Syrian Peace Talks: What Exactly Is Russia’s Role?


 

To loosely say a Cold War is brewing among the hemispheres is an understatement in today’s world. Aleppo, once considered an iconic Middle Eastern city, is on the cusp of extinction. The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria expressed: “Between now and December, if we cannot find a solution, Aleppo will not be there anymore.” One can say this is an understatement itself following the news of Russia having a joint onslaught on Aleppo with Syria.

After several American/Russian peace talks in regards to the state of Syria, it can be concluded peace is not achievable. At this point it’s fair to ask: what is Russia’s role in the peace talks?

The last U.S.-Russian peace talk was this past weekend, October 15. However, airstrikes intensified immediately prior to the meeting. The Syrian government renewed its campaign in Aleppo, and took approximately 150 lives.

On September 25, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power formally accused Russia before the UN Security Council of “barbarism.” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin defended his nation saying it was not involved. Lo and behold, Russia and Syria joined forces to attempt a terrorist purge in Aleppo while harming as few residents as possible. With Russia’s constant involvement and interference, it’s not allowing for any potential progress.

Russia has also denied being apart of joint airstrikes on areas containing medical facilities. According to the BBC, Ambassador Power stated: “Instead of peace, Russia and [Bashir Al-Assad] make war. Instead of getting life-saving aid to Syrians, Russia and Assad are bombing hospitals and first responders.” The bombings destroyed 18 of 31 first-aid trucks. Russia also accused an American drone for being responsible. Russia is participating in this back and forth game that defeats the overall purpose of aiming for national peace.

As of October 18, Russia and Syria halted the bombardment over areas of Aleppo occupied by rebels. This followed Russia promising a “humanitarian pause” for Thursday October 20. This statement followed the UN Special Envoy for Syria’s removal of Nusra Front fighters from eastern Aleppo to the rebel-held Idlib. This also prompted Britain to mobilize support from diplomats for the UNHRC’s inquiry on Syria and war crime investigation. Evidently, the peace talk between two Security Council superpowers alone has failed, and the responsibility has now moved onto a larger body, namely the UN as a whole.

Focusing specifically on the purpose of the U.S.-Russia peace talks, no achievement has been made. Discussions were halted early September, which caused a delay during the G20 Summit. America called off peace talks on October 3 because Russia went back on its word and resumed its bombing campaigns. Time and time again, Russia has proved it cannot hold commitments. The ceasefire agreement went to shambles immediately after the bombing of medical facilities came to light.

Both America and Russia have different interests. America reasonably accuses Russia of terror within the state of Syria. Russia dubiously turns the blame onto America. The lack of cooperation by the eastern party stunts the achievement of peace in Syria. It’s unclear whether the Syrian civil war has reached its peak, or has been at a plateau for months. It’s Russian political self-interest that’s not allowing any progression. Both the U.S. and Russia want Assad out of office, but fear ISIS taking over. America’s primary goal is to get rid of ISIS. Although facing that directly will create severe repercussions, America should consider creating an alliance with Russia or even Iran. America has recognized the suggested alliance (specifically with Iran) is morally bad because it can alienate Sunni Muslims, which in turn can make them align with ISIS, which is a Sunni organization. Russia has not recognized this. Its involvement, or lack thereof, insinuates interest in total control of the Middle East.

Russia has no role in the peace talks. The primary reason for the talks was to keep Russia in line and to end the Syrian civil war. Russia took this as an opportunity to further assert its dominance in the Middle East. By lessening American trust, Russia assumes it can weaken America’s foreign policy. If Russia were a person, they would be confusing. To be supporting both Assad supporters and rebels while having an overarching goal of having these groups fight ISIS is ambiguous.

America simply wants a regime change in Syria, which means the removal of Assad and ISIS. Russia knows if this were to happen, it would lose any chance it has at truly being powerful. One can even go far enough to say Russia’s constant promise breaking has been orchestrated. Is Russia supporting ISIS? Probably. Russia has no appealing ideology. Its state affairs function fine. But that’s the problem; Russia functions like a regular state. There is no improvement, nothing that makes it stand out like other states. That’s why Russia is adamant on securing Syria and the Middle East; it wants more power. The peace talks simply act as a veil.

Neelam Champaneri