Putin returns to UN after 10 years, to break down isolation and find a Russian breakthrough for Syria
Moscow (AsiaNews) - President Vladimir Putin’s speech to the UN General Assembly on 29 September in New York has all the chances of becoming the main event for Russian foreign policy this year.
This is according to the Moscow Times in its comment on Putin’s first intervention in 10 years at the UN, whose Russia in recent weeks has boosted its military presence in support of Damascus and in parallel pushed the accelerator on a political solution to the crisis, forcing even the detractors of Bashar Assad to start reviewing their positions.
Putin will also meet Barack Obama in New York, after a year of detente, and although officially the Ukrainian crisis will top of the agenda, no one doubts that the two will focus on Syria.
Russia, President of the Security Council, intends to stake everything on the Kremlin proposal to form a broad International coalition against the Islamic jihadists that also includes Iran and Syria and to find a compromise on the status of Assad.
According to analysts such as Valdislav Inozemtsev, the Centre for Strategic Studies in Washington, Putin will repeat the importance of some basic concepts of Russian foreign policy: the fight against international terrorism and extremism, the need to respect national sovereignty and the condemnation of sanctions as a political pressure tool and a 'double standard’ in international relations.
The Kremlin leader will tie all this to the crisis in the Middle East, trying to shift the focus from Ukraine and tensions with the West over the annexation of the Crimea and the support for Ukrainian separatist.
According to the Pentagon chief, Ashton Carter, , "it is possible" that Moscow and Washington will agree to cooperation on Syria. If Russia intends to seek a political solution to the Syrian crisis and not to "indiscriminately" attack enemies of President Assad, then "we can find areas of cooperation," he said. Not many are convinced that the UN Assembly will unlock something on this front.
According to experts, Putin’s speech could give way to more extensive negotiations, but that does not necessarily mean using Russian proposals as guidelines. Recent rumors circling in the international media report that the Kremlin is preparing to order air strikes against the positions of the Islamic state in Syria, if the United States insisted in rejecting the offer to join forces against the common threat of jihadists, and then discuss a political transition in the country, once IS is defeated.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, says the news to mere "speculation" and according to Inozemtsev, even if Moscow fails to form an international coalition, Russian forces are not ready to conduct an Afghanistan style operation in Syria.
In recent days, Russia has increased its military presence in the north and south of the Syrian city of Latakia. According to analysts, the goal is to preserve the port of Tartus, the base of its fleet in the Mediterranean, as well as the airport of Latakia, beyond the outcome of the civil war, while Assad is losing ground against the Islamic rebels and Isis.
"I do not think the question in Russia is whether to keep Assad standing or not, but what to do with what remains of the Syrian state," the authoritative analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, close to official circles told the Washington Post.
Beyond the need to preserve military interests and strategic balance, as well as leverage in negotiations with the West on various issues, the Russian activism in Syria hides personal interests in international politics.
As political analyst Dmitri Oreshkin, often critical of the government, explained "Putin today depends on security chiefs (the so-called siloviki) and I refer not to mere general but to those high ranking military chiefs" he explained. "They understand that there has been a geopolitical defeat: Putin has lost the Ukraine, Transnistria and the Donbass (eastern Ukraine). For some pragmatic siloviki this is okay, but others are deanding compensation and Putin can not afford to appear weak, "writes Oreshkin in Novoe Vremya.
"If he loses even Syria, more specifically if Assad loses, the siloviki will take it as a total defeat by the United States." According to the analyst, the military leaders “re still obsessed with the one-dimensional picture of the Soviet era, when the US and Russia struggled for the conquest of world influence; everything else is just nonsense." "Putin himself has begun open confrontation with the West and now can not lose this war - concludes Oreshkin – or at least, he must demonstrate that he has done everything he can to win it."