Monday, September 16, 2013

Russia's Interests
     As much of the world now sees the Syrian civil war through a lens focused on the diplomatic process to have Assad surrender control of his chemical weapons we should note one important fact: Assad's surrender of his chemical weapons may prolong the war as he and Russia may be seen by many as rational actors who caused US military action to be averted.  Russia's strategic national interests in Syria are arguably greater than those of the US on four counts.  First, Russia has a naval port in Syria giving it access to the Mediterranean Sea which would be lost if Assad falls.  Second, if Assad falls he is likely to be succeeded by a radical, unstable, Islamist state on Russia's doorstep which could destabilize parts of Western Russia with large Muslim populations.  Third, the likely successor government to Assad (radical and Islamist) might control the chemical weapons in question and direct them against nearby Russian targets.  Finally, the Assad government in Syria has a long-standing alliance with Russia just as the US does with Israel, Taiwan, and South Korea.  If Russia were to abandon Syria it harms their credibility and status as a nation..
     A longer look through the above referenced lens may indicate that the idea of American Exceptionalism is being confronted by a discomfiting reality.