Russian Power Dance on Astana Round and Geneva Talks about Syria


On December 2016, The Moscow Declaration about Syrian crisis had been announced by the foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia, and Iran. Three countries agreed in one voice to support the sovereignty, independence, non-military solution and humanitarian aids unity and territorial integrity of Syria.

This declaration provided the basis for the Astana talks, the first round of which held on the 23nd and 25th of February 2017. The main aim of these negotiations is to set a Russian order in an imbalanced regional order.

Since 1946 Russian policy toward Syria was directed on antagonism to the Western block. After independence in April 1946, in the Arab-Israel wars Moscow supported Syrian army but had never entered directly to a war against Israel. Soviet Union supported Hafez Assad in his policy against Israel and they signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation providing for regular consultations in 1980 that is in the force yet. In the first years of Putin administration, the relations between two countries increased and  Putin trying to strengthen his position in the Middle East .

Russian has puzzled strategy in the Middle East and Syria is one part of it. From Arab uprisings, (2011) Russia has got new opportunities in accordance its new strategy in the Middle East. The first step was to vetoing the UN Security Council’s resolution against Syrian government. Russia vetoed such a resolution in November 2017  for 10th. It that case Russian dance in the Security Council is obvious. During Barack Obama’ administration United States did not direct intervention on Syrian war.  Obama broke the red line that he had drawn usage of chemical weapons against Syrian government. Russia knows that the US overtired of Afghanistan and Iraq war. In addition the Western intervention on Libyan war and its failed results made the Western front hesitant on the Syrian crisis. Trump administration has different regional policy from Obama’ period, and Putin understand that he can use that opportunity.

From the beginning of the crisis Iran was the only Syrian government’ supporter. In fact some of Iranian and Russian goals overlapped on Syria. The problem is that their main strategic aims are different; Russia is following its multi dimensional policy while Iran trying to keep Assad in power. What is most important is that during the bloody war in Syria, Russia and Iran trying to use each other according their aims. It seems that Russia dancing with Iran more in its grand policy against the Western front on Syria. The events showed that Russia mostly does not consider Iranian aims.    

Since 2011 Turkey as one on of key actors in the Syrian crisis challenged the Russian policy. After Turkey’s downing of Russian bomber in November 2015, Russia has gained vast field of activity in Syria. Turkey was harmed of the event and had to soft its policy toward Russia. Moreover American policy in the Middle East especially toward the strong support of the PKK backed YPG and PYD in Syria, pushed Turkey to Russian side. In fact the US chooses the none-state group of PYD instead of Turkey and this made Turkish policymakers very dissatisfied.

Russia is working with the PYD and YPG in the north of Syria and this led Turkey to a complex position. “In Syria as in Iraq, however, Russia favors real autonomy for the Kurds. Over many decades, Moscow has had a long-standing relationship with the Kurdish groups in the Middle East, sometimes assisting them politically and militarily”. In another side Russia has a close relation with Israel and coordinates its operations with Israeli army. In this case, Russia plays a huge contradiction game. Russia is working with Israel while helps to Assad and his allies on the Syrian battle. This is a big opportunity for Russia. While we can see the US has lost its allies in the Syrian crisis Russia gaining more and more friends and allies.

 Success operations in Syria by Russia absorbed Saudi Arabia to cooperate with itself. In this case to prove it’ friendship to Saudi Arabia, Russia sells a set of high-tech arms including S-400 air defense systems and other types of armaments in October 2017 costs more than $3 billion.

The main aggressive action took place in the battle for Aleppo that ended in December 2016. Despite the international opposition, Russia ended this period of war with the desired result. The war disappointed international observers but proved that Russia resolute in their actions as same as in Georgia (2008) or Ukraine (2014). This battle convinced opposing sides to find a solution through diplomacy. After this success, serious negotiations process started and continued till today.

Recently, three main cities is Syrian crises regulation process very known: Astana, Sochi and Geneva. Russia is the key actor in the Astana round process between Middle Eastern moderators. Putin invited the presidents of Turkey and Iran to determine the road map for the future of Syria in Sochi. In the picture published by media, Putin stands in the middle of Turkish and Iranian presidents. The picture reflects Russia’s position in the Middle East. Through the Sochi meeting, Russia has consolidated its achievements in the Astana talks. While this is not the end and Russia planning to take the achievements to the Geneva talks.

On 11 December 2017 the media released unexpected news about Putin’ visit to Syria. Putin announced victory against ISIS and said “The war on terrorists was an exam, not only for our people, but for our arsenal. We tested dozens of weapons. As a result, foreign orders for Russian arms are rising fast”. In fact Putin announced victory over all of its regional and global rivals. This was propaganda for Russian arms.

The future will show how Russia success is. The events in the region show that Russia will continue its active political role in the Syrian crisis. This will create a positive face for Russian policy among its allies and the allies can be trusted for sure. The game in Syria provided ground for Russia to dance, which started in Syria and will continue on another existing crisis in the Middle East. The crisis in Yemen and Lebanon are the next station and Putin is not able to use military force but will start with negotiating power.