In the past four months, Russia was able to use three precious opportunities to achieve a breakthrough and change the balance of power in their favor in the Syrian crisis that would allow her to gain confidence at the regional and international levels where she needed it so badly.
Victory in Aleppo in December last year was the first of three chances. It seemed that Moscow is aware of the importance of such opportunities and willing to use it to fundamentally change its role in armed conflict from direct participant to “sponsor” the crisis (of the process), which will be settled under its historical leadership.
Many believe that Russia took the opportunity when it ceased military operations, despite the fact that Bashar al-Assad, Iran and the loyal militants continued military action in other areas. The first time Moscow has decided to hold talks with armed groups, some of which were regarded as terrorist in order to prepare and research a new way of solving the conflict peacefully. For this reason, Russia called for international powers to the convening of the first conference in Astana (Kazakhstan), which later was to consist of three meetings. However, Russia failed to achieve any breakthrough in resolving the Syrian crisis is not only due to the fact that she was unable to change the level of their participation in the conflict from a direct participant to the intermediary, but also because of the reluctance to develop a compromise strategy that meets not only the interests and desires of Bashar al-Assad and other parties.
Moscow seized the opportunity which was presented to her in a moment of distraction from Washington’s political problems, the lack of a clear policy after many years of being in power, Obama, electoral campaigns and transition from one administration to the next. However, Russia missed this opportunity because she failed to realize that it is impossible to be simultaneously active mediator and biased party.
A second chance had Moscow after chemical attack in Khan Sheyhun 4 April this year. Russia has the opportunity to make decisions, almost matching the standards of international law to achieve two objectives that contribute to a breakthrough in the Syrian crisis. Obviously Russia plays a key role in cooperation with Washington, but she missed the chance to monopolize this role after the battle for Aleppo. The first of the two goals is putting pressure on the Assad regime and its allies to alleviate their cruel position in relation to any steps aimed at resolving the crisis in Syria. Especially given the fact that after the Russian military intervention in the country, the position of the majority of the armed groups became more flexible and loyal. The second goal of Russia — the desire to cooperate with Washington, especially after the power in an administration trump. If Russia took a tougher stance on the use of chemical weapons in the war in Syria, it could become the authority and main guarantor of the chemical disarmament of Assad in accordance with the agreements signed with Washington after similar attacks on Eastern ghouta in August 2013.
However, Moscow took the position of full protection of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and, accordingly, the absolute denial of even the possibility of using chemical weapons, citing a “tale” about the difficulties of its sales. In turn, these actions have prompted trump to begin on April 7 rocket attack on a military airport “Sirat”, which was produced by this chemical attack on Khan Sheyhun. Russia has used its veto in the UN security Council, despite the fact that this draft resolution had not spoken of the condemnation of the Assad regime. On the contrary, it was observed that investigation in accordance with the strict rules requiring Assad to co-operate, to allow the special Committee to carry out the necessary research on air force bases, as well as being able to meet with the Syrian officers patrolling “Sirat” on the day when you were made a gas attack.
A chance to use the opportunity was lost, yet during the visit of U.S. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson in Moscow on 12 April on the horizon appeared a new opportunity. The initiative of this meeting would not only resolve the conflict in Syria, but also to lay the Foundation for a new world order. The essence of this initiative is that Russia should abandon the Alliance with Iran and the regime of Bashar al-Assad in exchange for the establishment of a strategic cooperation with the United States, which will not be confined to fighting terrorism, and will be considered on a large scale.
In addition, Russia missed the chance when the country’s leaders are unable to expand their narrow vision and look far into the future, where a great power can have a greater role in the world order, considering the fact that the regime of Bashar al-Assad will change regardless of how much time it will take. As for Iran, the world is increasingly coming to the understanding that it is the main patron and support of terrorism.
However, Russia may still reconsider its policy, thereby getting the opportunity to increase its role in cooperation with the United States, or before relations between the two countries to deteriorate to a critical state, Moscow will get another fourth possibility.