Monday, September 12, 2016

Syria And Ukraine Have Putin In Common

Syria Bombing Has Destroyed Whole Cities
Last Saturday top Russian and American diplomats cheered the details of the potential breakthrough deal resulting from weeks of negotiations. The talks between the U.S. and Russia have reportedly produced a sweeping new agreement which includes a nationwide ceasefire and coordinated strikes against ISIS as well as al Qaeda-affiliated militants. Also, it will result in and allow  increased humanitarian aid to areas of Syria badly besieged by the country’s long, bloody civil war. Most people understand that Syria can no longer be viewed as a stable country with a bad leader, it has become a humanitarian disaster.

The pictures being broadcast across television screens throughout the world of city streets bombed and blown to smithereens, dead women and little children killed by cluster bomb attacks show Syria to be a country far different from what we were facing when we decided to go into Iraq. The proof many Americans have chosen to ignore the situation is the shockingly revealed when Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson drew a blank during a live interview on MSNBC when he was asked what he would do to address the situation in Aleppo, perhaps the most devastated city in the five-year civil war in Syria. "What is Aleppo?" Johnson replied when asked how he would address the crisis there. "You're kidding," journalist Mike Barnicle said. "No," was Johnson's response. 

Secretary of State John Kerry said in Geneva, "Today, Sergei Lavrov and I, on behalf of our presidents and our countries, call on every Syrian stakeholder to support the plan that the United States and Russia have reached, to ... bring this catastrophic conflict to the quickest possible end through a political process." Kerry also expressed hope the peace deal, worked out through their marathon peace talks, “has the ability to provide a turning point,” this will, of course, depend on whether all sides honor a cessation of hostilities set to begin at sundown Monday. I'm afraid those who have used and subscribed to the highly scripted talking point that Putin is a "thug and a bully" must be cringing because Russia is instrumental in this agreement.

For a moment let us be optimistic and pray we are moving in the right direction to ending Syria's civil war. Several years ago I began to advocate the best solution will ultimately be to push towards a breakup of Syria with Assad or one of his people in control of the Alawite area in exchange for freeing the remaining part of the country to rule itself, and I suggest we should not be surprised if things move in that direction. Many reasons exist as to why the deep wounds the Syrian people have suffered will not heal and why they can no longer live as one big happy family. This brings me to the crux of this post and far-fetched idea based on what both Syria and Ukraine both have in common, and that is Putin. Because of this, we are now in the unique situation to resolve two major conflicts at once if the desire to do so outweighs the egos of the players as well as their petty differences and the lust for making money from producing weapons of war.

Picture Ukraine Front Lines-War Is Hell
It is simple to see a similar agreement that eastern Ukraine would also become a sovereign nation would go a long way in getting Putin to put Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's feet to the fire and move him towards agreeing to surrender part of his country. It is clear that Syria is to broken to be fixed and if Assad remains in power those who have suffered and been displaced will never forgive him and live under his rule, however, a change in ruling factions is also not a viable solution in that it would unleash a wave of killings, and reprisals. Remember the Shiite-related Alawites rightly fear an Al Qaeda led triumph as the worst possible outcome, they would make the mass killing of Alawites their first priority. The secular leaders of the Syrian rebels, clustered in the exile group known as the Syrian National Council, also must worry about the extremist threat they themselves would face if the Assad government fell. 

As I pointed out some time ago the ramifications of Ukraine becoming a major battlefield are also very ugly. They would include Russia cutting off the flow of natural gas to the west and this would devastate an already troubled Europe. The idea of America getting involved or jumping into a war in Ukraine would have been hard to imagine a few years ago and has little upside while the potential for it to escalate into a major shooting war is real. Allowing events to deteriorate into a major war or possibly into what some see as World War III is very real. The location of such a military confrontation right in Putin's backyard would be a strong advantage for Russia and it is silly to think Putin and Russia would back down. This means poking the bear is not a smart move.

Even after all the American blood and treasure spent in the Middle East, we find Putin holding most the cards. His motivation for supporting and pushing Assad towards peace lies in the fact we live in a complex world and Putin would tie such a deal to a solution in Ukraine. If inclined such a deal could be negotiated and it would constitute a big win-win for the people living in two troubled areas. Like children trading baseball cards both parties want something, for America it is the end of strife in this war torn area and the halt of millions of refugees flowing into other countries and upsetting world order, for Russia, it is allowing eastern Ukraine to also go its own way. This would mean America would end encouraging and financing a war on the Russian border for little reason other than to spite the Russian leader.

With Americans tired of war and frustrated after years of spending a fortune in the Middle East with little to show for our efforts, we are facing a debate as to which is the "best worst choice" in how to proceed. The media has been fast to point out the complexity of the situation and how muddy the politics will be going forward, This includes the formation of an often talked about no-fly zone in Syria which could cost about $1 billion a month and that risks the loss of U.S. aircraft and pilots. Again I say, it has become clear no easy answer or silver bullet exist for the problem plaguing Syria and the whole region, it is also clear America's military industrial complex does not hold the key to a peaceful resolution. This means it may be time to cut a deal.



Footnote; I do not see Putin as a leader with saint-like qualities, he is tough and hardcore. at the same time, I see Obama's so-called reset with Russia has been a dismal failure. America's policy towards Russia seems to have become an ego match between the two leaders and time again Obama has come up short, this has driven Russia closer to China and constitutes a major mistake in foreign policy. The large joint naval exercise currently underway highlights this view. More on this in the article below.
 http://brucewilds.blogspot.com/2012/06/putin-strenghtens-ties-with-china.html

Footnote #2; The PBS Newshour reported last night that a new ceasefire was to take place in Ukraine and the Ukrainian government would be voting on whether to give Eastern Ukraine political autonomy. It seems I may of been right and Putin has twisted Kerry around a bit.

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