Russia and the US have this week finally signed an agreement regarding their respective campaigns in Syria. Russia extended a hand some time ago, offering America the chance to fight ISIS alongside Russia, but Obama stayed his position, despite the fact that Russia are in fact the only party with legitimate cause to be there, having been asked for assistance by the Syrian government themselves.
“The Memorandum of Mutual Understanding between the Defense Ministries of Russia and the United States on preventing incidents and providing for aviation flights during operations in Syria” should certainly be celebrated, it is a huge step in positive relations between the two nations. However, I cannot help but feel a little concerned. Let me explain why.
The agreement decrees that the two nations will communicate their air operations, including drones, so as to avoid incidents in the airspace over Syria. It also states that the nations will provide “mutual support” across their 24 hour communication channels. America have also even agreed to ensure the “moderate folks” abide by the same set of rules, so where is the problem?
Well firstly, maybe rather immature of me, but I can’t help but remember the amount of times America have made mistakes in the field resulting in countless friendly fire incidents, whether they be on allies, or press teams. I cannot see Russia being quite so forgiving as the UK, for example.
Another angle is the evidence that has been presented by various sources (NB not all sources of this info are entirely credible) that the US have more to do with ISIS than we are aware of, with allegations of high ranking CIA operatives working within the ranks of the Islamic State, the fact that the terrorists are mostly toting American weaponry, and so on. If this truly is the case, then providing the US with intel on upcoming Russian strikes runs the risk of said intel falling into the wrong hands.
Nor am I sure its a good idea to be so open with the US about the strikes the Russian Forces are executing. I am 100% confident that the Russians have nothing to hide in that respect, we have all seen how monumentally successful their operations have been to date, but the US have been awfully worried about whether or not their “moderate folks” have been the target of some attacks (an allegation they made just before we all found out the US bombed an Afghan hospital worthy of note here). My concern there is that if it is found that the “wrong terrorists” have been bombed, the US may step up and state their interest to “protect national assets, whether domestic or foreign.”
Which leads me to my final, and maybe most important note. The Russian Defence Ministry have made it perfectly clear that while they see the agreement as a positive move forward in their relations with America, they made a point of stating the fact that they are there “at the request of the legitimate authorities, whereas the use of force in one country’s territory without its authorities agreement or a ruling by the UN Security Council is against international law.” Now these are merely the facts, but to make a statement in such a way at such a time in my eyes is quite bold – Russia will now be aware of any US operations in Syria, provided the US adhere to the rules of the agreement, and therefore in speculation, if the US were to use force within Syria, Russia may deem it in her interests to quell such force. On the other side of the coin, if the US use force without notifying Russia and it is revealed, That would (I assume) break the agreement between Russia and the US, and place their international relationship in a place worse than it was before.
As always, time will tell. Don’t get me wrong, I am ecstatic that the US and Russia have made such an agreement. It really is a landmark occasion in their relationship which has been so trained for so long. I just hope both parties do their utmost to keep relations improving, and do nothing to jeopardise it. Russia and the BRICS group really are moving onwards and upwards, and though the West may see this a threat to the status quo, I for one can see the huge benefits that could bring to the world.