West’s options limited against Russian escalation

The Russian offensive in Syria has been ongoing for almost two weeks. Whatever the reactions of the international community, all it can do is make declarations, threaten new sanctions, or appeal for a halt to the operation, none of which will be effective. Russian President Vladimir Putin played the game the international community thrust upon him, and it seems he has won, moving quickly and unpredictably.

Moscow has filled the vacuum created by the West’s unrealistic, unconstructive approach to the Syrian conflict. Its plan is strong, but still dubious in terms of regional and global consequences.

Putin has left little space for any counter-manoeuver by the West - a forceful response would cause World War III. He was sure from the start of the Russian escalation that the West would not reciprocate, but there is still a high risk of a proxy war between the United States and Russia.

This would endanger regional and global stability. There are already signs of a proxy war, including the decision to continue supporting Syrian rebels on the ground. However, such support is unlikely to be tangible, and the Syrian army will likely push back its enemies with Russian help by the time U.S. aid arrives. A lack of support is not good either, as it will hinder the chances of a political transition.

Building bridges or walls?

So the international community is left with two options. Either it works in parallel with the Russian-led coalition, occasionally threatening Moscow with new sanctions in case Russian airstrikes do not target the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Or fruitful cooperation is launched, which would create a counterbalancing system and overcome antagonisms.

Putin has left little space for any counter-manoeuver by the West - a forceful response would cause World War III

Maria Dubovikova

Russia is not expected to join the international coalition as it considers it illegitimate, and there is no use imposing anything or threatening Moscow. With the ongoing operation, Russia has already shown its military might, and the costs involved are not a problem. Storing weapons is also very expensive, while using them proves their capabilities, and provides the country’s military-industrial complex with new orders and opportunities.

Russia has shown that it is back on the world stage, with a strong will to fight for its interests and counter the challenges it faces. Moscow has changed its military and foreign policies, and the West has to deal with that. The current manoeuvers of NATO and Western powers show that they will likely do so by building walls instead of bridges, thus increasing tensions. Syria is likely to be the catalyst.


Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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