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Russia's Latest Move in Syria Serves to Reinforce the Diplomatic Track

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Reprinted from Sputnik

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
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A sure sign of Russia's geopolitical strength is that it can, and does, unilaterally set the international agenda. This has been made obvious again in the surprise announcement this week by President Putin to begin withdrawal of Russian military forces from Syria.

It was, recall, Russia's earlier lightning-fast air operation in Syria at the end of last year that has led to the current diplomatic track -- a track that Washington and its allies have had to belatedly conform to. Now this latest move by Russia serves to reinforce the diplomatic track, and once again it has sent Western counterparts into a tailspin.

In announcing military drawdown, Putin made it clear that it was "mission accomplished" in Syria, and that henceforth it is time for diplomacy and peace talks to take over -- or at least have a chance. Moscow's assessment was that its military objectives had been fulfilled. And it's hard to disagree .

Even Western media acknowledge that Russia's nearly six-month air operation had "inverted the course of the conflict," as the Washington Post put it this week.

Of course, what the Western media conveniently omit is that Russia secured the Syrian state from collapse in the face of a criminal foreign-backed insurgency fomented by the US government for the purpose of regime change.

Russia's air power has, however, enabled Syria to now pursue a solid political path towards a peaceful settlement of the five-year war.

Put it another way, without Russia's support, the Geneva talks this week would simply not be happening. No doubt the war would be grinding on into its sixth year with horrendous human suffering. Because, despite Western lies and distortions, the fact is that Washington and its allies were fueling a criminal covert war for regime change -- until, that is, Putin stepped in and overturned that execrable game.

The latest move by Putin to scale-back military force in Syria makes sense. The Syrian state and its institutions have been stabilized and the Geneva process is underpinned by the central principle of Syrian sovereignty as the ultimate determinant of the country's political future. The stage is set for dialogue. Whether or not that succeeds is another question.

Putin's announcement this week of military withdrawal reportedly blindsided Obama and other Western leaders. As befitting an independent major power, Moscow took the decision based on its own private assessment of the circumstances, without consulting Washington -- although Putin did reportedly confer with his Syrian ally on the decision.

Moscow's reasoning would be too objective and professional to be driven by petty politics. Nonetheless, there is an apposite putdown of Washington in the way that Putin did not inform Obama of the military pullout. Why should he anyway? What is Washington, but a lawless source of conflict and hubris. Russia makes its own mind up and acts accordingly.

Western governments were left "startled" by Putin's latest move, according to the Guardian.

And not being up to speed with Moscow's initiative, Western diplomats and media cavorted with catch-up by ruminating on vain speculations to make sense of it all.

Initially, it was reported that Russia was not serious about the announced military pullout, implying that it was an underhand "ruse."

Then it was speculated, with unseemly haste, that the Russian initiative indicated a "rift" between Moscow and its ally in Damascus. That notion was allegedly due to statements made last weekend by the Syrian government that it would not accept preconditions at negotiations in Geneva, in particular the demand by the US-backed Saudi opposition group for President Assad to stand down.

The Syrian government's position of rejecting preconditions is in fact consistent with Russia's position, which in turn complies with United Nations Resolution 2254 mandating the Geneva diplomatic process. The fate of Assad or the presidency is for the Syrian nation to decide alone, at some future date, without external interference.

Another line of vain speculation was that Putin's announced military pullout was as a result of pressure from Washington.

As the Washington Post, rather fancifully, opines: "Late last week, the [Obama] administration decided to publicly accuse Moscow of failing to rein in Assad, leading to a string of comments by officials including Secretary of State John F Kerry, who on Sunday called on Putin to take control of Russia's Syrian ally."

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Author and journalist. Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master's graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal (more...)

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