Kremlin Basks in the Glory of Trump Plans

Kremlin Basks in the Glory of Trump Plans

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From Syria, where the U.S. pulled back in the face of a Turkish offensive, to Ukraine, where the newly elected president saw his image dented by a U.S. impeachment inquiry, new fault lines and tensions offer the Kremlin fresh opportunities to expand its clout and advance its interests. The Kremlin basks in the glory of Trump plans, which are helping Putin across the board.

In Syria, the U.S. military withdrawal leaves Russia as the ultimate power broker. It allows Putin to help negotiate a potential agreement between the psychotic Assad and the Kurds whom Washington abandoned.

And in Ukraine, where Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian turned president, has found himself drawn into the U.S. political battles, Russia may use the volatility to push for a deal that would secure its leverage over its western neighbor.

KREMLIN BASKS IN THE GLORY OF TRUMP PLANS

Turkish troops’ offensive in northern Syria followed President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the area. Trump abandoned the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, the key U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Washington’s abrupt decision to ditch the Kurds contrasted sharply with Moscow’s unwavering support for its ally Assad. With Russian help, Assad reclaimed the bulk of the country’s territory in a devastating civil war.

Along with military power, Putin has relied on diplomacy to achieve his goals in Syria. He reached out to regional powers such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey.

NATO TURKEY AND RUSSIA

NATO member Turkey has become a particularly important partner for Russia. Even though the two countries have backed opposite sides in the Syrian conflict, they have pooled efforts to negotiate a de-escalation zone in the Syrian province of Idlib. Furthermore, both have co-sponsored talks on forming a committee that would draft a new Syrian constitution.

The Russia-Turkey rapprochement came as Ankara’s relations with Washington grew increasingly chilly. Much of it had to do with Turkey’s recent purchase of Russian air defense missiles.

Turkey’s offensive in Syria, which has drawn harsh criticism from the U.S. and European Union, may now push Moscow and Ankara even closer.

Kirill Semenov of the Russian International Affairs Council said:

Russia wants to benefit from that operation, and one of the gains could be the strengthening of ties with Turkey. The harsh response from Washington, the EU reaction, the threat of sanctions against Turkey all play into Moscow’s hands by making Moscow and Ankara even closer.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Putin just before unleashing his military against the Kurds. Ankara charges that the Kurdish fighters in Syria are allied with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has led an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years.

SENATOR GRAHAM THREATS HELPED RUSSIA

While Russia has noted the need to respect Syria’s territorial integrity, it also has emphasized Turkey’s right to its own security. Notice the Russian benevolent position contrasting with the harsh Western criticism of the Turkish offensive.

Russia has long urged the U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria to come back to Damascus’ fold. In light of the Turkish incursion, the Kurds may take Putin’s offer more seriously now.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Thursday:

We heard that both Syrian officials and representatives of Kurdish organizations expressed interest in Russia using its good relations with all parties to the process in arranging such talks. We will see what we can do.

Contrast this diplomatic leveraging with Senator Lindsey Graham’s hollow threats that delivered a NATO country into Putin’s lap.

Lavrov also pointed at another Moscow goal, which is to broker a dialogue between Turkey and Assad’s government. Something Ankara has strongly rejected in the past because it legitimizes Assad’s mass crimes.

AP contributed to this article.

Kremlin Basks in the Glory of Trump Plans

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