The past week in Russian foreign policy was marked by a search for ways to resolve the Syrian crisis. Complicating matters, of course, was the tragic crash of the Russian passenger jet in Egypt. Whether there is any connection between these two events is still uncertain. World leaders have been cautious when it comes to talking about a possibility of a terrorist attack and apparently are ready to cooperate with the Russian side in finding out the answer. In addition, Russian foreign policy was looked at through the lens of another important event this past week – the World Congress of Russian Compatriots, which took place in Moscow on Nov. 5 and 6.
Two lists required for Syrian cease-fire
Gradually, political dialogue is starting to take shape in Syria. Realizing Russia’s readiness to continue its fight against extremism, in the name of finding a political solution to the crisis, a number of opposition leaders have declared their readiness to sit down with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the negotiating table.
According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to start a political dialogue, all parties first need to agree upon two lists – the “list of terrorist organizations that a cease-fire would not apply to, a cease-fire that we are all hoping to declare at some point” and the “list of opposition delegations, which would negotiate with the government.” Theoretically, both these lists should have been prepared within a two-week period (before the next meeting in Vienna), but the parties could not meet this deadline.
It appears that there should be no problems when it comes to creating the first list. Moscow has repeatedly made it clear that it was inviting all “sensible” forces inside Syria to the negations. For example, the Kremlin has already prepared a list of 38 opposition leaders, who could be brought into the negotiating process.
As for the second list, getting it approved by all parties seems a daunting task, since this requires reaching a consensus among several hundred of the provisionally called moderate opposition groups. All these groups have different goals, and different sponsors, but nevertheless, equally big ambitions.
Given the fact that Saudi Arabia desires to block the Vienna process, Riyadh may put pressure on the group under its control, in order to slow down the approval procedure of the list of representatives. Moscow may counter the actions of Riyadh only through its continued bombing campaign, hoping that among the Saudi clients in the Syrian opposition, the question of physical survival will soon become more important than the question of receiving continued Saudi funding.
Political implications of the Russian plane crash
The final report of the investigation committee working on the Russian passenger plane disaster in the Sinai is still very far away, even though some countries have openly started announcing their own versions of what caused this catastrophe. Given the lack of information and evidence, all these competing versions can be viewed as simply being politically motivated.
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Alarming Contours of the Future: Russia and the World in 2020 is a new book that presents future scenarios for the development of international relations and Russia’s role in the world through 2020, while simultaneously describing major global challenges. The authors of the book—Andrey Sushentsov, a Russian expert who specializes in American studies, from Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO-University), and his colleague Andrey Bezrukov, who also works for Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company—spoke with Russia Direct to discuss their book and current and future conflicts facing Russia and the world.
Over the past month, Theresa May’s government has crafted a narrative that harks back to Great Britain’s greatest contributor to Cold War psychological operations — Ian Fleming. The media coverage of the Skripal case, the alleged chemical attack in Syria, and the military response to it play into London’s hands geopolitically by making Britain internationally relevant at a time when its divorce from the EU demonstrates the exact opposite.
A more realistic view is that there were some agreements between the opposition and the West, for example, not to cross certain red lines. Moscow’s position was clear from the very beginning. Russia strictly relied on the principles of international law, reminding everyone that in democratic countries people’s attitude toward authority should be expressed not with Molotov cocktails but through the ballot box.