The Danger of Russia Taking the Lead in Syria
Russia has stepped forward with a solution to the chemical weapons in Syria. In doing so, it has humiliated, outmaneuvered and weakened the United States, while bolstering its allies in the region. The diplomatic ploy has, in one swift action, moved Washington from a game changer to a side-note.
It started on August 9, when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on the possibility of disarming Syrian President Bashar al Assad, who is reportedly responsible for the egregious chemical weapons attacks. A stern-faced Kerry said Assad “could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done obviously.”
Whether Kerry was giving a rhetorical argument or not, Russia saw an opportunity and seized it. The Kremlin quickly came forward with a plan to remove all of the chemical weapons stockpiles from Syria. Not only that, the Syrian regime agreed to the Russian proposal.
The first and immediate consequence of Russia’s actions was to humiliate Kerry. Of course, the statements made by the secretary of state are only true if the U.S. handles the disarmament. However, when Russia—a strong ally of Assad—steps in, the situation appears entirely different. The Syrians are happy to negotiate when Russia is in charge. It seems that as soon as the U.S. says a diplomatic solution “can’t be done,” the Russians step in and say it can.
This leads to problems far worse than the U.S. being made to look silly. It forces the U.S. into inaction. The international community wouldn’t condone a military strike on Syria if Russia said it had a viable solution that was backed by the Assad regime. The timing of the announcement was perfect. Announced right before President Obama was set to speak on the issue, it likely forced massive revisions to what the President planned to say. As the New York Times wrote, “In a speech that only 48 hours [beforehand] was going to be solely a call to arms, Mr. Obama instead offered a qualified endorsement of a proposal that his own advisers conceded was rife with risk, given Russia’s steadfast refusal to agree to any previous measures to pressure Syria, its longtime ally.”
The U.S. may not like the deal, or even think it will work, but a military option is far less popular among the masses. America is war-weary and doesn’t want to be embroiled in another Middle East conflict. The Obama administration had little choice but to delay talk of war, and instead allow Russia time to expound on its plan.
This in turn buys Assad more time. If the U.S. had been thinking about finally intervening, action was once more put on hold. Time has been ticking by since the day Assad attacked his people with chemical weapons on August 21. The U.S. is yet to respond. The latest delay will only bolster Assad’s position, and reaffirm the idea that he can do as he pleases without fear of American response.
One of the major changes this Russian disarmament deal has brought on is giving Assad the ability to participate in negotiations. Only a few days before the Russian plan, Assad’s viewpoint was out of the picture. The U.S. looked set to act, regardless of what Assad was doing or saying. Now the U.S. has stalled its plans so it can see if Assad is genuine about agreeing to remove the chemical weapons.
Assad suddenly has much more negotiating power than he previously did. The immediate conditions from Assad were obvious: Assurances that the U.S. wouldn’t intervene and the cessation of all U.S. military aid to the rebels. However, the negotiations have barely begun. There are already suggestions that Assad will require Israel to give up its nuclear arsenal before it gives up its own chemical weapons stockpile. While this might never come about, it will still serve as an arguing point, eating up more time, delaying any U.S. action.
Negotiating disarmament with dictators isn’t a simple process. Look at Iran. For years the Iranians have been steadily working towards obtaining nuclear weapons. The negotiations between Iran and those who would wish to see its nuclear program stopped have achieved little and allowed Iran to continue its nuclear development.
In the same radio interview in which he implied that he wants Israel to disarm simultaneously, Assad insisted that his decision to come to the negotiating table had nothing to do with the U.S., but was because of Syria’s longstanding ally, Russia.
This might give some people hope of progress in the disarmament process, but consider: Even if concessions were made quickly, an arduous task of cataloging and seizing all the weapons would begin. In times of peace, this would be hard enough. The fact that the nation is still in civil war means the process would take a long time, with the likelihood of inaccurate counts. Finding the various caches strewn across the nation would be a serious challenge. Once again, all this buys time for Assad to strengthen his hold on power.
The fact is that negotiating takes time. The longer the Assad regime can stall any sort of action by the West, the greater the probability that it will walk away free from punishment over the killing of at least 1,400 civilians with chemical weapons.
Iran also benefits from the situation. U.S. inaction in Syria would be comforting to the Iranian government. After all, if the U.S. won’t act against Syria using wmd, why then would it act against Iran? Iran can also take comfort in the fact that its “Shia crescent” will remain intact for the foreseeable future. Under Assad, Syria is a staunch supporter of Iranian policies, and a crucial link between Iran and Lebanon.
But the real winner in this is Russia.
Up to this point, the U.S. has taken the lead in Syria. It was the U.S. that tried to take the lead in negotiations. It was the U.S. that offered possible solutions. It was the U.S. that posed the greatest threat to Assad. It was the U.S. that held the ultimate power to swing the civil war one way or the other. Then, the U.S. suddenly ran out of non-military options and Russia stepped out of the shadows with one of its own.
This is a game changer. When the U.S. accepted the Russian deal, it stepped to the side and allowed the Kremlin to take the lead.
Now Russia is heading the negotiations, offering the solutions and dictating the policies in Syria. And America is just letting it happen.
Russia has played its hand well. It knows that the American population is war-weary and largely opposed to a conflict in Syria. Vladimir Putin even wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times in which he expressed his desire for a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. The article, dripping with hypocrisy, was an instant success. As Trumpet columnist Joel Hilliker wrote:
These are bold statements from the man who invaded Georgia just five years ago (without UN permission). The man who has ordered the elimination of tens of thousands of Chechens. The man who has openly supported Iran despite its sponsoring terrorism. The man whose backing of the Syrian regime, in fact, is a major reason Assad has been so willing to slaughter his opposition by the thousands. Don’t be hasty to use force, he tells America. And the New York Times considers his advice sage and fit to print.
What Putin has done is take the driver’s seat on the Syria issue. He has blocked every attempt at peaceful negotiations through the UN, and now, when everyone else is out of options or patience, he steps in with his own plan.
The U.S. is playing a dangerous game by allowing the Russians, its enemy, to take control of the situation. Russia most definitely doesn’t have Washington’s best interests at heart, or those of the opposition forces in Syria. Russia can hide its intentions behind smooth words in the New York Times, but the consequences of Russian control of the disarming of Assad cannot be overstated.
Regardless of the success of the deal, Syria is set to see some more dramatic twists and turns as Bible prophecy continues to unfold in the region. There is one prophecy that will be even more shocking than Russia taking the lead in the nation. Psalm 83 speaks about the Hagarenes—the people who once dwelled in what is today Syria—being in an alliance with Assyria, which is modern Germany! A shocking, yet irrefutable prophecy!
Russian dominance in Syria may appear to be a game changer today, but the broader scope of Bible prophecy says that neither Russia nor America will control Syria. Syria will be under a European influence.
That said, it is no excuse to brush off what Russia is doing. The Kremlin is undermining the U.S. and rapidly reducing American power in the region. It won’t be long until the U.S. is completely sidelined from the world scene as rising powers such as Russia, Iran and Germany come to the fore.
If you want to read Putin’s hypocritical and condescending speech, read “A Plea for Caution From Russia.” If you want to read the truth behind his words, read “Should America Listen to Vladimir Putin?”