The West continues toughening its rhetoric addressed to Russia after launching Tomahawk missiles in Syria. As US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson started his first official visit to Moscow with rather sharp criticism and demands, up to setting an ultimatum to Russia. Firstly, prior to tense and saturated meetings he discussed Syrian conflict with G7 in Italy’s Lucca and then on April 7 American airstrikes to Shayart airbase, during which he stated that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s governance is close to its end and Russia should make a choice: does it join the US and its allies or remains with Assad and Hezbollah? Basically, by this Tillerson also forced Russia’s diplomatic corps to make a choice.
Moreover, earlier in an interview with CBS he also stated that Russia gave certain assurances under the chemical weapons agreement in 2013 and in accordance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions that they would be the guarantor of the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, stockpiles, Russia has failed in that commitment and the result of their failure has led to the killing of more children and innocents.
Results of Tillerson-Lavrov negotiations haven’t been entirely decoded, as opening remarks of the ministers were followed by private negotiations, however, compared with Tillerson, it’s also noteworthy that Lavrov was rather cautious in his observations. In his welcoming remarks he stated that position of the US, perceiving real intentions of US administration, is of paramount importance for them.
“And currently we hope to develop in this direction,” Lavrov said. Reflecting to Tillerson’s ultimatum, the latter noticed that the policy of making allies face a choice and speaking in the language of ultimatum is unacceptable for the Kremlin. In his turn, the American official stated in his opening remarks that the two global powers have obvious and deep disagreements, which prevent cooperation.
Alexander Rahr, German political scientist, told “168 Hours” that hopefully the sides will succeed to find common edges, as its alternative is sharp confrontation, from which Russia and the USA obviously avoid, however, they aren’t ready to accept it “aloud”. The German political scientist, firstly, commenting on Tomahawk campaign and its reasons, said overnight at April 7 reasons of the occurrence in Syria should be studied by politicians, political scientists, as it very much resembles provocation, which may have an unpredictable course.
According to him, it should be clarified whether the reason of these strikes was America’s domestic policy or provocation, target of which were Russian interests in Syria, purpose of which is new Russia-USA sharpening, failure of Assad’s new regime.
“Trump has been under serious pressure recently, in case of not responding to which even impeachment is anticipated, as he starts to lose authority and power as president of the USA.
Obviously, sharp statements he made early this year on Crimea and Ukrainian crisis didn’t solve his internal political issue, for which a more powerful strike was necessary and Trump took that step, by which he somewhat restored his authority and power inside and outside the country,” German analyst said.
However, Rahr believes its reason wasn’t imaginary, use of chemical weapons in Idlib was provocation, as proves of Assad’s guilt in Idlib are very weak. Rahr considers in this case it’s important that Russia doesn’t go beyond diplomatic circles and doesn’t sharpen Russia-USA relations, which may be violated in case of minor sensibility.
“The situation may be solved diplomatically, which Lavrov and Tillerson will attempt to do during their joint meeting, although claims by the West are rather sharp, as the background is not beneficial for Russia, it’s introduced that Russia didn’t fulfill its liabilities, and Russia will introduce edifice that chemical weapons were brought out of Syria in time. Basically Russia can’t go ahead these requirements, as an issue was set to fail Assad’s regime through Russia.
Peskov has already stated that the Kremlin won’t agree to Western claims, as it considers them baseless. If it accepts those requirements, it’ll mean losing its Middle East policy. It should seek other solutions here,” Rahr said. In his words, hard diplomatic work is ahead, during which Russia should attempt to both not to concede positions, not to hand them to Assad, and develop constructive dialogue with the USA, as its alternative will become confrontation in Syria.
“Of course, as a result of these strikes we might have entered third World War, however, hopefully the sides are sober in their judgments and will realize whether this was a strike against Russia or it was Trump’s action tended to saving ruining leadership. Discourse should be developed by this topic,” Rahr said.
Cengiz Aktar, Turkish political analyst, publicist, told “168 Hours” that Tillerson should attempt to exert pressure over Russian authorities as much as possible. According to him Tillerson should accept, that activities in Syria are only one component of active and destructive policy Russian president Putin pursues after Trump’s inauguration.
“Examples of destructiveness are numerous. In January, having Moscow’s support, separatists initiated new tension against Kiev, reaching intensiveness of clashes to the maximum, violating Minsk responsibilities, which was followed by Putin’s decision to recognize passports given to Ukraine’s east. Putin made some decisions related to South Ossetia.
Then Russia started doing experiments with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Its peak was the Kremlin’s allegation that Assad has no relation to the chemical attack. By these steps they bore more intensive nature after Trump’s presidency, Putin was testing Trump, he attempted to understand where the red line for the president-elect is, which Russia couldn’t pass.
Obviously Putin didn’t anticipate opposition from the side of the new president, moreover, it attempted to weaken US positions in the world, finally discrediting US foreign policy, which already during the pre-election campaign was seriously discredited. Today the USA has serious issue of showing that red line to Russia, and I consider Tillerson is in Moscow by this very mission,” Turkish analyst said.
Reflecting to possible impact of this new stage of Russia-USA tension, the experts said there won’t be great influence over the region.
“The USA and Russia constantly work toward Karabakh conflict settlement. The only possible impact is that attention from the region may weaken and what happened last year may be recorded again as a result of carelessness of the international community. At least diplomats covering this issue shouldn’t lose the negotiation thread by constantly working toward organizing meetings with the sides.
To overcome current Russia-USA tension, serious diplomatic efforts will be required, which may have a negative impact on their attention towards other conflicts,” Rahr said. According to Aktar only Azerbaijan may make use of the situation, which pursues clear goals in this conflict.
“The sides, especially Armenia, should be sober in this case, as under its absence Azerbaijan may make use of the situation like in case of Russia-Turkey tension. Prior to last year’s April no one anticipated there will be war, that there will be interested parties, but they did happen. Sobriety shouldn’t be lost,” Turkish analyst said. The latter doesn’t consider that Russia will test Trump on Karabakh zone, as Russia has already launched the policy of retreat.
By Araks Martirosyan