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Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Russia’s successes in Syria have been increasingly acknowledged in the West. On December 17th the Financial Times newspaper published the expert opinion of the managing director of the Kissinger Associates consulting firm and former Senior Director for Russia on the US National Security Council, according to which the Russian President Vladimir Putin managed to achieve the Kremlin’s position being taken into account when solving key world issues. Among the main achievements of Moscow the analyst noted the operation of the Air Force of the Russian Federation in Syria.

A week ago the Supreme Commander of the Russian Federation gave the order for a withdrawal [in realty it is the withdrawal of the idle jets and ground units that are surplus to requirements – ed] Russian troops from Syria. The group entered the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic at the request of its President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian campaign began on September 30th, 2015, and lasted 803 days.

The results of the operation of the Russian Federation’s Air Force in Syria and its value for Russia, the Middle East, and the whole world was described to the correspondent of the Federal News Agency by the deputy of the State Duma Konstantin Zatulin.

History is infinite

Konstantin, how would you evaluate the diplomatic results of the Syrian campaign?

“The Russian operation can be evaluated as exemplary in many ways. It achieved its aims, having forced the context of the intra-Syrian crisis to change. As a result of this campaign, besides achieving the objectives connected to the liquidation of ISIS, Russia managed to if not finally remove, then to seriously reduce the international isolation that was developing around Syria. We forced western countries that acted against Damascus – according to the template of their previous actions in Egypt, Libya, and Iraq – to abandon overthrowing President Assad.”

How did the operation in Syria affect Russia’s position on the world scene?

“The carrying out of the operation in Syria was followed by dramatic turns – I am referring to the downing of the Russian jet by a Turkish fighter jet and other incidents. Despite these circumstances, during the Syrian campaign we managed to create an alliance with the participation of Turkey and Iran, which in many respects (not only in connection to Syria, but also to a deeper perspective) will define the situation in the adjacent regions of the Middle East. Russia, of course, increased its international authority and had an opportunity to demonstrate itself, including its military potential. Our country was forced to speak about itself, it returned to the Middle East as a great power, but not simply as an observer of events. Russia retained its position in the region and improved it.”

How will the situation in the Middle East region develop after the withdrawal of a part of the military contingent of the Russian Federation from Syria?

“‘The end of history’ doesn’t exist, regardless of how Francis Fukuyama wants us to think otherwise. It seems to me that he himself refused this thesis a long time ago. The Middle East is the cradle of human civilisation, that’s why cataclysms, tectonic shifts, and conflicts have happened here throughout all the history of mankind — and will still happen. It is naive to believe that everything will come to an end in Syria and the Middle East.

Thus we are witnessing another, more negative experience: the most rough and, I would say, careless interference by Western countries – first of all the US – in the region’s life. We remember all those episodes that resulted in huge bloodshed and, in fact, a war of civilisations. I mean the same Iraq, Libya, and a number of other conflicts. However, in Syria this bloodshed was stopped thanks to the efforts of Russia.”

From Damascus to Jerusalem

Should we expect attempts to exact revenge from the “collective West” after Russia’s victory in Syria?

“Of course, we expect attempts to win back the situation in Syria, to revise the achieved results. They will be undertaken by our direct adversaries — Islamist radicals and terrorists. They will be undertaken also by our unreliable ‘partners’ — the western countries wounded by the fact that Russia, Iran, and Turkey were able to achieve a result. This is already happening.”

In general, to what extent it is important for Russia to be present in the Middle East region?

“Syria isn’t in a vacuum. From Damascus to Jerusalem, which became the reason for the latest explosion in the Arab world (the decision of the US President to transfer the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem), it’s not so far.

From this point of view, we have to understand that although we withdraw the main forces out of Syria, the political and diplomatic influence of Russia in this region should only grow. Otherwise everything that was achieved can be reversed.”

How would you comment on statements coming from the liberal community that the Syrian campaign harms Russia?

“Those among our populist liberals who try to discredit any efforts of the President, including in foreign policy, serve Russia negatively. As a result of this logic, which is habitual for liberals – ‘to give up on everything, leave, and surrender’, we will not achieve anything good anywhere in the world, and we will only squander the authority of the country earned through such persistent work.”

Dangerous moods

Authority here is a moral category?

“Authority also has a material embodiment. In the end, the authority of the US allows them to reap direct economic benefits — for example, from the very fact of the existence of the dollar as a reserve currency recognised by all. If other arguments don’t reach the slow-witted liberals in our country, then this understandable financial argument should at least make at impression on them.”

How does the foreign policy of Russia help the economy of our country?

“Just because of the fact that we increase our specific weight in world politics, we are able to achieve interaction with other centers of power. For example, with Saudi Arabia seemingly far from being close to us concerning oil market issues. Or concerning plans for the further development of our natural gas monopoly — I’m talking about the project of the gas pipeline to Turkey. In addition, one can recall the construction in the same country of a nuclear power plant or the sale of weapons that showed themselves in the skies above Syria. All of this is interconnected.”

I.e., Syria “happened” not in vain?

“People who choose only what is pleasant for them, and aren’t capable of understanding the interrelation of things and events in the world will infinitely rant about what they would have done better — and thus they wouldn’t climb anywhere at all. But these sentiments, which in the 1990’s were widespread in Russia because of the general fatigue from the world politics that arose in the Soviet years, today are extremely dangerous. They are dangerous from the point of view that in our country they are capable of misleading a part of the thinking population.”

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  • Tommy Jensen