16 October 2018
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Dayton for Syria?

A full-scale operation according to the Libyan scenario is unlikely

The events in Syria have entered a new stage – the war, in fact, has resumed. It does not matter who bears the bulk of the responsibility, the aggravated situation provides new arguments for supporters of military intervention, and knocks the bottom out of the adherents of the diplomatic process. It is unlikely that the Libyan scenario might repeat – Russia would veto a UN Security Council Resolution endorsing a full-scale operation in Syria, and no one seems to be willing to wage war without sanctions, despite the bellicose statements of the Western and Arab politicians. Therefore, two scenarios are possible.

The first one is stepping up assistance to the Syrian opposition so that it gains a military victory. In order to do so, it will be necessary to recognise the Syrian National Council as the only legitimate authority. Last March, France, followed by Qatar, recognised the National Transitional Council of Libya as such, which afforded the opportunity to provide insurgents with supplies and any other kind of assistance. In practice, this implies escalation and protraction of the civil war. It was the NATO air strikes, not the actions of Qaddafi’s enemies, that played the decisive role in Libya. Moreover, the Syrian army, though weakened by desertion, is much stronger than Libya’s, including equipment-wise, while Bashar Al-Assad still enjoys significant support of his people.

The second scenario assumes an international politico-diplomatic operation to establish a new governance model in Syria. One of the most cited examples is the Yemeni scenario, when President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to resign in exchange for guarantees of impunity from persecution. But even if Bashar Al-Assad agrees to it, which so far is not the case, resolving the Syrian crisis will not be a cakewalk. In terms of its composition Syria is a far more complex society, the main task will be not to protect Assad and his associates, but to ensure security of religious and ethnic minorities that are likely to be taken revenge on should the Sunni majority come to power.

The Dayton agreement, that put the end to the three-year Bosnian war in 1995, can be the closest prototype of what is needed for Syria. Today this agreement is critisized, mostly for the fact that it failed to resolve political problems, while Bosnia and Herzegovina remains an artificial state and, in effect, a protectorate. This criticism is in many ways justified, but the plan of “cantonisation” under the international supervision proposed 17 years ago made it possible to stop the brutal feud that horrified the entire Europe.

The Bosnian settlement was a transitional case. That was the first large-scale peace-keeping action since the end of the bipolar confrontation, that is in the absence of a global balance of powers and ideologies. Starting from Bosnia, there has emerged a model, according to which pacification of a local or intestine conflict would not mean search for compromise between the parties as it had been the case before (for example, in Cyprus), but imposing on one of the parties a certain decision, approved by external forces, that is by the West. In the Yugoslavian wars, the Serbs were singled out as scapegoats and so they were the ones to be coerced. However, in the case of Bosnia, this approach was only taking its shape, so classic diplomatic instruments were still applied. Slobodan Milosevic, despite the hostile attitude towards him, took full participation in the talks; there was a long negotiating process, even with the demonstrative use of aviation against Serbian military units.

Four years later, the approach to Kosovo was rather different – they used ultimata to converse with the Serbian side, NATO openly fought on the side of the Kosovo Liberation Army, and talks were centered exclusively on capitulation. By the way, it was the Račak massacre that triggered off the war, the responsibility for which was laid on the Yugoslav National Army, although the impartiality of the investigation was questioned later on. The massive killings of civilians taking place in Syrian cities are difficult to investigate amid the information war and thus remind the events of 1999.

In contrast to the Dayton agreement that ended the Bosnian war, the hypothetic “Syrian Dayton” might be more balanced. In the mid-90-ies Russia wielded little international influence having to struggle hard to get out of her profound crisis. (By the way, even then Moscow tried as far as it could to contain the unilateral anti-Serb attitude of the West and refused to go along with America’s position.) Today’s Russia is a key player on the Syrian field and she has enough influence to defend an alternative position. Moreover, if Europeans were the architects of the Bosnian peace accords (the then Special Envoy of the EU Carl Bildt) and the Americans (Richard Holbrooke called "the Bulldozer") now, it is Russian diplomats who can take the lead. All the more so over the past few months of the Syrian crisis they have had a chance to prove their great professional skills. However, we must act quickly before the situation makes an irreversible turn to a definitive destruction of Syria.



The current round phase of Russia’s pivot to the East was conceived in the second half of the 2000s as a largely belated economic response to the rise of Asia, which opened up a plethora of opportunities for the development of the country and primarily its eastern regions. This rise offered a chance to turn the territory beyond the Urals and the Russian Far East from predominantly an imperial burden or rear in the confrontation with the West, and sometimes the forefront in the rivalry with Japan or China, into a springboard for the development of the whole country.


Oleg Barabanov, Timofey Bordachev, Fyodor Lukyanov, Andrey Sushentsov, Dmitry Suslov, Ivan Timofeev, Moscow, February 2017

18.02.2017 - Global riot and global order. Revolutionary situation in the world and what to do about it - report by Valdai discussion club

(Report in Russian, English version to be published shortly) Спустя много лет после студенческих волнений, которые охватили практически весь мир в 1968 году, активист тогдашнего движения Даниэль Кон-Бендит так вспоминал суть происходившего: «Это было восстание поколения, родившегося после Второй мировой войны, против общества, которое военное поколение построило после 1945 года». Бунт проявлялся по-разному– в зависимости от места действия. В Варшаве и Праге люди протестовали против коммунистического режима, в Париже и Франкфурте клеймил и буржуазно-консервативное засилье, в Сан-Франциско и Нью-Йорке возмущались милитаризмом и неравноправием, а в Исламабаде и Стамбуле отвергали власть военных. Всех объединяло нежелание житьпо-старому.«Мы были первым медиапоколением. СМИ играли большую роль, потому что они передавали искру жгучего неприятия, и она воспламеняла одну страну за другой», – вспоминал Кон-Бендит.

03.02.2017 - Sergei Karaganov, Dean of the School of International Economics and Foreign Affairs of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, "A view from Moscow"

The victory of Donald Trump reinforced international tendencies, which had been obvious for Russians and which had been guiding Russian behavior for last few years. Among them – deglobalization led by forces, which previously created it, but started to retreat from it, when they saw that it benefits others equally or more. The change in correlation of forces against the old world and towards Asia will continue, though at somewhat slower pace than in previous decades. China will continue to become in the very foreseeable future an equal to the U.S. in cumulative power. Europe of the EU will continue to muddle down. (Hopefully, not towards a collapse, but something leaner, more stable and healthier like a Common market, Schengen minus, two Eurozones or a Eurozone minus). The rivalry between the U.S. and China will continue to exacerbate. The confrontation between Russia and the West will continue, but will gradually dampen.

20.08.2015 - The Interview: Henry Kissinger

The National Interest’s editor, Jacob Heilbrunn, spoke with Henry Kissinger in early July in New York.

10.08.2015 - "Shame on UK for Sham Litvinenko Trial", by William Dunkerley for "Eurasia review"

What started off as a massive fabrication in 2006 just received a great boost from a complicit British government. The mysterious polonium death of reputed former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko is the focus. An inexplicably long series of official UK hearings on this nearly 9 year old case has just concluded. That’s prompted a new flurry of sensational media reports.

02.06.2015 - Eurasian Way Out of the European Crisis (Article by Sergei Karaganov, to be published in late June in "Russian in Global Affairs")

I have already written before that having emerged victorious from the Cold War, Europe lost the post-war peace. The continent is on the verge of strategic degradation that may either become a caricature of military-political division into opposing blocs or a time of disquieting uncertainty. The military-political conflict over Ukraine can escalate as well.

13.03.2015 - NEW RULES OR NO RULES? XI Annual Valdai Discussion Club Meeting Participants' Report

In Search of an Order For those who believe in the magic of numbers, the year 2014 was further proof in its existence. The World War I centenary had been anticipated in awe and History, by taking another dramatic twist, confirmed the worst of expectations. It pronounced that centuries-old conflicts are still with us and that such concepts as the balance of powers, borders, and sovereignty are still relevant even in the era of a global interdependence.

15.09.2014 - Western delusions triggered this conflict and Russians will not yield (by Professor Sergey Karaganov for FT)

The west is without direction and losing sight of moral convictions, writes Sergey Karaganov

29.05.2014 - It’s not just about gas: why China needs Russia (by Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor in chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy)

In a pre-election article published a little over two years ago, Vladimir Putin wrote that Russia wanted to harness the Chinese wind for its sails of development. Every sailor knows that in stormy weather, and the world is a stormy place today, controlling a sailing ship is incredibly difficult. But by working skilfully there is a chance of inching one's goal much faster.

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