Russia has played a major role in the Syrian Civil War and has garnered controversy over its airstrikes along with Syrian government forces against terrorist organizations and other rebel groups. Andrew Parailiti, RAND director of the Center for Global Risk and Security, explains why Russia decided to intervene in the war, which includes its willingness to aid an ally, and challenge the US’ role in the world. Following is a transcript of the video.
Andrew Parasiliti: Russia takes a broader view of what it considers to be terrorist groups than the United States does.
Why Russia is so involved with the Syrian Civil War.
Parasiliti: I tend to find that Russia’s interests in Syria are pretty clear and they are as follows: One, they’re supporting an ally. Bashar al-Assad’s government is under attack. First by popular uprisings, and then by terrorist groups, and other armed groups backed by countries in the region. And they’re not gonna let him fall. The Russians are concerned that if Assad fell, that you would either have a group in power that included jihadists who would be inimical to US and Russian, and other interests, actually. Or you would have a continually destabilized state that allowed these terrorist groups to continue.
Two, there’s a counter-terrorism piece. This is what the Russians tell the Americans when we talk about Syria with them. They say Moscow shares Washington’s interests in combating terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. That’s true to a certain extent. Although, Russia takes a broader view of what it considers to be terrorist groups than the United States does. It is more inclined towards Assad’s definition, which is any armed group which opposes him, rather than the strict UN definition which would be Islamic State, Al-Qaeda. But it is correct to say that Russia also supports counter-terrorism activity.
Third, is challenging the US role. In a kind of lesson learned from the previous era, Russia went along with the UN resolution which allowed what was then called the Right to Protect Use of Force in Libya during the Obama administration. And that ended up leading to the downfall of Gaddafi, and we saw what happened there. Russia is not ever going to let that happen again. They’re going to try to prevent, actually, any US or other military intervention that could destabilize a friendly state.
It’s kind of a demonstration effect to the rest of the Middle East. Russia stands by its allies in the region. People take note of that. When Assad was on the ropes, Russia stepped up with a substantial military power to keep him in power. The Iranians too, but it was the Russian initiative and Russian airpower which has been instrumental in Assad’s ability to hang on.
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