PARIS — The fragile cease-fire in Ukraine brought the leaders of Russia, Germany, Ukraine and France together in Paris on Friday for a summit meeting meant to strengthen it, in a meeting that was overshadowed by events in the Middle East.
Russian airstrikes on territories controlled by rebels fighting against the Syrian government have been given the public backing of the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad.
Assad said in an interview broadcast on Iranian television that the attacks must succeed or the whole region could be destroyed. He said the Russian campaign has the potential to do so because it is backed by Iran and has international support, if not from western countries.
Russia’s military intervention in Syria, although further internationalising the conflict, does however present opportunities, as well as complications. There are no simple solutions to this terrible war which has destroyed Syria. Out of a population of 22 million, four million Syrians are refugees abroad and seven million have been displaced inside the country.
Western governments and mass media are putting out reports that Russia’s first air sorties in Homs and Hama in Syria “are not targeting ISIS” and that this demonstrates that Putin has no intention of fighting jihadists but has intervened in Syria to prop up the Basar Assad regime.
They deliberately are not telling you several things.
The danger of extreme nationalists in Ukraine has gradually been getting more serious attention in the western press, with words like “extreme right,” “neo-Nazi” and “skinhead” belatedly replacing euphemistic labels for the most radical political and paramilitary organizations. But it took the brutal killing of three unquestionably patriotic Ukrainian National Guardsmen during protests outside of the Verkhovna Rada to create some kind of consensus about the scale of their threat.
Russia’s recent economic turbulence, weakened ruble and high inflation could be coming to an end, according to the chief financial officer of the country’s leading telecoms business.
Alexey Kornya, chief financial officer of Russian telecoms giant MTS, told CNBC Monday that “in terms of inflation and ruble devaluation, the worst has already passed,” he said.
In his Orwellian September 28, 2015 speech to the United Nations, President Obama said that if democracy had existed in Syria, there never would have been a revolt against Assad. By that, he meant ISIL. Where there is democracy, he said, there is no violence or revolution.
Now, 1,506 days since the Obama administration first declared that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s “days are numbered,” he’s still there, and a convergence of Western trepidation and Russian resolve could strengthen his position further. But it also could set the stage for a long-sought political transition leading to the end of the Assad family’s 45-year rule.
The presidents of Russia and France, which both started bombing Syria this week, held talks Friday about their military operations as they tried to overcome differences on whether Syrian President Bashar Assad should stay in power.
From NATO’s Gen. Philip Breedlove to the State Department’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel, the manipulation of information is viewed as a potent “soft power” weapon. It’s a way to isolate and damage an “enemy,” especially Russia and Putin.
This demonization of Putin makes cooperation between him and Obama difficult, such as Russia’s recent military buildup in Syria as part of a commitment to prevent a victory by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.