Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, August 20th, 2008
For Syria, Russian Revenge Can Taste – Oh So Sweet
By Tarek Barakat
For Syria Comment, 20 Aug 2008
While the full ramifications of the Russian-Georgian war might be months or years away before they are fully identified. We can take one very key and undeniable fact from it already. Russia is back!!!
Moscow has utilized a foolish gamble by Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili to its advantage by moving quickly and unequivocally in protecting its strategic assets in the Caucuses. Sending a strong message to the US and EU to keep NATO off its backyard or else. Washington and Brussels were unwilling to risk angering Russia over a disposable non-NATO member, especially when considering that Russia is Europe’s primary oil and gas supplier.
This essay is not about the Missile Shield or the strategic struggle between the US and Russia, it is about how Russia’s invasion of Georgia may change the power balance in the region, in particular for Israel, Iran and Syria. Israel is risking Russian revenge over its alleged support of the Georgian army and Syria may gain from rising Russian international influence and will to punish those who opposed it.
Yesterday, General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of staff of the Russian Military, accused Israel of arming Georgian troops with “eight types of military vehicles, explosives, landmines and special explosives for the clearing minefields." More technicl details on some of the equipment can be found here.
General Nogavistyn comments come a day before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's visit to Moscow, which starts today. While Moscow’s peace conference planned in October is a key agenda point, you can rest assured that Mr. Assad is keen on leveraging Russian anger at Israel to pave the way for Syria to acquire modern Russian arms. Although some Russians may want to punish Israel by arming Syria, we shouldn’t expect a dramatic shift in regional power any time soon. Just as the US & EU know where the red lines are drawn, Russia too understands that it can only go so far in assisting Iran & Syria before enraging the US & Israel. Syria too has much to lose if it puts all of its eggs in the Russian basket. Syria's main foreign policy goal over the last several months has been to re-engratiate itself with Europe and to prepare the way for mending its relationship with the US once the new administration occupies the White House.
In order not to anger the West, Syria is likely to restricted its Russian purchases to defensive weapons systems, as it has done for some time. Russia might also use its grudge against Israel to pressure the latter not to torpedo the Moscow Peace Conference (which is yet to be confirmed). But overall, Syria will most certainly benefit from Russia’s new assertiveness. Only Damascus’s next moves will show how it decides to exploit the new US – Russian struggle.
Nur al-Cubicle sends this quote on Assad's support for Russia's invasion of Georgia:
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denounced the “attempts” on the part of Western countries to “isolate Russia”. “We completely support Russia. Georgia sparked the crisis yet the West accuses Russia”, said Assad in an interview with the Russian daily, Kommersant. “The war initiated by Georgia was a extreme attempt to encircle and isolate Russia […] as the Americans continue their Cold War policies.”
Via La Repubblica
Assad, whose army is largely equipped with Russian-designed military hardware, said Israel’s role would only encourage countries like Syria — a U.S. foe and ally of Iran — to step up cooperation with Russia.
“I think that in Russia and in the world everyone is now aware of Israel’s role and its military consultants in the Georgian crisis,” Assad told Kommersant.
“And if before in Russia there were people who thought these forces can be friendly then now I think no one thinks that way.”
Syria-Russia deal threatens Mid East 'Cold War'
The Times (GB)
A New Cold War Would Threaten Israel's Security By: Frida Ghitis | World Politics Review
The new global strategic landscape reflected by the Russia-Georgia conflict could mean a more challenging environment for Israeli security.
Syrian President Bashar Assad is scheduled to leave for Russia on Thursday for a two-day visit that has been described by analysts as important at a time when Moscow may be considering closer ties with the Arab world.
Syrian media have described Assad’s visit to Moscow as “a working visit” to discuss closer ties in a variety of unspecified areas.
A number of reports in recent months have mentioned large arms deals between Russia and Syria, including advanced anti-aircraft missile systems.
Russian and Syrian analysts have said that Israel’s military assistance to Georgia has paved the way for a particularly successful visit for the Syrian president, whose country has taken a clear stance on the side of Moscow in the recent conflict in the Caucasus.
“The significant military assistance provided by Israel to Georgia in its war against Russia will affect in the future – and probably in the near future – ties between Russia and Israel, and Russia’s attitude toward Arab states,” a Russian analyst said in an interview to Syrian television. “Russia will re-examine its ties with Israel, and it is not unlikely that Moscow will now decide to increase its military assistance to Arab countries in conflict with Israel, including Syria.”
Russia has held up the transfer of certain weapons systems to Syria and Iran as a result of U.S. and Israeli pressure, but now there is hope in Damascus that the situation will change in their favor, and Russia will authorize the arms sales.
What Did We Expect? By: Thomas L. Friedman | The New York Times
President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia gave Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin an excuse to exercise his iron fist.
Russia Never Wanted a War By: Mikhail Gorbachev | The New York Times
The planners of the crisis in Georgia clearly wanted to make sure that Russia would be blamed for worsening the situation.
Another Boost for Syria The Economist
The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has been on a diplomatic roll since his triumphant appearance in Paris on Bastille Day. He has had further opportunities to display his statesmanship this month with visits to Iran and Turkey, and a visit by Lebanon's new president, Michel Suleiman, on August 13th and 14th was crowned with the announcement of a widely applauded agreement to establish diplomatic relations.