Andrej Kreutz: Can Syria Help Reset Relations?

Kreutz_Andrejprof. Andrej Kreutz

Russia and its leaders’ diplomatic achievements towards facilitating the solving of the problem of Syrian chemical weapons was widely recognized and accepted, even by some scholars and analysts who had been known for their Russophobic prejudices and hostility towards Moscow.[1] As one of them, American Professor Rajan Menon admitted, “Putin was able to place Russia on center stage and to show that it is a great power that still matters.”[2] However, the question whether this unexpected accomplishment might be able to establish a model and precedence for more progress on the way to solve the other "burning” international issues and thus facilitate Russian-American rapprochement is difficult to answer, at least at present.

First of all, we still do not know and cannot predict with certainty the future developments in Syria and its surrounding Middle Eastern region. Although the process of the chemical disarmament of Syria has started to proceed smoothly, any provocation by the Syrian rebels or other unfortunate local events could change the relatively favourable situation, thus causing new international tensions and conflicts. It would probably be so much easier for them to do that because part of the American political class and its numerous supporters in Europe are in fact very sorry that the attack on Syria was delayed and that Moscow achieved relative diplomatic success.[3]

During the last decade, the doctrine of American domination without any equal partners to deal with became generally accepted by the West as a whole, including even France, which for a long time opposed it. The opposition led by France and Germany against the American war in Iraq in 2003 now belongs to history and Russia would not be able to find any meaningful political allies in Europe. The situation is aggravated by Russia’s still persisting weaknesses and many unsolved internal problems, including the divisions in the Russian political class itself. While Putin and his followers want to preserve and uphold the independence and national traditions of the country, in Russia there is no lack of important people who want to join "the global West”, and to submit their country to American political and cultural domination.[4] The future direction of Russia’s development has not yet been determined, and this lack of agreement at the elites’ level makes the political image of the country weaker and less convincing.

In spite of these and some other possible uncertainties, I still believe that there is enormous potential for future American-Russian accommodation and cooperation. Although the US remains the leading power in the world, it still cannot completely impose its "image and its likeness” on the rest of it. Up to now, both the US and Russia are the most important nuclear powers, and no progress on this issue which is vital for everyone can be achieved without their agreement and understanding.[5]

In addition, all its real problems notwithstanding, Russia still remains a great Eurasian power and the largest country in the world: a country which is rich both in natural resources and well educated, highly intelligent people. Consequently, it remains interested and involved in most of the current international challenges and controversies. Cooperation with it might often be very helpful. As James Carden, who served as an Advisor to the US-Russia Presidential Commission of the US State Department argues, "a policy accommodation with Russia in the Middle East should not be dismissed out of hand.”[6] While it is highly unlikely that Russia is going to become the dominant power in the region, it may be worthwhile to question what kind of positive role it could play there.[7]

In spite of all the existing differences, both the Americans and the Russians share similar cultural roots, though they developed them in different ways and under very different circumstances. Finally, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia is simply overall too weak to represent any serious challenge to American security. If the American leaders were able to think in a strictly rational and pragmatic way, they would probably stop their senseless information warfare against this country and instead look for better relations with Moscow. 


1.Dominique Moisi, "L’etrange faiblesse de l’Amerique face a Vladimir Putin”. Les Echos, fr., September 16, 2013.

2. Rajan Menon, "Weighing Russia’s Syria Success,” The National Interest, October 1, 2013. Also he admits that "Moscow’s diplomatic machine seemed well oiled, efficient and expertly operated with impressive speed” (ibid).

3. According to such a reputed scholar as Dominique Moisi, the week following the Lavrov-Kerry Geneva agreement on September 13, 2013 might in future be remembered as the "semaine de dupes” and the sign of Washington’s weakness.

4. The problem has been stressed by Putin himself. According to him, "It’s impossible for Russia to swap sovereignty for a better quality of life because, if we lose our sovereignty, we will lose our country” ("Loss of ‘sovereignty’ unacceptable price for quality of life”, Moscow, October 2, 2013, Interfax.

5. As a leading researcher at the Institute of International Security Problems of the Russian Academy of Science, Professor Alexey Fenenko notices, "From a historical perspective, America’s attitude to a Russian leader appears to depend primarily on Russia’s willingness to implement nuclear non-proliferation”, "Why don’t the Americans (and John McCain) like Vladimir Putin?” Russia, September 29, 2013.

6. James Carden, "Angst over a Russian-dominated Middle East should take a closer look at Russia’s underlying interests and motives in the region”, Russia, October 2, 2013.

7. Ibid.


Andrej Kreutz is Adjunct Professor of University of Calgary and Affiliated Expert of the European Geopolitical Forum.