht came within a few kilometers of Moscow. Petersburg was built by Peter Great to resist the invasion of the Swedes.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was a painful blow to Russia and the West took advantage of this collapse. The bombing of Serbia and recognition of Kosovo, the “color revolutions” in the former Soviet Union, NATO’s extension to the Baltic countries, and the constant hectoring of Russia on human rights served to undermine Russia and make her feel threatened. This formed the impetus for the revival of nationalism under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.
The US, Britain and France intervened in Libya in order to both destroy the Gadaffi regime and oust Russia. Accordingly, they refused Russia’s mediation efforts. Similarly they tried to oust Assad. But this time, Russia, who had lost its Mediterranean port in Libya was determined to keep its Mediterranean port in Syria. After many years of death and destruction in Syria brought about by the desire of the US and Saudi Arabia to oust Assad, Assad was on his “death bed”. Russia and Iran doubled down on their efforts to support him. Russia supplied their air force and air defense radar systems and Iran provided more troops. As a result Assad has gained much ground and is in a much better negotiating position today.
During this period, Russia acquired Crimea from the Ukraine and supported an insurgency in eastern Ukraine. A majority of the population of both areas are Russian. The Russians didn’t understand why the West came to the defense of Ukraine. It’s impossible to believe that EU wanted to bring Ukraine into the EU given its large population and systemic corruption. Moscow believes the West didn’t do so in order to protect the sovereignty of Ukraine but to weaken Russia. Ukraine, after all, is the backyard of Russia, as Mexica is backyard of US and Corsica is backyard of France.
Last week Russia’s Prime Minister, Medvedev, urged a “more constructive and more cooperative relationship with Russia… I strongly believe that the answer lies with both more defense and more dialogue.”
Last week Henry Kissinger delivered a speech in Moscow in which he began:
“I am here to argue for the possibility of a dialogue that seeks to merge our futures rather than elaborate our conflicts. This requires respect by both sides of the vital values and interest of the other,”
“It will only come with a willingness in both Washington and Moscow, in the White House and the Kremlin, to move beyond the grievances and sense of victimization to confront the larger challenges that face both of our countries in the years ahead.”
Should the West want to pursue such an alliance, it must recognize Russia’s “Near Abroad” – its traditional zone of influence since the 18th century: Ukraine and Belarus, Crimea, whose history is inseparable from Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Russia also seeks influence in Europe and in the Eastern Mediterranean. This is imperial policy but Russia is no longer obsessed with ideological madness. Thus, it is possible to negotiate a rapprochement and to respect each other’s sphere of influence.
Israel is not an ally of Russia nor its enemy. Israel and Russia agreed to respect each other’s spheres of interest in Syria. In addition, Moscow mediated in delicate situations between Israel and Hezbollah. This model can be used on a global scale by the US.
It is of historical note that the Byzantium, otherwise known as the Eastern Roman Empire, fought a sustained battle against the Ottoman Turks, who had invaded, only to finally succumb in 1453. The Turks changed the name of their capital city, Constantinople, to Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire succeeded over the years in conquering more of Europe and finally laid an unsuccessful siege to Vienna in 1529. There followed 150 years of bitter military tension and attacks, culminating in the Battle of Vienna of 1683. This battle was won by the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nations in league with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth thereby saving Europe from Islamic conquest.
What is needed today is a similar resolute stand by both east and west against the Islamic Jihad’s attempt to conquer Europe.
Will the old prejudices and enmity focused on Russia prevail over rational considerations and the instinct for self-preservation?
According to the Munich Accords just signed, perhaps not.
It now appears that Russia and the US have come to an agreement for the implementation of a ceasefire and a division of spheres of influence. The document was signed by 17 nations, including Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubayr for the Syrian opposition and Iran’s top diplomat Muhammed Javad Zarif in the name of the Assad regime.
“The nub of the Munich accord was therefore the parties authorized to name the terrorists. This was spelled out as follows: “The determination of eligible targets and geographic areas is to be left up to a task force of nations headed by Russia and the United States.”
“This puts the entire agreement in the joint hands of the US and Russia. Lavrov emphasized, “The key thing is to build direct contacts, not only on procedures to avoid incidents, but also cooperation between our militaries.”
“The Munich accord therefore provided the framework for expanding the existing US-Russian coordination on air force flights over Syria to cover their direct collaboration in broader aspects of military operations in the war-torn country.
“Lavrov mentioned a “qualitative” change in US military policy to cooperate with Russia in continuing the fight against the Islamic State, but it clearly goes beyond that.”
“This pact as sets out a division of military responsibility between the two powers: The Americans took charge of areas east of the Euphrates, leaving the Russians responsible for the territory east of the river. “
Hopefully, this accord is just the beginning of a new alliance.