Syria overshadows Ukraine

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Syria overshadows Ukraine

Yesterday, commenting on the crisis in Ukraine, Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, pointed out certain quotations from a speech by the former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy of the USA, Paul Craig Roberts, at the international conference ‘European-Russian Crisis Created in Washington’, which was held in June 2015 in Greece. The former top representative of the US administration says that “Ukrainian democracy is a mere name, as the USA/White House needed an overthrow in the country to create extra problems for Moscow in the security sphere, as well as to launch economic sanctions intended to undermine its military power, cause instability in the society, and weaken ties between Russia and Europe.” Roberts notes that “at the same time, Washington is doing its best to demonize the image of Russia and using all possible measures for this – from stove piping to relative psychological portraits.” Roberts also sets an example of an answer by a top official from the Pentagon to a question about America’s ability to make governments of foreign countries act in Washington’s interests, rather than in their own interests. The answer was: “We give bags full of money to the necessary politicians.”

Meanwhile, if the Russian-American dialogue is still troubled today, the relations with Europe are not so hopeless.

After a recent visit to Brussels, Alexey Pushkov, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, stated: “In relations with Europe, we are at a turning point in relation to the last two years, which were characterized by quite acute political confrontation, the adoption of sanctions against Russia, numerous accusations made against Russia, numerous resolutions of an anti-Russian character that were made in the PACE, the OSCE. This period of confrontation still affects the current nature of our relations, because there are forces in Europe which would like to stay in this phase of negativity. But in Brussels I had the distinct feeling that this is a disappearing phase of our relations.”

Pushkov admits that the Ukrainian crisis is still on the agenda, but if until recently it has been the main topic of the agenda, now it is the second. “I think that over time the Ukrainian crisis will move to third, fourth position. The reason for this is that global development does not stand still, and there are new challenges with which Europe alone cannot cope, and it is clear to everyone in Europe, and this, by the way, was said by the leadership of the European Commission and the European Parliament. Islamic State is not just another terrorist group. It is a new phenomenon. It is a global threat,” the MP believes.

Speaking about the terrorist attacks in Paris, he noted: “This new challenge exerts a very strong influence on the leaders of the Western countries, because they have to respond to it. And it is impossible to persuade French citizens that support for the regime in Kiev is more important than the establishment of allied relations with Russia in the fight against Islamic State. The word 'Ukraine' was not used in the speech of Francois Hollande before the French parliament on Tuesday even once. And it shows a very serious shift in priorities. I must say that the Ukrainian topic sounded much less frequently at the international event in which I participated, at the European Parliament. The Crimean topic has practically disappeared from the agenda. In other words, it does not mean that European countries are ready to recognize Crimea as part of Russia, but it does mean that they have, so to speak, accepted the new geopolitical reality. They do not agree with it. But I see almost none of the biggest countries in Europe which want to turn the Crimean issue into a stumbling block in relations with Russia right now, when we are talking about completely different tasks.”

Pushkov thinks that “now, for the first time a real opportunity to create a broad coalition against ISIS has appeared. The French President is resolute. And I think that he is unlikely to abandon his current position, because the memory of the victims demands it. And the safety of living also demands that he make practical efforts, and not just say that first we need to remove the Assad regime and then create some new authority, find some new leader, the identity of whom is currently unknown. That is why I think that the prospects for Russian-French cooperation on ISIS are the most serious right now.”

As for the US, in Pushkov’s opinion, it will be difficult for them to stay away from such a broad coalition: “If they start to use the formula "first Assad, then ISIS", after that, it seems to me, the United States will lose heavily. Lose in their international image, there will be a feeling that they are moving away from the task of fighting terrorism, that they are putting some conditions on this.”

According to the MP, the coalition must act simultaneously in Syria and in Iraq: “The United States and France are already operating on the territory of Iraq. Primarily Russia operates on the territory of Syria. But it is clear that both Syria and Iraq are a single space. It is not divided by mountains, large rivers, some natural obstacles. Therefore, if we will defeat ISIS in Syria, but do not crush it in Iraq, we will simply prolong this war indefinitely. Because then ISIS militants will move to Iraq, will reequip, reform, recover there, and once again will return to the territory of Syria. It is a dual problem.”

Baghdad is interested in the creation of such a coalition. That’s why Pushkov thinks that “military activities against ISIS should be provided simultaneously on the territories of both countries. I think next week we will have more clarity after the talks of Hollande with Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama.”