Putin’s Game in the Middle East

It is a new experience for the U.S. and Russia to be fighting the same enemy – ISIS. To understand this bizarre situation, it is illuminating to read two articles about Putin’s initiative in Syria.

TIME magazine published this piece on October 1:

“…Invading Ukraine has kept Putin’s dream of the Eurasian Union alive, but it has come at quite a price – all told, the IMF believes Western sanctions could end up costing the Russian economy 9 percent of its total GDP over the next few years.

“But Syria offers Putin a way to mend relations with the West. Europe is currently beset by a wave of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war, and the U.S. remains unsure about how best to tackle ISIS. Putin calculates that if Russia successfully turns the war tide against ISIS by sending in 28 fighter aircraft and 2,000 military personnel, Europeans will gladly let the sanctions against Moscow lapse in coming months, especially if it re-stabilizes the region and allows Syrian refugees to start returning home.

“The U.S. will be harder to crack, as it continues to refuse any solution in Syria that leaves Syrian President Bashar Assad – a close Russian ally – in power. But even that is to Putin’s benefit – standing up to the West scores him serious domestic political points. And if he is able to succeed where the U.S. failed in Syria, he may have just secured himself the Russian presidency through 2024….”

On the other hand, The Times of London wrote this report on October 8:

“…Across the Gulf, preachers are urging Sunnis not just to fight the holy war but also to take arms against the Russians. Rewards are being offered for the capture of Russian soldiers. The northern Caucasus, far from being shielded by Russia’s airstrikes, is likely to become a battleground in Mr Putin’s back yard. Domestic enthusiasm for war will melt when dead soldiers are returned to their families….

“Now, as in Ukraine, Mr Putin is being revealed as a leader who overestimates his powers.”

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