Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of victory in Syria has already been eclipsed by his announcement on his willingness to use military force against violators of the ceasefire if he doesn’t get assurances from the United States about how it will control the truce.Meanwhile, it’s become clear that more Russian military hardware is going into Syria instead of leaving, and that Russian forces are openly engaged in ground combat.
Is Putin really offering to secure peace in Syria? Probably not. The conditions that led to Syria’s death spiral into civil war have still not been addressed, and Russia’s withdrawal is a facade. Putin’s announcement highlights that while Russia is a main player in the Syrian conflict, it is far from willing or able to assure peace.
The Russian military intervention is about Russian interests and gaining an advantageous position within a world order in which it demands to be an equal but sees no equals. Military intervention is meant to upend the international order to the benefit of only Russia and those who align with its interests. The Syrian ceasefire began because Russia said it could. It represents a strategic pause for Russia to reposition itself both politically at home and abroad, and militarily on the battlefield. If it ends, it will likely be because it claims the United States is not living up to its terms, as well as if conditions become favorable for Assad to resume military operations to reclaim lost territory. This is hardly the mark of a nation seeking to lead the peace process and cessation of hostilities.By resorting to the use of force, Russia will be accountable for the ceasefire’s failure, and will prove itself unwilling to peacefully advance the terms it agreed to in order to secure a lasting peace.