Russia, Syria

Expectations for Trump’s Meeting with Putin in Helsinki

810208294.jpg.0The United States has little leverage in Syria and very few policy options. Russia is the strongest external actor in Syria and Russian influence will likely prevail. Since 2015, Putin has deployed military force in support of the Syrian government. The United States and Russia have supported opposite sides in the Syrian war, and there is little incentive for Putin who is winning to now offer concessions to Trump.

The most that the United States can hope for or expect is that Russia agrees to maintain a de-escalation zone in southern Syria. This pact was established in 2017 between Russia, the United States, and Jordan to create de-escalation zones on the Syrian-Israeli border and on the Syrian-Jordanian border. There is a shared goal of achieving stability and saving lives by preventing Iranian-backed militias from conducting operations in the area.

However, Syria has a history of doing what it pleases, not what the United States — or Russia — demands. Assad is determined to reconquer all of Syria, and implementing and enforcing this buffer zone would require Russia to turn against Iran. It is unlikely that Moscow would be willing to use military force to expel the Iranians and their allies from southern Syria, as this could potentially ignite another conflict and foment greater instability.

Read the full interview with the Lebanese daily An-Nahar [Arabic] Newspaper.

Russia, Syria

Russia and the U.S. have Common Interests in Syria. But it may not Matter

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Despite their alliance, Russia has never had much influence over Syria’s policies.

Published in the Washington Post.

All eyes are on Russia as President Trump prepares to meet with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki next week. But the real geopolitical focus of the meeting might well be a few thousand miles away in Syria. Last week, national security adviser John Bolton said that the meeting could offer a “larger negotiation on helping to get Iranian forces out of Syria” and that an agreement could be “a significant step forward” for U.S. interests in the Middle East.

But Bolton is engaging in wishful thinking, if not outright delusion. That’s not just because the United States and Russia, despite sharing the goal of stability in Syria, fundamentally diverge on how to achieve it. The administration is also vastly overestimating how much sway Russia actually has in Syria. While Syria has been Moscow’s closest Arab ally — and the largest recipient of its economic and military aid — since 1972, Russia’s influence on Syrian policy has been limited. Even as Russia’s military presence in Syria since 2015 has granted it greater leverage over the country’s future, historical precedents suggest that the relationship will continue to be one of constant disappointment and frustration.

Continue reading the full article in the Washington Post.