If Putin goes his own way in Syria, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine will intensify, Zubov says

Putin helping Assad in Syria political cartoon


Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia, War in the Donbas

What Vladimir Putin does in Syria clearly will have a powerful impact on what he does in Ukraine, Andrey Zubov says. If the Kremlin leader goes his own way to save Assad, he will be isolated and, in response, will be likely to intensify his aggression against Ukraine. If he chooses to cooperate with the West, the reverse will be true.

Andrey Zubov, Russian historian, theologian and political analyst (Image: Anna Artemyeva, novayagazeta.ru)

Andrey Zubov, Russian historian, theologian and political analyst (Image: Anna Artemyeva, novayagazeta.ru)

The Russian political analyst tells Apostrophe’s Artem Dekhtyarenko the situation is finely balanced. On the one hand, Putin wants to save Bashar Assad and dictate the future of Syria, something that may require Russian land forces’ but on the other, he wants to avoid an Afghanistan and would like to appear to cooperate enough to get the West to lift sanctions.

Russia would benefit more by cooperating with the West in Syria, Zubov argues; but unfortunately, Putin cares first and foremost about saving one of his “own” dictators, something that precludes participation in a broader counter-terrorism alliance and is likely to lead to a worsening of relations with the West.

Because that will likely require a Russian ground operation, that will lead to the return of bodies from the conflict, something Putin like Stalin may not care much about; but because of that, he will almost certainly want to get a victory somewhere to mobilize the population around him and that will make the expansion of Russian aggression in Ukraine almost a certainty.

If, on the other hand, Putin did decide to join the Western coalition against ISIS, “this would positively affect the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis,” Zubov says. That would be good for Russia as well, because sanctions would end and the Russian economy could begin to recover. But unfortunately, “Putin is conducting himself irrationally” and is likely to try to save Assad.

In the course of his interview, Zubov makes two other important points:

  • First, he says, the situation is not, despite Moscow’s efforts to portray it this way, like that of 1941, in which the West so needed Moscow’s help that it had to accept Stalin as an ally. The West can in fact deal with ISIS without Russia’s assistance. To think otherwise is “very naïve.”
  • And second, Putin wants to save the Assad regime. He may be prepared to sacrifice Assad the man as long as he can ensure an Assad-like regime allied to Moscow will take its place. That is a move the West and Ukraine need to be very much on the lookout for because Putin could look like he was making a concession that in fact is no concession at all.

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Carl Drysdale

    Poroshanko is a dictator and Assad was elected.

    Q: How may days till Ukraine pays back that 3 Billion loan it owes Russia?

    • BCHistorian

      You are a joke.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      A: If the demented dwarf wants the money so badly he should get it from Yanukovich, Azarov and Co- they probably stole it anyway. Furthermore, Dwarfstan owes Kyiv tens of billions for the death and destruction it caused in the Donbas. And Dwarfstan has to return the Crimea to its rightful owner- again, with compensation for violating the integrity of the Ukraine for no good reason except the dwarf’s megalomania.

    • Mykola Banderachuk

      that money was meant as a bribe to yanou, maybe vlad should hop into his bmw and drive down to yanou’s house and invade that palace. yanu has billions so what is a couple of billion dollars to him.

    • Brent

      and….you’re an idiot…..

  • Randolph Carter

    A: The same number of days until Russia pays reparations to Ukraine for the 8,000 Ukrainian lives lost, the persecution of the Crimean Tatars, the wholesale destruction of Donetsk and Lugansk, the destruction of the entire Donbass infrastructure, and the fact that a young woman in Lugansk had to hide every night to avoid snipers, and later had to live with a Grad rocket launcher on top of her apartment building. When the same young woman doesn’t have to draw water every night before they shut it off, and also has reliable power and internet. When Russian tanks, missile launchers and mortars cease fire into the Donbass and Crimea is returned to Ukraine. When Nadia Savchenko and all other illegally held Ukrainians are freed. When Russian troops and their military hardware return back over the border to where they belong and Putin and his cronies are tried in the Hague for crimes against humanity.

  • laker48

    The West, especially the US, should create powerful deterrence and a possible graveyard for Putin’s ambitions in Ukraine by training and arming the Ukrainian armed forces. Putin understands the only language; sheer and brutal force, what is exactly what he should face if he attacks Ukraine, as the Ukrainian army has proven many times over that it can fight effectively against a much better armed and logistically supported enemy in SE Ukraine. They fight for their homeland and this is the winning factor the West should support and enhance as much as possible.

    The US should supply Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missiles, more long-range firefinder radars AN/TPQ-36 and 37, M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (M270 MLRS), with M26A1/A2: 45 km (28 mi), M30/31: 70 km (43 mi) and GMLRS+: 120 km (75 mi) missiles as well as perhaps with A-10 Tank Killers retired from the USAF just for starters. These are not prohibitively expensive items and relatively easy to operate. Real time GPS satellite feed for the accurate target hitting by M30/31 and GMLRS+ M270 missiles would conclude the list of the most needed items by the Ukrainian Army.

    There’s also an important role to play for Poland that has recently won a majority pro-Ukrainian and anti-RuSSian government during the October general elections in training Ukrainian commissioned junior officers and senior general staff ranks in its NATO-affiliated General Staff training facilities. Poland can also supply Ukraine with manufactured there under an Israeli licence Spike LR anti-tank missiles almost as good as the Javelins and with a 1.5 km longer effective striking range..


    • Dagwood Bumstead

      As long as spineless cucumbers such as Obama, Hollande and Frau Ribbentrop Merkel rule the roost, nothing of the sort will happen. At least Obama will be gone in 14 months.

      • laker48

        Well, lo and behold! Polish President Duda is already in China for a five-day visit targetting, among other things, the details of the “New Silk Road” bypassing RuSSia from the south and making Poland the single distribution hub for central and eastern Europe, the European part of the Fascist RuSSian Federation included. President Duda is coming with an official visit to Kyiv on the 15th of December this year. This speaks volumes.

        • Czech Mate

          I don’t like the fact whole free world is licking boots of Chinese commies these days but if it helps to destroy and isolate fascist RuSSia quicker, than I ‘m game for a round or two…

          But after that? Fuk em like the Ruskies.

          • laker48

            I’ve lived side-by-side with the Chinese for over a quarter century and I don’t see a problem with China and the Chinese, as China is a patient, trade-oriented nation that suffered a lot throughout its long and often glorious history. They arm themselves in order to create credible deterrence, as they have been invaded, looted and occupied by other nations many times in their history. I’m personally not afraid of China and the Chinese, but RuSSia always makes me feel uneasy.

          • Czech Mate

            I was talking about their leadership and I’m personally afraid of them just like any totalitarian state…

          • laker48

            Once they start building consumer society, their regime will mellow out. They’re not a threat to their neighbours except for RuSSia.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          The demented dwarf is insane enough to invade and annex the Stans just to prevent this from happening. Don’t forget that he has already openly threatened Lukashenko and Nazarbaev with invasions “to protect the Russian minorities in Belarus and Kazakhstan”.

  • Czech Mate

    Putin must be put down like a rabid rat he is. And I sincerely hope it will be a Ukrainian patriot that will bring him to justice in the only court he belongs- hell.

  • George Antrobus

    If Putin does indeed “go it alone” in Syria, as now seems increasingly likely, it may indeed be hard for Ukraine.

    However, the military forces of the Russian Federation are not as strong as they appear on paper. If Russia chooses to engage a ground war in Syria, this is bound to be bloody, costly, and to drag out for a long time.

    For Russia to attempt a major offensive in Donbass at the same time as war in Syria would (I believe) stress the Russian army very hard. Russia’s well-trained professional (really, mercenary) army is very small.

    Russia’s conscript forces have very limited capability, and Russian national law forbids sending them outside Russia’s borders.

    If Putin puts his military in the position of sending large numbers of conscripts into hellish cauldrons abroad, he will be taking a serious risk to his public support.