So there’s been a lot of stuff happening over the past few weeks regarding ISIS, Russia, and the West, and I thought it might be helpful for myself if I wrote up a quick summary of it all, because honestly it’s fairly hard to keep track of. Realizing this, I figured you all might be interested in the summary too, along with my comments as a Political Science major with plans to one day work at the United Nations. Hopefully we can hash all this out together, because I won’t lie, this is an extremely complicated with issue with lots of gray areas (#PLAIssues).
First things first, it’s important to know where everyone stands. The U.S., as you’ve probably heard, is against ISIS and the Assad regime, and is therefore supporting anyone attacking those groups. This includes the Syrian and Yemini rebels, which have been fighting against both. In fact, most of the major players we’ll be talking about are against ISIS and Assad. The only exception is Russia, who is allied with Syria, and has been working to help end the civil war. This stance I found has been confusing for a lot of people, because honestly, who wants an ally whose country is falling apart and who every other country hates? Well, it depends on what you value in your allies. Being allied with Syria, for one thing, gives Russia a foothold in the Middle East, right next to America’s major ally/foothold, Israel. Being Assad’s ally in the regime’s hour of need also makes Syria rather beholden to Russia. If you only have one ally, and they’re as powerful as Russia, you basically have to do what they say, because you can’t risk losing their help or having them turn against you. So if President Putin so desired, he could basically make Assad his puppet, and Assad really couldn’t do anything about it. The very idea is both brilliant and terrible.
Anyway, because of Russia’s support of Assad, Putin sent in troops a month or so ago to “attack ISIS,” or so they said. What American intelligence told us was that they were really focusing on the groups that threatened Assad, like our friends the rebels. After all, ISIS is attacking everyone that doesn’t agree with it–including these rebels–while the rebels are directly moving against Assad. So it was actually in the regime and its allies’ interests to leave ISIS be until the rebel threat is taken care of, since ISIS would actually be helping them fight off the direct threat. The U.S. wasn’t so happy about this, and promptly sent a team of its own soldiers into Syria to combat ISIS, as well as bolster the rebel force. For a few tense days it looked like Russia and America were heading towards another quasi war.
Then ISIS shot down a Russian passenger plane, killing close to 300 people in one day. This is when Russia’s priorities appear to change, as Putin announced Russia would now aggressively target ISIS. Apparently they meant it this time, because they basically sent a whole air-armada over to the region to drop small bombs. It was an antiquated war tactic, but hey, whatever works. It should be noted that throughout this whole Russian ordeal, the West barely batted an eye.
…Then Paris was attacked and everyone flipped out. The entire Western front was angry, and now France was in the game, sending air strikes over to ISIS strongholds. Recently David Cameron has been plugging for military intervention from Britain against ISIS, and now with their ally France under attack, you can bet on him getting it. In fact, a lot of nations now seem ready to take up the cause, since obviously ISIS isn’t discriminating by country. Who could be next?
Can I just pause and ask why ISIS thought this would be a good idea? If you antagonize every major military in the world, stirring up the West and the East, you know you’re going to get messed up, right? I mean it seems like common sense.
Anyway, while obviously irritated that the West responded way more to the attack on France then the attack on their plane, Russia realized they had a common enemy, and are now teamed up with France. America is also in support of this union, although diplomats are reasonably nervous about what will happen after ISIS is taken care of (because let’s face it, ISIS is toast). President Obama has noted that Americans will not allow the dictator Assad to stay in power even after ISIS is out of the picture, and Russia has remained (suspiciously?) mute on the subject.
Finally, the most recent development: Turkey shooting down one of Russia’s military jets. It should be noted that these two countries have been having problems with each other recently. Turkey, for one thing, absolutely hates Assad–he’s a terrible neighbor, and all of Syria’s escaped refugees have now settled in Turkey to take cover. Ending the Syrian civil war and ousting Assad is very high on Turkey’s list of priorities, but Russia for a while seemed to be helping Assad. Russia has also been flying several military aircrafts over Turkish airspace, aggravating them further. So it doesn’t come as a complete surprise that this strike happened, although the Turk’s timing is quite awful honestly and they used weapons America had given them, which is irritating to the U.S. because now we’ve been roped into what was really a bad decision.
Russia was obviously upset, and has placed sanctions on trade with Turkey that will ultimately cost the country about $3 billion dollars. Putin described the attack as “a stab in the back,” committed by “accomplices of terrorists,” and implied that America could have stopped the attack through better communication (Note that Turkey isn’t in support of terrorists, but what do you expect everyone to think when you attack a country who has publicly made it their mission to combat said terrorists?). Interestingly though, Russia has now agreed to follow along with Western attack plans, which will be lead by the United States. This is great!… Right? Well for now, we know that ISIS is going down, and that is good. But whether this cooperation will lead to a new bond between Russia and the West or ultimately more conflict, remains to be seen.
Adam, Karla and Roth, Andrew. “Moscow is ready to coordinate with the West over strikes on Syria, Putin says.” Stars and Stripes. Stars and Stripes, 26 Nov. 2015. Web. 30 Nov., 2015.
Graham, Thomas E. “Russia’s Syria Surprise (And What America Should do About it).” The National Interest. Center for the National Interest, 15 Sept., 2015. Web. 30 Nov., 2015.