Alliance of Convenience

It was not long ago when political pundits predicted a ‘new beginning’ of relationship between the US and Russia in the wake of efforts towards rapprochement. The predictions were based on interaction between the leaders of the two countries with reference to New Start Treaty. US President Barack Obama was believed to have been pursuing a policy of conciliation towards Russia.

Contrary to the expectations, the two countries, lately, reached a deadlock on all major issues, and now are at odds once again, mainly on Syrian issue. The Middle East crisis seemingly has stoked up the decades-old animosity between US and Russia.

On its part, Russia had been steadily salvaging its strength while simultaneously striving to regain its lost status and prestige in world politics. It’s interesting to note that for more than a decade now, there is only one man, Vladimir Putin, as the face of Russia. He is enjoying his third term as the President of Russian Federation. As president and prime minister, he has a clear policy toward the US. He has explicitly rejected the US monopolistic designs and has challenged US presence in Central Asia, East Europe and the Middle East.

The Syrian crisis has once again brought US and Russia at odds. Although the fears of an all-out attack on Syria have been averted, the dust is yet to be settled. It is a well-known fact that Russia has been ardently supporting Assad regime mainly for two major reasons. First, Russia is one of the biggest suppliers of arms to Syria and the country also has contracts with Russian defence industry. Second, Russia aims to counter US strategic designs in the Middle East and wants to enjoy greater naval presence in the Mediterranean.

Nonetheless, Russia is not the only country to defy the US policies toward Syria. China is also opposed to US warmongering especially in the Middle East. Though China has some economic interests in Syria, the country is not explicit about its long-term strategy in the region. The third state defying the US designs and policies is Iran which has not only posed the greatest challenge to the US but also a confrontational front is already open between the US and Iran in the Middle East. On Syrian issue, Iran has ideological, strategic and political reasons to favour Syrian government.

As the alliance between Russia and China has gradually evolved on the basis of mutual interests and common goals, mainly against the US, it is destined to change the course of international politics. Both the countries are partners in two major groupings: the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

President Putin, while assuming the office of the President last year had vowed to ‘launch a 21st century Russian resurgence’ and this is what has been a long-envisaged goal of his agenda.

 If Russia wants to regain its influence on international arena, China is tacitly yet steadily growing economic clout. The country is equally mindful of its competitors and hence it is increasing its strategic outreach as well through directly accessing major maritime channels.

The rivalry between the US and Soviet Union never faded away. President Putin, while assuming the office of the President last year had vowed to ‘launch a 21st century Russian resurgence’ and this is what has been a long-envisaged goal of his agenda. However, apparently, he does not believe in countering through military actions the US agenda of waging wars to bringing peace and instituting democracy in foreign countries. While assessing the cost of war and benefit of a diplomatic settlement over the Syrian issue, recently, he proposed to the Syrian leadership to enter into a deal seizing its chemical weapons in order to ward off a US strike. The proposal was welcomed by the US and succeeded in averting a war in the region.

In an interesting move, President Putin also addressed the people of the US in writing meticulously explaining the possible repercussions of a military strike on Syria. He stated, “It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States.’ He doubted that it is in America’s long-term interest. Moreover, he said that ‘millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan: ‘You’re either with us or against us’.

Although Russia has succeeded on diplomatic front, the Syria issue still poses a challenge and existential threat to many countries, including Russia and Iran. Russia would continue making efforts to ward off a war on Syria despite having disagreement with the US. For the US, more testing time is approaching with its forces withdrawing from Afghanistan in few months and resultant change in course of politics and shifting power centres in many ways where Russia and China seem to be gaining an edge over the US strategically, politically and economically.

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