Russia is using the fact that these are the last days of the Obama administration to strengthen its position in Syria. With a US election going on the scope of what can be done in the region is limited. The Kremlin knows that and is making good use of this time left until a new president is in. Russia is counting on the current president not wanting to get too involved in a conflict during the last months of his term. They’re also waiting to see how the election plays out and who the next president is going to be.
Using the US Election
Russia has been supporting President Bashar al-Assad since the beginning of the five year long conflict. But lately they have taken unprecedented steps to strengthen his hold on power. Bashar al-Assad aims to take over the city of Aleppo and Russia has been helping him with that. Russian forces have helped Bashar al-Assad get more territory under his control. All this is going to limit the options that the next US president is going to have. The civil war in Syria is going to be one of the things facing the newly-elected president in January. Russia wants to make sure that they frame the conflict their way before the beginning of the next year.
The four months from now until the presidential inauguration in 2017 offer a window of opportunity for Russia. Vladimir Putin is going to take advantage of this time frame to make more aggressive moves in Syria. He is estimating that Barack Obama is not going to want to intervene in a conflict that is already escalating. Another American president might have a more hardline approach to the conflict. But that president is not yet in office. As such, the White House keeps drawing lines for Russia and Bashar al-Assad that they repeatedly keep crossing.
Nikolai V. Petrov is a political scientist from Moscow. He says that Putin is in a hurry to make moves before the US election is over. “The next American president will face a new reality and will be forced to accept it”, he says.
Syria’s Strategic Importance
According to American intelligence analysts, Russia aims to help al-Assad by assisting the Syrian military in retaking Aleppo. With that accomplished, Moscow would resume talks about the future of Syria on stronger terms. On the ground it looks like that is the plan. The cease fire that the United States and Russia had negotiated with such difficulty fell apart on September 19. After that, Syria saw numerous attacks. The attacks, Russian and Syrian, have been among the deadliest since the beginning of the conflict.
From the diplomatic maneuvering of the Kremlin, it is obvious that Russia sees Syria as a country of strategic interest. Syria enables Russia to be a player in the Middle East, after it has established a military foothold in the region. The conflict has also allowed Russia to make use of its military and project a position of power on the international scene.
Also, the intervention in Syria offered Moscow an opportunity to stand by an ally, like the United States often do. Putin supported Bashar al-Assad in the end, like he said he was going to do.
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