The restored Moscow Cathedral Mosque is to be inaugurated on Sept 23, with the Muslim leaders, Turkish President Recep Erdogan, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expected to attend the ceremony and also to meet with their Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Obviously, the key topics of their meetings will be the situation in the Middle East and Central Asia, Russia’s growing military presence in Syria and its possible consequences. It is already known that recently Russian soldiers guarding a strategic site near Latakia had a clash with a group of ISIL saboteurs. Even more, the key goal of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu’s blitz visit to Moscow was to prevent any misunderstanding between Israeli and Russian troops. This means that Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict has become a fact for the other parties involved.
As EADaily reported earlier, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has met with his US counterpart Ash Carter. According to Pentagon, the meeting has shown that the US and Russia have lots of common grounds on Syria. In this light, the US is ready to resume its military contacts with Russia. Some sources reported a secret visit of a group of US special service officials to Moscow. In brief, this all looks like another restart in the US-Russian relations. But this is a surface impression.
The reality is that it will be very hard for the sides to realize their statements even if they wish to – for the parties involved in the Syrian conflict have too different policies in the region. Obviously, Russia’s presence in Syria aims at strengthening Bashar al-Assad’s regime – something the United States will hardly accept. On the other hand, the strengthening of the so-called Free Syrian Army will not be acceptable to either Assad or Moscow. This collision is good for ISIL, who will try to use it for its purposes.
It is a generally known fact that Washington’s short-sighted and irresponsible “Arab spring” policy has not only caused instability over a vast territory from Tunisia to Afghanistan but has also produced a monster like ISIL. And even though the Americans refuse to recognize their mistake in public, they perfectly realize how far their “democracy export” policy was from reality. And now their wish to destroy ISIL is so strong that they are ready to cooperate even with Russia. But the US was not the only creator of ISIL. The other one was Turkey, who is now using the anti-ISIL campaign as a cover to neutralize Syrian Kurds, one of the few forces that can beat the Caliphate gangs. In words, Erdogan’s enemy is ISIL but, in reality, it is Bashar al-Assad.
One can hardly expect him to change his views after his visit to Moscow. Nor does he (or his coalition allies) seem to be going to launch a land campaign against ISIL (the only way to defeat the fighters). So, our conclusion is that by talking about common grounds and resumed military contacts, the Americans just wish to draw the Russians into a “new Afghanistan.” And this would be the worst possible scenario.
On the other hand, during the Moscow meetings Putin may familiarize his Turkish and Kazakh colleagues with Russia’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Turkey is a member (though not a co-chair) of the OSCE Minsk Group and Kazakhstan has a big role in the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union (a unit where Russia would very much like to see Azerbaijan). Besides, both Turkey and Kazakhstan are very close to Azerbaijan, so, they can help to soften the Azerbaijanis’ tough position on Nagorno-Karabakh. Here we can well expect some progress.
Guy Borisov, EADaily political analyst