How Putin Checkmated The US In Syria by Ana Borshchevskaya

Posted on Saturday October 28 2017

September 30 will mark the two year anniversary of Moscow’s intervention in
Syria that saved Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from an eminent collapse.
Assad is largely responsible for one of the worst humanitarian tragedies since
World War II. Today, in no small part thanks to Russian President Vladimir
Putin, he has emerged in the strongest position since massive uprisings swept
the country in March 2011.

Iran and its proxy Hezbollah have done much to prop up Assad in the last six
years. In late spring of 2013, a Hezbollah surge kept him from falling. But in
September 2015 it was Russian airpower that saved Assad from losing

Putin had stood by Assad from the very beginning and protected him
in multiple ways. He armed him, protected him on the U.N. Security Council,
and sustained Syria’s military and economy. But the intervention was a game
changer that signaled Russia’s escalation in Syria.

Today, on balance, Putin achieved virtually everything he wanted in Syria. He
kept Assad in power. He entrenched Russia’s military presence in Syria for at
least the next 49 years—Russia’s largest military presence outside the former
Soviet Union at that. Thus, Putin reduced US ability to maneuver militarily in
the region and assured Russia’s influence in one of the most strategicallyimportant
countries in the Middle East.

Putin’s support for Assad’s ethnic cleansing campaign exacerbated massive
and destabilizing refugee flows into Europe. As long as Assad or someone like
him remains in power, the majority of refugees will not return home. Assad’s
traditional foes, such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have come
to accept Moscow’s view on Assad, and even Saudi Arabia may be shifting its
position in Moscow’s favor.

Most importantly for Putin, he can now showcase cooperation with the West
—on his terms. He created a perception of Russia as a great power broker and
obtained international recognition for his latest ceasefire initiative in
southwest Syria that led to establishment of de-escalation zones after Putin
met with Trump in July of this year. Russia, Iran, and Turkey serve as
ceasefire guarantors. Putin always resisted Western-protected safe zones in
Syria, but a Russia-led ceasefire allows him to preserve his interests in the

De-escalation zones have a weaker protective framework than Westernbacked
zones would have had. Moscow deployed its military police to
monitor the ceasefire but it’s unclear how this arrangement will be enforced.
The agreement barely acknowledges Iran’s role in Syria. Meanwhile, two key
US allies in the region, Israel and Jordan, now have to deal with Russia on
vital US national security issues. With Russia as a partner, the US now also
has to share the moral burden of Russian airstrikes that kill civilians.
Far from getting himself into a quagmire in Syria that President Obama
had predicted in October 2015, Putin has been able to carry out a relatively
cheap campaign and is now on his way to extricating himself from the conflict
while ensuring Russia’s presence and influence at the same time. He boosted
Russia’s arms exports by using Syria as a testing ground for Russian
weaponry. Now that the situation is stabilizing in certain key regions of the
country, Russian energy companies are looking to rebuild Syria’s energy

Upcoming Speakers

  • Monday, November 27, 2017
    Anna Borshchevskaya
    Topic: Russia: What Next?
  • Monday, December 18, 2017
    Stephen Harder
    Topic: A China/US Partnership
  • Monday, January 15, 2018
    Kerry Emanuel
    Topic: Hurricanes!
  • Monday, February 5, 2018
    Trudy Rubin
    Topic: Are we headed for the next Middle East War?: The end of ISIS, the rise of Iran, and the murky future of Syria and Iraq.
  • Monday, March 5, 2018
    Dominic Tierney
    Topic: Why America Needs an Enemy
  • Monday, April 2, 2017
    Dimitri Simes
    Topic: The Cost of Ignoring Russia
  • Monday, May 14, 2018
    Chris Miller
    Topic: Putonomics: Power and Money in Resurgent Russia
  • Monday, June 18, 2018
    Sarah Mendelson
    Topic: Combating Human Trafficking 2.0

View all speakers past and present »


How Putin Checkmated The US In Syria by Ana Borshchevskaya

Posted on Saturday October 28

September 30 will mark the two year anniversary of Moscow’s intervention in Syria that saved Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from an eminent collapse. Assad is largely responsible for one of the worst humanitarian tragedies since World War II. Today, in no small part thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he has emerged in the strongest […]

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Saudi Arabia wants to improve Image; Here’s How (by Juan Cole

Posted on Saturday September 16

Saudi Arabia is alleged to be hiring a PR firm to improve its tattered image in the West . As usual, such a campaign confuses substance with fluff and the money will be wasted. I am sympathetic to Saudi feelings that they get an unfair rap. In my Engaging the Muslim World I argued that […]

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“Fire & Fury” or “Shock and Awe”: it is always the start of a Quagmire (by Juan Cole)

Posted on Wednesday August 9

If we weren’t talking about two nuclear-armed states with unhinged leaders, the war of words between the US and North Korea would be hilarious. Trump’s threat Tuesday that “”North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” was […]

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America’s Misadventures in the Middle East (by Chas Freeman, our May speaker)

Posted on Tuesday April 25

“From now on,” President Donald Trump declared in his inaugural address, “it’s going to be only America first, America first!” If so, no region stands to be more affected than West Asia and North Africa—what Americans call “the Middle East.” America’s interests there are now entirely derivative rather than direct. They are a function of […]

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ISIL Terror-Trolls French Election by Juan Cole (our September speaker)

Posted on Sunday April 23

Thursday’s shooting at the Champs Elysee, left one policeman dead, another gravely injured, a third lightly wounded along with a German tourist shot in the heel. It was carried out by Karim Cheurfi, a French national aged 39, born at Livry-Gargan in Seine-Saint-Denis. He had opened fire with a Kalashnikov machine gun and was killed […]

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Recent New York Times Article by Julia Preston

Posted on Sunday February 5

IMMIGRANTS WHO CAME TO U.S. AS CHILDREN FEAR DEPORTATION UNDER TRUMP                             Brought to the United States from Venezuela as a toddler, Carlos Roa was among the first young undocumented immigrants to be protected from deportation under a program President Obama set up in […]

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Colin Woodard on the Trump Election

Posted on Thursday January 19

Since Election Day, many readers of “American Nations” have been asking for an analysis of the election via the underlying regional cultures identified in the book. Finally, with help from my colleague, Christian MilNeil, at the Portland Press Herald and Will Mitchell of Portland, Maine’s NBT Solutions, I’m able to comply.   Continue reading  

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Article by (our May speaker) Hedrick Smith

Posted on Friday May 20

The Populist Earthquake of 2016 Washington – The political earthquake now shaking the foundations of the Republican Party throws into bold relief the unique feature of Campaign 2016 –  the fault-line this year is not the typical polar clash of Left vs Right, but a far more fundamental Up-Down cleavage between rank and file Americans […]

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“The Theology of American National Security” by Andrew Bacevich (our Jan. 2016 speaker)

Posted on Friday December 4

Reproduced from The Theology of American National Security by Andrew Bacevich In April 2003, with Baghdad occupied by American troops, the top officials of the Bush administration were already dreaming of building bases in Iraq that would be garrisoned more or less in perpetuity. Everyone was too polite to call them “permanent bases,” so […]

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Climate Change in a Nutshell (from Senator King)

Posted on Thursday December 3

Friends, Thank you for your interest in one of the climate change cards I keep in my pocket. For me, the graphs on the card are the simplest and clearest way to show not only the unprecedented and growing amount of CO2 in our atmosphere, but also its close correlation to global temperatures in the […]

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Commentary by Past Forum Speaker, Graham Fuller

Posted on Friday October 9

We Hate ‘Em All! October 8, 2015 by Graham E. Fuller We Hate ‘Em All! With the arrival of Russian forces on the scene the Syrian situation has now grown unbearably complicated. Among the totality of players on the scene, Washington hates them all. The US has long detested Asad father and son; for years it has […]

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Jessica Mathews on Henry Kissinger

Posted on Wednesday May 20

In a March issue of The New York Review of Books, our July speaker, Jessica Mathews dissects the new book by Henry Kissinger: “Almost from the beginning of its history, America has struggled to find a balance in its foreign policy between narrowly promoting its own security and idealistically serving the interests of others; between, as […]

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Stephen Walt on Arming Ukraine (a really bad idea)

Posted on Thursday February 12

One of our 2013 speakers, Professor Stephen Walt, has a recent article in Foreign Policy about General Breedlove’s dubious plan to send US arms to Ukraine.  Click here for full article.

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A Nuclear Deal With Iran?

Posted on Friday December 12

Excerpts from January speaker Hossein Mousavian’s article entitled Why geopolitical shifts dictate a nuclear deal with Iran: “Although a week of high-level talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna made good progress, negotiators failed to reach an agreement and instead set a new deadline of March 1, 2015, for a framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and a […]

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Gregory Johnson’s Harrowing Escape

Posted on Friday December 5

Gregory Johnson was our Forum speaker last April.  Read his recent BuzzFeed story on My Last Day in Yemen: “Yemen was like a home away from home for me — until the day I was nearly abducted in broad daylight, and narrowly missed suffering a grim fate similar to other journalists drawn to covering, and […]

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