Will U.S.-Russia Syria Pact Avoid World War?

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The question isn’t whether the U.S.-Russia-brokered ceasefire in Syria, announced Monday, will succeed. Considering the quagmire of combatants involved, it probably won’t.

The question is whether the U.S. and Russia now appearing to cooperate might stave off an acceleration toward world war. It might, if it further leads to quelling U.S. aggression in the Middle East, and NATO and Washington’s neoconservative hawks stopping further actions to incite Russia. Also, problems have developed in Asia, with the U.S. wanting to implement a missile defense for South Korea, bringing warnings from both China and Russia.

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Then there’s a major problem: dissolution of the global economy. In a world civilization where politicians respond to their failed national economies by creating an enemy and going to war, the time is ripe for World War III.

First Immediate Problem: Syria

The U.S. may have a chance to save face in Syria, despite itself. The U.S.-led coalition, bombing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and seeking the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, had seen its year-and-a-half invasion of Syria failing. What seems to have turned around the battle against ISIS has been Russia’s entrance in September, at the invitation of Assad.

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Putin (r) greets Assad.

By that time, Russia had been fuming from the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Russian-supported, democratically elected corrupt Ukraine government; the incursions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization toward Russian borders; U.S-European Union economic sanctions on Russia, and Saudi Arabia’s forcing lower and lower oil prices – all threats to Russia’s security and economy. And in September, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have had enough.

As Moscow continued to see ISIS’s threat growing on the Syrian regime, Putin decided to take action, and began bombing rebels on Syria’s behalf. At the same time, he called on the U.S. and its coalition to join Russia, and coordinate efforts at bombing ISIS. Washington refused, criticizing Moscow’s entering the conflict on behalf of Syria’s sitting government, which the U.S. wants to replace.

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By February, the U.S. could see the war turning in Assad’s favor, and has been quietly negotiating with Russia on a ceasefire plan. By today, the two major countries had at least succeeded in agreeing. Assad also had reluctantly agreed, saying he felt rebel groups would use the ceasefire to repossess land areas they had lost due to Russian bombing.

Second Immediate Problem: Turkey and Saudi Arabia

Gregory R. Copley, editor in chief of the Defense and Foreign Affairs publications group, said in a TV interview today that Turkey had instigated the Syrian civil war through its support of rebel groups. He predicted that the ceasefire would lead Turkey to further prepare for a ground invasion of Syria.

Turkey, a part of the U.S.-led coalition and a NATO member, has been greatly complicating the Syrian conflict. It has bombed Kurdish rebels — who are fighting ISIS — in Iraq and Syria, considering the Kurds a major threat to the Turkish government.

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The Turks also shot down a Russian bomber, apparently over Syria though arguing it invaded Turkey’s borders. This led to Putin placing economic sanctions on Turkey, and a continuing of ill-will between the two countries. Turkey, meanwhile, has criticized the U.S. for not leading a ground invasion of Syria. Russia has countered that a ground invasion by foreign troops would lead to world war.

Saudi Arabia has also announced intentions to both bomb and ground invade Syria, adding to Riyadh’s waging of violent and economic global wars.

Perhaps Russia and the U.S. together will be able to hold both Ankara and Riyadh in check. Or maybe China will have to quietly enter and negotiate with all of them. President Xi Jinping has led China on a foreign policy of noninterference in other countries’ internal affairs, prefering to negotiate trade and security pacts on every continent. He recently visited Saudi Arabia, forming trade agreements. Russia, too, recently met with the Saudis, agreeing to try and limit oil production and raise prices.

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But the maverick Turkey may be a problem even with Russia, the U.S. and China cooperating. Its volatile, dictatorial president Recep Tayyip Erdogan of late has been angry at both the U.S. and Russia, has threatened to continue attacking the Kurds, and has been pounding a tight fist at home, quelling the press.

Too, getting the Big Three to cooperate on easing the dangerous Middle East situation itself could be volatile. Both Russia and China have been publicly critical of U.S. hegemony. And Beijing and Washington have been quarreling over U.S. interference in the South China Sea.

All these tensions can’t help but lead to concern over the world’s major, major problem: the threat of nuclear war, which we’ve discussed in columns “World War III: The Heat Rises” and “Nukebuild: This Will Not End Well”. As gamblers say, “Read ’em and weep.”