Weekend Roundup: A New Cold War or Russia’s Quagmire?
Much to the chagrin of NATO, Gulf countries and others, Russia this week ramped up its military campaign in Syria, in what has become a war with global implications.
Some say it is now a proxy war between former Cold War foes because Russian airstrikes have reportedly hit some U.S.-backed rebels. But U.S. President Barack Obama ruled out a proxy war and is reportedly scaling back his arming of rebels, possibly in an effort to “deconflict” with Russia.
Has Russian President Vladimir Putin succeeded in his oft-stated goal of reasserting Russia as a great global power by filling a geopolitical vacuum in Syria? It may appear so in the short term, but Syria could end up being his quagmire as Afghanistan was for the Soviet Union. He may end up stuck in a war that drags on, at great economic, political and human cost.
If wiser heads prevail, it is still possible that leaders will set aside both East-West and Sunni-Shia tension to work together to fight the Islamic State and to end Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s slaughtering of his own people. A Syrian political transition could then curb the flood of Syrian refugees currently overwhelming Europe as it has already overwhelmed Syria’s neighbors.
Complicating matters further, Russian jets violated Turkish airspace this week, prompting NATO and Turkey to express concern. Writing from Istanbul, Behlül Özkan explains that although Ankara wants Assad gone and Moscow’s fighting to keep him in, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hasn’t pressed Putin because they are linked by crony capitalism.