Russia is deploying warships at its base in Syria. The battle group includes aircraft carrying missile cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov. The deployment is being projected as pre-planned and having no relation to the current tensions in Syria, but it follows the US move to station the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group with support vessels off Syria. Speculation is mounting about a western ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Syria.
US and Turkey have asked their nationals to leave Syria. Arab League is linking up with European Union on Syria. France is taking the leadership once again. Interestingly, Turkey has been invited specially to the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels. The moves look strikingly similar to the Libyan intervention.
The Russian MFA spokesman said on Friday, “The human rights situation in a particular country may certainly be the subject of international concern, but human rights issues under no conditions should be used as a pretext for interfering in the internal affairs of states, in this case Syria. The Syrian people must decide their own fate, without ‘tips from outside. We absolutely do not accept a scenario of military intervention in Syria.”
There have been unconfirmed reports that Russian military advisors may be helping Syria to set up advanced S-300 missiles, which will make it extremely risky for the West to impose a ‘no-fly zone’ as it did in Libya.
The big question is whether there could be a US-Russia showdown over Syria. For US, regime change in Syria opens the road to taking on Hamas and Hezbollah next, which would isolate Iran. The stakes are very high. For Russia, loss of the Tartus naval base will be a serious blow that will cripple its capability to operate in the Mediterranean region, apart from Syria being an old ally. A US-Russia showdown over Russia can have implications for a host of other issues – Afghan endgame, Iran nuclear problem, US-Pakistan tensions, etc.
Significantly, Kremlin is deputing Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin to Beijing and Tehran for consultations over the US/NATO missile defence system. Russia has been focusing on the ABM as a bilateral problem so far with US. Now, commonality of interests is being explored with China and Iran. The implications are profound for the regional security in Central and South Asia as well as the Far East.
To be sure, India’s ‘Act East’ policies – US-India-Japan ‘trilateral dialogue’ in particular – are in Russia’s sights too, as much as China’s. The ‘time-tested’ Russian-Indian cooperation seems to be heading for testy times even as India harmonises with the US’s Asia-Pacific strategy. PM Manmohan Singh’s forthcoming Moscow summit will throw light on the fault lines.
Posted in Politics.
– November 28, 2011