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Debating Russia’s Aims in Syria

Co-authored with Randa Slim and Wayne White, and published on MEI website, debating Russia’s aims in Syria, reading Putin and the ongoing debate inside the US administration.

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There is a debate within U.S. policy circles about Russian president Vladimir Putin’s strategy in Syria. While all agree that Putin intervened to shore up the faltering regime of Bashar al-Assad, there are at least two interpretations of what Putin’s ultimate objective is.

Secretary of State John Kerry seems to be in the camp that believes the Russian intervention is part of a strategy to strengthen the Syrian state’s hand at the negotiating table. This in turn could provide a pathway for Assad himself to eventually exit Syria as part of a transition that leaves the state intact and the terrorists defeated.

The second camp is skeptical about that reading and believes that the Russian president aims to force a military victory for his ally with only the extent of the victory in doubt, setting the stage for an outcome that will see Assad stay in power for the indefinite future. According to this interpretation, the Russian president is betting that an improved military situation for the regime will (1) ensure that both Assad and the Syrian state endure, (2) that the regime can get Continue reading

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