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11.04.2017

The National Interest: The Russian response to the US attack on Syria?

Moscow has only four options: close your eyes to what happened, detract from it to the attention of the international community, to go to the escalation of or seek detente with the United States.

The golden rule of public administration is the need to avoid bluffing, but if this does not work, you have to be prepared for the fact that the bluff may expose. Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin came across this in Syria since the US missile strike on the country was not just a demonstration of Washington's military strength. Donald Trump's decision has put on its head the logic of the military "adventures" of Russia in Syria, and for the calculation of the night in Moscow on the Middle East was no longer so optimistic, writes Peter B. Doran in an article for The National Interest.

The author notes that in 2012, former President Barack Obama went on a bluff, stating his infamous "red line" on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. In fact, there was not any trait. When Syrian President Bashar Assad revealed this bluff, he showed that Washington's words mean nothing. Unable to match words with deeds, Obama made it clear that a vacuum of power was formed in Syria, which was later filled by Vladimir Putin. In the absence of the US, the Kremlin was able to assume the role of arbitrator in Syria, support its client Assad and demonstrate what Washington said, and Moscow acted. All this, the author believes, also turned out to be a bluff, since the Kremlin simply took advantage of the ill-considered "red line" of Obama. Moscow was never going to risk going to a direct military conflict with Washington because of Assad or the Middle East.

Initially, the ill-conceived "red line" was attractive to Russia, because, while the US was pushed aside, Russia could go by military escalation in the Middle East with a relatively low risk and low cost for its interests. This course was also associated with a large number of side benefits. So, in Syria, Russia could test its new high-tech weapons and equipment, demonstrating the success of military modernization. In the end, the US might be interested in official cooperation with Russia against IGIL (an organization whose activities are banned in the Russian Federation) in the region. With this development of events, the US could recognize - at least reluctantly - that Assad has a future. Moreover, in the framework of cooperation with Russia against IGIL (an organization whose activities are banned in the Russian Federation), Washington could be forced to put aside its objections to the war in Ukraine. On all grounds, the Syrian party was a win-win.

Nevertheless, the problem with small states is that they can draw a major power into a war that it does not want and in which it can not be defeated. In the author's opinion, using chemical weapons against civilians, perhaps with the assistance or inaction of Russia, Assad once again demonstrated the neglect of the "red line" conducted by the United States. Only this time President Trump did not close his eyes to this. The blow to the Syrian airbase became a break with an established trend. Unlike Obama, striking Syria was a demonstration that Trump is ready to project his power in Syria, and also that Russia will no longer have advantages in the Middle East.

After the attack on the base of "Shayrat" Russia is in a difficult situation, making the conflict in Syria is extremely risky undertaking. And Russia is now four ways in which it can go.

First, Moscow can close their eyes to the problem. Inaction is also an option, but in this case it would entail a weakening of confidence in Russia from China, Syria, Iran, and other Middle Eastern countries. An additional disadvantage of ignoring the problem is a loss of face in domestic politics.

Second, the Kremlin may also go for an escalation that is nihilistic best option for Moscow, as well Russia is moving toward a major conflict with the US. Russian military doctrine seeks to avoid such a scenario, and the probability of such a collision with the escalation will only increase.

Third, Russia can agree on the intermediate option between escalation and ignoring the problems and try to distract from the incident. To do this, Russia needs to redirect the world's attention to other regions. According to the author, the most obvious option would be an intensification of the conflict in eastern Ukraine or provocation defense of NATO forces in the Baltic or the Black Sea. However, this approach does not solve the reputational problems in Syria.

Finally, there is an option of discharge, that is, the author stresses, the best way to Russia. So less likely to unwanted conflict, and the apparent weakness of the Kremlin can be transformed into the wisdom of public administration. An example for discharge may become a confrontation between Moscow and Ankara, brought down a Russian bomber in 2015 year.

Now, the author concludes, should be no doubt that the US missile strike on Syria was a thoughtful, balanced and necessary. By all indications, the team to ensure the Trump National Security triggered an exceptional way. The next step for Vladimir Putin.

A source: A REGNUM

Author: Maxim Isayev

Tags: USA, Trump, Syria, war in the Middle East, Russia, Politics, Analyst, IG, terrorism, Assad Chemical Weapons