An objective 20 point summary of what Putin has repeatedly said on Syria in speeches, interviews, comments over just three weeks from September 27th to October 16th 2015
October 20, 2015
Bloomberg’s latest breathless report Putin Officials Said to Admit Real Syria Goal Is Far Broader, running at over 1700 words, with three reporters in the by-line, is an example of how Western media wants readers to think that Putin’s Real Motive’s are only revealed thanks to dogged investigation and analysis by intrepid reporters.
Note the key word “admits”. This word connotates an exposure of something hidden – in this case the long term strategy.
A classic penultimate graf is
What Western media loves, is obsessed by is anonymous sources (especially those who, surprisingly, just echo the USG’s public narrative). Call it a legacy of Watergate, but the implication is that these sources, by speaking anonymously or off-the-record are not only reliable but somehow revealing something that is not otherwise easily obvious. The Sun will rise in the East tomorrow is boring information. A confidential source revealed that the Sun will rise in the East tomorrow has an air of excitement. The reporter is sharing a juicy bit of gossip with the privileged reader and thus revealing the reporter’s own importance. Without me you would never know is the subtext.
‘Understanding Putin’: First Read What He Says
The above information along with virtually all Western media’s “reveals” are freely available in Putin’s statements on the Kremlin site in English.
Putin has spoken extensively about Syria for years. Just focusing on the latest chapter starting with the Charlie Rose interview in Moscow aired on September 27, 2015 prior to coming to speak at the UNGA in New York and ending with his statements at the Meeting of the CIS Council Heads of State at Borovoye, Kazakhstan on October 16th, 2015, he has publicly discussed Syria at least 10 times:
1. Sept 27 – Charlie Rose Interview (TV air date)
2. Sept 28 – UNGA Speech
3. Sept 28 – Q&A with Journalists
4. Sept 30 – Cabinet Meeting with Government
6. Oct 7 – Meeting with Russian Defense Minister
7. Oct 10 – Interview with Russian TV Host
8. Oct 13 – Russia Calling! – Investment Forum
10. Oct 16 – Meeting with CIS Heads of State
In addition, over just the past month he has had face-to-face closed door meetings with America’s Barack Obama (Sept 28 in New York), Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Sept 23 in Moscow) and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (Sept 28 in New York), Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu (Sept 21 in Moscow), Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin-Abdulaziz (Sept 28 in New York), Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Oct 11 in Sochi), Iraq’s Haider al-Abadi (Sept 28 in New York), Iran’s Hassan Rouhani(Sept 28 in New York), Palestine’s Mahmood Abbas (Sept 22 in Moscow), UN’s Ban Ki-Moon (Sept 28 in New York), Germany’s Angela Merkel (Oct 2 in Paris), France’s Francois Hollande (Oct 2 in Paris), EU’s Council’s President Xavier Bettel (Oct 6 in Moscow), Cuba’s Raul Castro (Sept 28 in New York), Japan’s Shinzo Abe (Sept 28 in New York), Abu-Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed Al-Nahyan (Oct 11 in Sochi), NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg (Sept 28 in New York) as well as multiple meetings with CIS states’ leaders at various locations.
Summary of Putin’s Statements
Whether one agrees with him or not, Putin’s views and statements are objectively remarkably clear and consistent and have been for years. Any literate person reading just the last month worth of speeches, interviews and statements linked above, can summarize his views in the following propositions:
P1. Rejection of Regime Change concept: Personalizing conflicts to a single leader and working to bring down the leader along with institutions of state leads to anarchy, chaos, loss of life and massive displacement of people, economic ruin within the country as well as exporting instability to not just geographically adjacent countries but indeed those that initiated such regime changes from far away.
P2. Rejection of working outside the United Nations and International Law: the UN was formed precisely to avoid one nation or a group of nations to unilaterally declare themselves exceptional and instituting regime change by economic or military means.
P3. Differentiating between armed fanatics using some against others to institute regime change hoping to control them later inevitably does not work and leads to more chaos, instability and blowback.
P4. The factual situation on the ground in the Middle East supports the earlier assertions.
P5. When the chaos and instability threatens Russia’s borders or internal situation, Russia will act to defend itself.
Position Towards Syria
P6. There is only one internationally recognized authority in Syria and that is the Syrian government led by President Assad. (Ed: this is why the Syrian Foreign Minister had to be allowed by the US to give his speech at the UNGA in New York). Rejecting his or his government’s legitimacy outside of the UN is illegal (as per P2)
P7. Russia supports the institution of the recognized Syria state and not a personality per se (follows P2, P6)
P8. The solution to the Syrian conflict has to be political with talks between the existing government and “legitimate opposition” forces supported by international leaders under the sponsorship of the UN without any preconditions (includes P2)
P9. Armed non-secular insurgents – including ISIS, al-Nusra and various jihadist groups – cannot be considered part of the “legitimate opposition” (as per P3)
Participation in Syrian Conflict
P10. Russia has been asked by the legitimate authorities in Syria to assist it in the battle against armed insurgents to preserve the integrity of the state.
P11. Russia considers the Jihadists in Syria – ISIS, al-Nusra and others – as direct threats to its security give the presence of thousands of Russian/CIS participants among the Jihadists who are liable, if unchecked, to return and wage war at home, a bitter experience Russia has had in Chechenya and Dagestan as well as terrorist attacks in Moscow. (Ed: more plausible than the oft cited “If-we-don’t-fight-them-there-we-fight-them-at-home” justification for USG involvement in conflicts half-a-world away)
P12. There are only two realistically well trained professional armies on the ground in Syria, that of the Government and to a lesser degree the Kurds that can fight ISIS and the other jihadists.
P13. The fall of the Syrian government to the Sunni jihadists will perpetuate even more bloodletting and displacement with the Alwaite and Christian minorities liable to be massacred and creating another failed state like Libya or Yemen or Northern Iraq and becoming a breeding ground for more jihadists, with again direct threat to Russians.
P14. Thus (following P10, P11 and P5) Russia will support the Syrian Government’s armed forces with not just contracted military aid but with direct Airstrikes against the armed jihadists not differentiating between the different factions (as per P3). If the USG and its allies have concerns that “moderate” forces are being hit – tell Russia who these are so they can be avoided.
P15. Mindful of its experience in 1980’s Afghanistan (and indeed the USG experience in 2000s Afghanistan and Iraq), Russia will not provide ground troops.
P16. As much as the Russian Airstrikes are legal (as per P14) and practical (as per P12), the USG and its coalition’s Airstrikes and support to insurgents in Syria without the express consent on the legitimate Syrian authorities is not only illegal but impractical in defeating Jihadism
P17. The success of the battle against the Jihadists crucially depends on the performance of the Ground forces – Airstrikes alone will not win the battle.
P18. The Airstrikes will continue as long as the ground offensive lasts, hopefully not longer than 3-4 months though there are no guarantees.
P19. Russia would prefer to work with the USG and regional allies to eliminate all Jihadist factions but in a manner following International Law and recognizing the Syrian State as the Internationally legitimate authority in Syria (Ed: as the USG did when it worked with Russia and th Syrian Government to end the Chemical Weapons Program in Syria two years ago).
P20. The strategic goal would be to ensure that jihadists are neutralized and all secular national parties supported by the International community find a political solution to ensure that all ethnic groups, the Alawites, the Sunnis, Kurds and Christians have security within a unified Syria.
The above propositions can be objectively derived from what Putin has consistently said in his speeches, interviews and comments over the past month alone and freely available to anyone with an Internet connection on the Kremlin website.
Many Western media refuse to even listen to this preferring to get snippets and out-of-context quotes of the same information through anonymous sources and immediately spin theories on what his “true” motives and acribing various theories. In doing so they seem constantly surprised when Putin follows through on what he has consistently proposed in public.
Putin’s position on Assad (noted in P6, P7 above) has not changed from a news conference in December 2012 when he said.