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MOSCOW, September 16. /TASS/. Far from all European countries share the United States’ stance on Syria, as well as its stubborn reluctance to invite the Syrian government to join the common struggle against the Islamic State, Russian experts say. In their opinion, had it not been for Washington’s irreconcilable attitude and its determination to oust Bashar Assad from power first thing, Russia’s proposal for creating a wide coalition against Islamists would’ve fallen on Europe’s attentive ears and possibly earned support.
The US leadership’s firm reluctance to let Bashar Assad participate in the joint struggle against the Islamic State has driven a wedge between EU members," the head of European political studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Nadezhda Arbatova, told TASS.
"Such countries as Austria, Denmark, Bulgaria, Spain, Romania, the Czech Republic and also Norway and Switzerland (both are not members of the EU) proceed from the considerations of political realism, and not ideology. They believe that Assad is a political reality, and the interests of Europe’s security require his involvement in the threat coming from the Islamic State."
Germany and France are more cautious, Arbatova said.
"In the meantime, it is these two countries that were against the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, which has destabilized the region. At the same time these states underline the priority of eliminating the Islamic State. "It is nakedly clear that the split between the European Union and the United States will be growing wider. Some Western commentators recall that no ideological rifts prevented the West and the Soviet Union from establishing the anti-Hitler coalition in the face of a common threat."
"As far as Syria is concerned, the position of Europeans, who against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis have lost all independence in making military and political decisions, is oscillating between uncertainty and consent to follow in the United States’ footsteps," the director of the Centre for Current Politics, Ivan Konovalov, has told TASS.
He agrees that far from all European countries believe that the removal of Bashar Assad and his government would be an adequate solution to all problems.
"Many argue that the United States tends to get too personal. But for the US it is normal. This is precisely the way the US treated Saddam Hussein. Their real aim in Iraq had been not restoring order to the country, but doing away with Saddam. The same happened to Libya’s Muamar Gaddafi. Bashar Assad is the next target. The Americans are unable to backtrack away from their utterly counter-productive stance. Nothing in the world will ever make them inch back. All counter-arguments are senseless."
In Europe, says Konovalov, no country, possibly except Britain, is that adamant. "The UK has painstakingly followed in the United States’ footsteps and avoided doing anything that might contradict US policies. For Britain the Syrian crisis is by no means number one issue — in contrast to France and Germany, where migrants keep arriving in an incessant flow."
Europe is increasingly aware that Syria should be preserved as a state — with Assad or without Assad, Konovalov said.
"But there are no alternatives to Assad at the moment. Everybody around is either a militant or a terrorist. These types will be instantly at each other’s throats the moment they get into Damascus. There will be another Somalia. Europe knows that well enough," he said.
In particular, Konovalov stressed Europe’s skepticism over US claims there exists a threat of growing Russian military presence in Syria.
"Europe is tired and would like the war to end as soon as possible. If there is no candidate in sight, except for Bashar Assad, capable of cementing anti-terrorist forces, it does not matter whether he is good or bad. It would make sense to at least avoid posing obstructions to those who wish to support him. OK, Assad may be bad, but the Islamic State is much worse. That’s how the Europeans understand the current developments in Syria," Konovalov said.
"The message one can easily read between the lines is this: this problem requires joint efforts. But for US objections, Europe would have long accepted Russia’s idea of a creating a large coalition against the Islamic State and giving Syria’s government army a role in it. But all that is purely hypothetical - there is no political context where Europe might be able to decide anything on its own, without the United States. Hoping it may be otherwise is utopian."