U.S., Russia keep from escalating conflict after Syrian strike

U.S., Russia keep from escalating conflict after Syrian strike


>>Sreenivasan: THE KREMLIN IMMEDIATELY CONDEMNED THE TRILATERAL ATTACK ON SYRIA LAST NIGHT. A STATEMENT FROM RUSSIAN PRESIDENT PUTIN CALLED THE MISSILE STRIKES “AN ACT OF AGGRESSION AGAINST A SOVEREIGN STATE” THAT “IS HAVING A DEVASTATING IMPACT ON THE WHOLE SYSTEM OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS.” MR. PUTIN ALSO SAID THE ATTACK WOULD EXACERBATE THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN SYRIA. JOINING ME NOW TO SORT OUT WHAT THE RUSSIAN RHETORIC MEANS AND WHAT MAY COME NEXT IS KIMBERLY MARTEN, A PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT BARNARD COLLEGE AND THE DIRECTOR OF THE PROGRAM ON U.S.-RUSSIA RELATIONS AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY’S HARRIMAN INSTITUTE. SO, HOW ARE WE TO SQUARE THE STATEMENTS THAT WE HAD FROM THE RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN THE U.S. LAST NIGHT, POSTED ON THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE, WITH WHAT PRESIDENT PUTIN IS CALLING FOR, WITH THE ACTUAL MILITARY ACTIONS THAT HAVEN’T HAPPENED?>>I THINK WHEN WE LOOK AT WHAT’S ACTUALLY BEEN HAPPENING ON THE GROUND, IT’S CAUSE TO HAVE A LOT OF CONFIDENCE THAT BOTH SIDES ARE ACTUALLY TRYING TO TAMP DOWN THE SITUATION AND MAKE SURE THAT IT DOESN’T ESCALATE BEYOND THE CURRENT SITUATION. SO, WE KNOW THAT THE U.S. HAD, AND THE BRITISH AND THE FRENCH HAD SOME CONTACT WITH THE RUSSIANS IN ADVANCE USING THE SYRIA DECONFLICTION LINE TO MAYBE REASSURE THE RUSSIANS THAT NO RUSSIAN INSTALLATIONS IN SYRIA WOULD BE HIT. WE KNOW FROM THE RUSSIAN SIDE THAT THEY DID NOT ACTIVATE THEIR OWN MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEMS. AND SO IT JUST IS AN INDICATION THAT THE DECONFLATION LINE IS WORKING, THAT AT LEAST THE MILITARIES ON BOTH SIDES WANT TO KEEP THE CRISIS LIMITED EVEN THOUGH THE RHETORIC COMING FROM POLITICIANS IN RUSSIA HAS BEEN A LOT STRONGER.>>Sreenivasan: SO, SOME OF THAT RHETORIC COULD BE SAVING FACE?>>IT COULD BE SAVING FACE. ALTHOUGH, IT DOESN’T SEEM VERY CONVINCING TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY, BECAUSE NATO CAME OUT UNANIMOUSLY IN FAVOR OF THE AIR STRIKES AND AGAINST WHAT ASSAD HAD BEEN DOING WITH THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS. IT SEEMS LIKE THE UNITED NATIONS IS NOT AGREEING WITH RUSSIA’S PERSPECTIVE. SO, I THINK PROBABLY THE RHETORIC IS MORE LIKELY FOR A DOMESTIC AUDIENCE IN RUSSIA TO JUSTIFY THE RUSSIAN CONTINUING SUPPORT OF THE SYRIAN REGIME, WHICH, YOU KNOW, MIGHT ACTUALLY BE KIND OF EMBARRASSING FOR RUSSIA THAT THEY FIND THEMSELVES HAVING TO SUPPORT SOMEBODY WHO USES CHEMICAL WEAPONS.>>Sreenivasan: BUT THIS HASN’T SLOWED RUSSIA’S SUPPORT IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, AS THERE’S BEEN EVIDENCE THAT THERE HAVE BEEN CHEMICAL ATTACKS IN SYRIA.>>YES, AND NO ONE REALLY KNOWS HOW TO EXPLAIN THE CONTINUING RUSSIAN SUPPORT FOR ASSAD. MAYBE IT’S JUST THAT PUTIN WANTS STABILITY IN THE REGION. MAYBE IT’S THAT HE SEES IT AS A WAY OF DEMONSTRATING RUSSIAN STRENGTH AND THE ABILITY OF RUSSIA TO HAVE AN IMPACT ON MIDDLE EAST POLITICS. MAYBE IT’S THAT HE HAS A PARANOIA OF REGIME CHANGE, AND THAT EXTENDS TO SYRIA, AS WELL AS TO RUSSIA AND TO UKRAINE. IT’S ALSO POSSIBLE THAT HE JUST SEES THE ASSAD FAMILY AS BEING SOMEBODY WHO HAS BEEN IN THE RUSSIAN LEADERSHIP’S PATRON CLIENT NETWORK FOR MANY DECADES, AND, THEREFORE, FEELS THAT BY SUPPORTING ASSAD, HE’S SENDING A MESSAGE TO HIS SUPPORTER AT HOME ABOUT HOW STRONG HE IS AND HOW HE CAN SUPPORT PEOPLE WHO ARE IN HIS PATRON CLIENT NETWORK.>>Sreenivasan: THE IRANIAN LEADERSHIP HAS CALLED THIS A MILITARY CRIME, DEPENDS ON WHAT NATO SAYS, WHAT THE U.N. SAYS. I MEAN, ARE THERE ANY REPERCUSSIONS THAT RUSSIA ACTUALLY FACES FROM CONTINUED SUPPORT OF SYRIA RIGHT NOW?>>WELL, I DON’T THINK THAT THERE’S GOING TO BE ANY MILITARY ACTION TAKEN AGAINST RUSSIA. I THINK THAT PART OF THE REASON THAT THE SANCTIONS REGIME HAS STAYED IN PLACE AGAINST RUSSIA FOR AS LONG AS IT HAS, HAS BEEN REAL UNHAPPINESS IN THE WESTERN COMMUNITY ABOUT WHAT RUSSIA IS DOING IN THE SYRIA. EVEN THOUGH THAT’S NOT EXPLICITLY MENTIONED AS BEING PART OF THE SANCTIONS REGIME, I THINK IT’S PROBABLY A PART OF IT. BUT, YOU KNOW, THERE’S A LIMIT TO THE REPERCUSSIONS THAT RUSSIA COULD FACE BECAUSE THERE’S JUST NOT THAT MUCH THAT THE WESTERN COMMUNITY CAN DO TO HARM RUSSIA WITHOUT GETTING INVOLVED IN DIRECT MILITARY CONFLICT, AND I DON’T THINK ANYBODY WANTS THAT.>>Sreenivasan: WHAT ABOUT THE STABILITY– YOU MENTIONED THAT– IN THE REGION? WHAT ARE RUSSIA’S CORE INTERESTS? IS IT THEIR ACCESS TO MILITARY BASES? IS IT KIND OF A LAUNCHING POINT? IS IT A STRATEGIC VALUE TO HAVE THE PRESENCE THAT THEY HAVE IN SYRIA?>>WELL, IT HAS SOME STRATEGIC VALUE, BUT I THINK WE HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT RUSSIA HASN’T DEMONSTRATED THAT CURRENTLY ITS MILITARY HAS THE PROJECTION CAPABILITY TO ACTUALLY USE THOSE BASES FOR MUCH THAT’S SIGNIFICANT. SO, WE’VE SEEN THAT THE RUSSIAN MILITARY HAS PERFORMED QUITE WELL IN THE TAKEOVER OF CRIMEA, IN SOME OF THE THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED IN EASTERN UKRAINE WHERE THE RUSSIAN MILITARY HAS BEEN INVOLVED. BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT RUSSIA IS ON THE VERGE OF BECOMING A SUPERPOWER WHO’S GOING TO ENGAGE IN POWER PROJECTION OUT INTO THE OCEANS. I JUST DON’T FORESEE THAT HAPPENING ANY TIME SOON.>>Sreenivasan: THIS IS ALSO NOT HAPPENING IN A VACUUM. IT’S HAPPENING IN THE CONTEXT OF A RECENT ELECTION THAT THE U.S. INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE SAYS THAT THE RUSSIANS DID MEDDLE IN. IT HAPPENS IN THE CONTEXT OF POISONINGS IN THE U.K. OF FORMER SPIES. THIS IS KIND OF A LARGER PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR. DOES THAT ALL FACTOR INTO HOW THE WORLD FEELS ABOUT RUSSIA?>>OH, I’M SURE IT DOES. BUT ONE THING TO KEEP IN MIND, ESPECIALLY ABOUT THE POISONING CASE THAT HAPPENED IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, IS THAT THERE IS SOME EVIDENCE THAT THAT PARTICULAR KIND OF NERVE AGENT, NOVICHOK, WAS USED IN THE MID-1990s IN AN ORGANIZED CRIME HIT AGAINST A RUSSIAN BANKER. AND WE DON’T KNOW THAT FOR SURE, BUT THERE’S SOME EVIDENCE, THERE’S A RECENT INVESTIGATION THAT’S CONTINUING ON THAT POINT. WE KNOW THAT THE ITEM WAS MANUFACTURED IN RUSSIA. THAT DOESN’T MEAN NECESSARILY THAT IT WAS PUTIN AS AN INDIVIDUAL WHO ORDERED IT. AND BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT THERE ARE ORGANIZED CRIME CONNECTIONS WITH RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES, IT COULD ACTUALLY BE SOMETHING THAT WAS DONE BY A STATE AGENT BUT NOT NECESSARILY WITH A STATE GOAL IN MIND OF PUNISHING A SPY. IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN FOR ORGANIZED CRIME REASONS, IN ADDITION.>>Sreenivasan: ALL RIGHT, KIMBERLY MARTEN, THANKS SO MUCH.>>THANK YOU, HARI.

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