Presentation at the European Party of Cyprus Conference October 5, 2013 “The East Mediterranean Today: Security, Political and Economic Dynamics” by Amb. Dmitry Ryurikov, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS).
The world today is facing a turning point. The key word in world diplomacy is “Syria”. The outcome of the evolving conflict will affect all countries and the World Order in general. For obvious reasons, it will have a direct bearing on the region of East Mediterranean - positive or negative.
Not that the controversies of the Syrian situation may bring in the World War III, as some alarmists assert, or Russian and American navies can create something like Caribbean crisis in Mediterranean. Making historical parallels is useful, but should be done with a sense of realism. The matter is that the world of 2013, compared even to recent years, undergoes a dramatic change of which many are probably not aware : unlike so many cases of the past, the unanimous adoption of the Resolution 2118 on Syrian chemical weapons by the UN Security Council shows that, despite all setbacks, the international law is still valid and, hopefully, has chances to serve as a tool in crucial disputes between states, especially major world actors. Compliance with international law was the main reasoning in Mr. V.Putin’s direct and mediatic dialogues with his American counterpart and the American public. It worked. This new reality was brought about not only by V.Putin-B.Obama and S.Lavrov-J.Kerry efforts, but largely by the developments on the ground in Syria as well as by the realities of the day : the increasing spread of free undistorted information by independent media and Internet, the opposition to the war against Syria by large sections of public opinion and legislative bodies in the US and Europe. The war weariness in the US and Europe played its part - the people are tired of unending military involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
Giving due to the leaders and summit diplomacy in the particular case, it would be wrong, however, to project too much optimism from the adoption of the Resolution 2118. The political battle for peace in Syria is going to be hard. The hope that it will lead to the implementation of the accord and broader solution of the Syrian issue as a whole is yet to materialize. The Russian-American Geneva 2012 document on peace process in Syria remains on paper – until now the supporters and providers of Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusrat and similar groups of fighters were not willing to make even initial steps to end the civil war. The implementation of the Resolution 2118 is also expected to be hard and bumpy. In a situation of civil war the use of gas by opposition or technical problems of dismantling the arsenals may easily overthrow peace efforts. It may also turn out that the Resolution 2118 is conceived by the militant circles in the US and elsewhere not as an obligation but as a means to delay the bombing in order to be better prepared for a big war. President B.Obama does not look like a bellicose leader, his restraint helped to avoid the realization of plans of US hawks - to bomb Iran, etc.. But passions and pressures of different lobbies on Syria in political Washington are such that he, probably, was urged to address the UN General Assembly with a speech that, on the background and in the context of the Resolution 2118 doesn’t look reassuring - on Syria as well as other issues. There must be no illusion - stakes in the Syrian drama remain high, the political groups that tried to impose a bombing solution to the conflict remain in place and will almost certainly continue their scheming. If that happens, fragile hopes arising from “chemical weapons” Resolution may evaporate and the mood to strike Syria, remove B.Assad and subject the country to the Libyan scenario will make a quick comeback – with all the consequences. What consequences?
Prior to the Resolution 2118, Russian experts tried to envisage possible effects of the scenario in which the Al-Qaeda et altri supported by the US, Turkey and the Gulf countries win in Syria. The results of the expert’s work were grim. It suggested that the sectarian hatred unleashed by the so- called jihadist or islamist fighters will lead to unconstrained carnage and bloodshed not only in Syria – it will spread widely to the other countries of the region and further. Increasing the intensity of the conflict, the imported sunni-salafi belligerency against the alavites, shiites and christians will touch Lebanon and is already tangible in Iraq, where the anti-government strife in the first 6 months of 2013 claimed the lives of nearly 3 thousand civilians. By parameters, the security situation in Iraq doesn’t look like terrorism, in effect it’s rather an undeclared war that goes on for almost 2 years and has a definite political goal - to depose Al-Maliki government, establish in Iraq a sunni state and, as a maximum, create a “center for global jihad”. Geostrategically, Iraq is a convenient place for that. If the fighters succeed in Iraq, they’ll turn to Iran. Right now we see efforts to destroy hopes emerging after the historical telephone talk between the American and Iranian presidents. An ambiguous situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the US and allied troops in 2014 adds up heavily to the dark picture - after 13 years of stay, the outgoing US-led coalition is not ready to guarantee either security or stability in the country which, if things go wrong, may become a strong pillar for the “Jihad International’. Had this happened, the jihadists will not stop and will try more luck increasing their subversions in Central Asia, Caucasus and muslim-populated regions of Central Russia. The starting point of all this is Syria, where, as general Aviv Cohavy, head of the Israeli military intelligence, said, “ thousands of radical mujahedeen from the region and the world gather and gain foothold not only to overthrow Bashar Assad but also to promote the idea of a religious muslim state”.
It is amazing that the mujahedeen get all kinds of support for this job from the West and some regional Mediterranean allies. As Mr. R.Dumas, the former French foreign minister recently acknowledged, already in 2009 his British colleagues were engaged in a project to overthrow B.Assad and his government. It’s horrifying to think what was really in the minds of the Western and regional decisionmakers who, on one hand, preached Syrian opposition and human rights and on the other provided the groups from Al-Kaeda list with arms, operational guidance, communications, logistics and money. It’s hard to believe that all this was either naivete or professional inadequacy.
Russia has a dramatic field experience of struggle against terrorism and quasi-religious jihadist strife in Chechnia. We know by practice what extremism, terrorism and revolutions really mean. We’ve also studied the Gene Sharp’s and other political technology textbooks on “orange revolutions” as a prelude to the “hard power” confrontation, and observed the applied “revolutionary technologies” in parts of the world. Russia judges the Syrian case not only by its local, bilateral or regional dimensions - its broader implications for the world security and existing world order in general are even more important. The international law, justice and international cooperation failing in Syria, the failure will reverberate in the world creating new areas of atrocities, destruction and suffering. In such condition the international law will be paralyzed, the notions of sovereignty, state independence, non-intervention in the affairs of sovereign states and others will disappear - first de-facto, then de-jure. The law of force may ultimately prevail over the force of law. If this is allowed to happen, the events could lead to a New World Order with one world government, one world currency and many chilling details in domestic sphere, the dynamics of which are already visible now. The New World Order will establish comprehensive new rules and standards of life and behavior legitimizing, inter alia, the ways which, in terms of today’s principles and norms, are totally unacceptable for the Christian and other world religions and civilizations. The panorama of the NWO plans may be called an “anticivilization” because it implies a fundamental departure from the foundations and basic values of the world. That’s why Russia took such a stand on Syrian issue and pursues it in regional and world affairs.
All this relates to Cyprus, a state in the East Mediterranean. The success of peace efforts in Syria will have a positive effect on the situation in the area. Diminished regional tensions may provide Cyprus with better atmosphere to discuss with Turkey the issues of seabed drilling, the problems of the state law of the country and relevant economic and material questions. The investments to Cyprus will get a better perspective. The Syrian peace means advantages for Cyprus.
A large-scale war in Syria and beyond will turn the benefits into disadvantages. There’s an opinion that the jihadis’ triumph may aggravate the issues with the Turkish-populated part of the country. Turkey is heavily involved in the support of the anti-government forces in Syria. The victory of the US, Al-Qaeda et altri will mean rewards for Ankara and embolden it to be more assertive in its’ security and foreign policy agenda which sets the adjustment with Cyprus as an important point. Besides this, the jihadist victory in Syria may lead to an uncontrollable – or controllable - development, under which the newly unemployed mercenaries could be trying to settle down for a time at other regional Muslim outlets, and some of them may find the Turkish-populated part of Cyprus quite attractive. The greed and predilection of the professional jihadis to trouble and use of force make them very dangerous. The option needs no comment.
Today’s world is less safe and much more complicated than a quarter a century ago. However, the chances to find a dignified solution to burning issues remain. The Russian-American joint efforts in Syria demonstrate that realism, good will and courage can save the day in very tense situations. If others join this trend, the world will sigh with relief.