Putin’s Syria Strategy- Problem or Help?


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One of the great questions this week in foreign policy has been whether Vladimir Putin’s plan in Syria would risk pitting the U.S. and Russia in a war against each other, or help bring some stability to the situation. Putin said he would bomb ISIS during his speech to the UN. He also said the U.S. and Russia would cooperate and coordinate so that they weren’t getting in each other’s way bombing in Syria.

It’s widely thought that Putin is bombing the “Free Syrian Army,” not the Assad army or ISIS, in Syria. The problem is that we consider those to be the “good” guys in this fight, while he considers the Assad regime to be good. This means that while we bomb ISIS and he bombs the Free Syrian Army, Assad is left free to do as he wishes. This has lead many to think that all of this will lead to an incapable regime being the last man standing in this fight.

A couple of things lead me to think not though. First, Assad declared his chemical weapon stock piles and allowed them to be destroyed, ending that threat against his people (Also, why isn’t this considered a response to his crossing the “red line?”). Second, there are many different entities fighting in Syria. The most likely outcome of Putin’s bombing is enough “space” for Assad to agree to leave in an orderly fashion, or for a continuation of the chaos we see now between the different factions. I don’t think that Putin’s bombing will lead to a resurgent Assad, or a victorious ISIS. It’ll just allow him enough time to figure his way out of the paper bag he’s put himself in by not being a part of the solution in Syria.

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