The Kremlin could tolerate the RAID, but not the plan to overthrow Assad

“Scheduled for next Tuesday, April 11 visit to Moscow, Secretary of state USA Rex Tillerson (Rex Tillerson) will be crucial in order to understand the intentions of Washington. You see, we can understand and even tolerate the launching of missiles “Tomahawk”, especially if they need to strengthen domestic policy Donald trump. In addition, if this action is not related to US plans for regime change, that is, to overthrow Assad, strategically it is even better for Russia, as it will allow Trump to make some constructive steps towards Moscow. However, if regime change is once again part of US policy, we will make the conclusion that this administration is even worse than the previous one, as it represents a danger for us, revealing to us only the hard path of confrontation.”

Dmitry Suslov — Director of the Center for European studies at the Higher school of Economics in Moscow. He is one of the most close to the Kremlin foreign policy specialists.

Saggese: What made Donald trump to take action?

Dmitry Suslov: first, that political motives. Trump had to prove that he is not dependent on Russia, and, most importantly, is not associated priority relations with Vladimir Putin. Second, he wanted to send a clear signal to China that coincided with XI Jinping’s visit to Florida: it is a signal that America will approach all issues from a position of strength, that unlike the Obama administration, it is ready to use weapons whenever the circumstances demand it.

— So did Assad in the bombardment of Khan Sheyhun chemical weapons?

Nobody knows that for sure. I have some doubts. Of course, its application was not in the interests of Assad in the moment when he triumphed on the battlefield, and in terms of diplomacy. Now all again was called into question, even his very stay in power. Assad acts of brutal methods, but he is not crazy.

— From your words it follows that the air raids the US was not a surprise to you.

— Only partly. From the beginning of his reign, trump clearly stressed that it does not stop and does not hold any international laws, nor the objections of other States and he will act unilaterally when deemed necessary. In addition, for the past few weeks, it was obvious his slow evolution to a more traditionally Republican approach to politics. He started as a revolutionary, but he had to reckon with the opposition of the bureaucracy, the “deep state” (the intelligence, the Pentagon), Congress of the establishment, they forced him to act in accordance with the norm. The unilateral nature of foreign policy — indeed, one of the typical traits of Republicans-conservatives: at the moment, trump is reminiscent of the ‘Lite’ version of George Bush, at least during his first term.

— Military action in Syria means that the United States once again rely on the overthrow of Assad?

The underlying issue, and is set now Russia. Whether regime change is once again the ultimate goal of the White house, as in the case of Obama and Hillary Clinton? Moscow understood from the start that this administration has dark and light side. Dark is a one — way policy, the light rejection of the ideological approach in foreign policy, the ultimate expression of which was regime change. In connection with the second aspect of the Kremlin expressed moderate optimism in relation to the trump. Now you need to understand whether the change of attitude towards Syria and Assad just rhetoric or it reflects the essence of politics.

And what is your opinion?

It is hard to say. If to judge according to trump who said, “I changed the attitude towards Syria,” it looks like a real turn. But this man’s peculiar mood swings. Much more serious are the statements by Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley (Nikki Haley), Ambassador to the UN, according to their words, one gets the impression that the United States intends to exclude Assad from any script. Need to see concrete steps: if America will continue fighting, there is the risk of direct confrontation with Russia, and it does not need neither one nor the other side. I want to say that the trump has the means to support regime change is very limited.

— What kind of negotiations are, in your opinion, is more promising for the preservation of the Assad regime — those that are held in Astana with the support of Russia or in Geneva under the auspices of the UN?

— Astana has never been considered as an alternative to Geneva, these talks are a step to facilitate UN action. Russia now wants to wait and see what will be a real Syrian policy trump. But again, if regime change remains off the agenda of US policy, then, in my opinion, including this policy, Assad will only be more accommodating. If the US changed course of action and strive to get rid of it, it would mean the destruction of any assumptions about the possibility of political solutions and the resumption of the war.