Vladimir Poghosyan, security expert, former assistant of the chief advisor of the Armenian president, has commented to EADaily on the prospects of the war in Syria.
Mr. Poghosyan, what, in your opinion, will be the response of the United States and its allies to Russia’s actions in Syria?
Today, Russia and the United States are not just political opponents but two countries that are in a military confrontation with one another. Russia has wrecked the United States’ plans in the Middle East. So, the Americans will try to make things even worse. I think very soon ISIL will get air defense systems. If they do, that will mean a war against us.
The Americans will do their best to cause losses among our air space forces. NATO may try to provoke us. U.S. planes may start coming very close to our planes so as to prevent us from hitting the targets. There are lots of scenarios here.
We should know that the so-called media leaks saying that we should expect big losses or that Russia may be attacked by terrorists or that the British Defense Ministry has instructed its pilots to shoot down our planes if they come too close to them or that we should expect catastrophic consequences are not just media leaks but warnings.
They in the West are now considering countermeasures. Well, this is a dangerous path. Russia is well aware of their plots, so, should they do something that will cause losses in Syria or Russia, they in the Kremlin will not look for those guilty and will not appeal to international courts but will counteract and their counteraction will be much tougher. They in the West will catch it in the neck. Life is much more diverse than they imagine.
Saudi Arabia has promised to give more support to the “moderate Syrian opposition” – if terrorists can be “moderate.” And it is clear who asked the Saudis to do it. The key players in the region are the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey and Israel. All of them are acting in close coordination, but the effective steps of Russia, Syria, Iran and Iraq are forcing them to be even better coordinated.
Could you specify what Israel and Turkey are doing?
I don’t understand why we should negotiate with Turkey if we know that injured ISIL fighters are being treated there and that before joining ISIL, newcomers are being temporarily accommodated in Istanbul. I don’t think that the Turkish special services are not aware of this. ISIL is acting openly and is taking responsibility for all of its terrorist acts, while the Turks are trying to blame ISIL for terrorist acts happening in their country even though the main victims of those acts are Kurds. The Turks are not allies for us. On the contrary, the Americans will try to set Turkey against us.
Recently, I heard a report on Russian TV saying that most of ISIL field commanders were recruited by Israel. It is strange that nobody has reacted to it. Don’t you think that it is strange that ISIL is not attacking Israel? Today, Israel is turning into our enemy – and not only in the Middle East but also in the South Caucasus.
Russia must refrain from any negotiations with the Syrian opposition as we don’t negotiate with terrorists. If they actually want to help their country, they must join the Syrian Defense Ministry. Otherwise, they must be destroyed.
Much here depends on our efficiency in Syria. This sword cuts both ways. Our success may force the Americans and their allies to start either negotiations or a big war – and not only in Syria. For example, Obama may tell Poroshenko to ask him for military assistance. But I hope that they in Kiev will refrain from such an adventure.
Today, Russia must actively inform the world community of what is actually going on and must try to tear the U.S. colonies in Europe away from Washington. I suggest that we call “colonies” all the European countries hosting U.S. military bases since WWII.
Should we start a land operation in Syria?
We should do what we think is right. I don’t think we need this for the moment, but very soon such a campaign will be launched by Iran.
Whatever happens, we will no longer be able to step back. If we do it, we will lose our status of a great power. Russia is a country with a unique philosophy. Its history proves that unlike many other countries, our internal strength depends on our external power. And what may be just humiliation for another country may turn into a national disaster for us. So, if need be, we will launch a land campaign. But not now. What we should do now is to enlarge our forces in the region.
What should we do inside the country now that we have joined a war?
You are quite right, we have joined a war. Russia is protecting interests of the whole world and has joined a war against ISIL and many others. First of all, we should enhance our internal security, we should try to convince people not to be afraid but we should also try to ensure their safety. I don’t see any such work being done yet. ISIL is not the only force that may organize a terrorist act in Russia. It has lots of “friends.” They are not just boys from the street, they are serious enemies, so, we must also be serious. We must enhance our security as ISIL will certainly try to move the war into our territory.
We should refrain from anti-American hysteria. Instead, we should instruct people how to identify a terrorist in the crowd and how to act in case of emergency.
And what should the members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization do in this situation? We have admitted that Russia has joined a war. So, what about them?
They are obliged to support us. But they are not doing anything. They are not even saying anything of it.
Could you dwell on each of the CSTO members?
First of all, I would like to say once again that today Russia is protecting the interests of the whole civilized world. Our CSTO allies are mistaken if they think that we must do this alone.
There are lots of Kyrgyz, Kazakhs and Tajiks among ISIL fighters. They may say that ISIL also has Russian fighters. Yes, it has, but our secret and anti-terror services are much stronger than similar structures in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan or Tajikistan. So, we are able to cope with terrorism unlike those countries.
Let’s take Kyrgyzstan for example. Its neighbor is Uzbekistan, where the opposition, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, has sworn allegiance to ISIL. We also know that the Imam Bukhari Jamaat is not the only Uzbek jihadist group fighting in Syria. According to different sources, some 4,000 Uzbeks are fighting for ISIL. If you remember the events in Osh and Uzgen, you can imagine what the Kyrgyz may face. So, perhaps, they should help Russia, shouldn’t they? They will not be able to just hide out. Russia will be their only hope should ISIL come to Central Asia! So, by helping the Russians today, they will have hope for help in future.
The same is true for Tajikistan – one of the most explosive regions in Central Asia. That country’s border with Afghanistan is guarded very poorly. Some of its towns are already controlled by fighters. And it is also part of the Fergana Valley, the key source of recruiters for ISIL. The Tajiks also have territorial problems with Uzbekistan. So, here too we have very high risks. But here too we see no readiness to support Russia.
As you may know, Kazakhstan is also on the map of ISIL’s Caliphate, and some of its citizens are also fighting for terrorists. Should ISIL come to Central Asia, it will fall down. The armies of Syria and Iraq are much stronger than all the Central Asian armies taken together, and even they are unable to effectively resist ISIL. So, imagine what will happen if ISIL comes to Central Asia. The Central Asians must not just sit and wait until Russia does everything in their stead. I don’t see any factors that are preventing Kazakhstan from expressing support for Russia in Syria, do you?
Armenia is a special case. Armenian-Russian relations date back from 1,060 AD. And since then Armenians and Russians have jointly fought common enemies. No other nations in the world have such a long history of combat and spiritual brotherhood. Some nations did not even exist when we were already fighting together.
Unfortunately, few people in Russia are talking about this today. When in 2008 Russia was fighting Georgia, Armenia was silent. That was easy to understand – Georgia is the only road connecting Armenia with the rest of the world. But what’s the problem now!? Why can’t they in Armenia express support for Russia now? Perhaps, they are afraid of the West’s reaction... But what did Europe do to prevent the killing of a sleeping Armenian officer in Hungary or to stop the extradition of his Azerbaijani killer to his home country. What has the West done for Armenia? Has it done anything to stop the Azerbaijani attacks? When recently Azerbaijani forces killed civilians in Armenia, everybody were indignant, Why didn’t Russia, as a CSTO member, do anything to stand up for Armenia? So, perhaps it is time for the Armenians to serve an example of how a military partner should act. They may offer at least a couple of planes – after all, there are thousands of Azerbaijanis fighting for ISIL, and they in Armenia need experience of how to resist ISIL fighters.
This year Armenia commemorated the 100th year of the Armenian Genocide. Syria was among the first to give shelter to those who survived the genocide. So, perhaps, it is time for the Armenians to thank the Syrians for what they did 100 years ago? They can’t just stay aloof!
I don’t have any comments on Belarus. They have their own agenda.
But all those countries have very small armies. What will their support give Russia?
Their support is vital not so much for Russia as for their own selves. It is time to show that the Collective Security Treaty Organization is actually a military bloc and that it can effectively fight terrorism. This will be a signal for the West and for the terrorists and quite a strong blow for them.
What Russia needs today is moral support. Today, the Russians are solving their problems. So, why should they do this alone? Russia will not lump it. The ball is just starting to move, and who knows where ISIL will emerge next time. So, if they help Russia today, Russia will help them tomorrow. Our allies must prove that they are real allies and are not just in one bloc with us. They must help us instead of sending their peacekeepers to help our enemy, NATO, in Kosovo, Iraq or Afghanistan.