Friday, December 18, 2015

The US And Russia At Odds In Syria

Syria has morphed into three separate countries within its boundaries.  ISIS, President Assad, and US supported rebels, each control parts of Syrian geography.  The US and Russia have different positions about how to manage the conflict in Syria.  The US wants to eliminate ISIS, and hold a general election which might replace the Assad regime.  Russia supports the Assad regime, and is using some of its military power against the US supported rebels; Russia is less interested it using its military power against ISIS.  The US and Russia are each concerned about protecting its national interests in Syria.  It is not surprising that differences in their national interests would make it hard for them to cooperate in Syria.

This Washington Post editorial argues that the US has shifted its position on Syria in order to foster closer cooperation with Russia. Putin is the bad guy, and the US is the good guy who has ceded too much power to the bad guy.  Putin is the strong man, and Obama is the weaker of the two.  I don't know what to believe about this analysis. However, I can't imagine a solution in Syria that does not require the US and Russia to reach some kind of agreement.  Any kind of agreement will require each party to alter their positions on Syria. This editorial claims that Putin is the stronger leader and that he is winning the discussions that are underway. That story makes any efforts to reach agreement with Russia more difficult to achieve.  Each party will have to make some concessions to other.  What is the alternative if the US and Russia cannot reach agreement?

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