At the risk of sounding like a stuck needle (under 30s see ‘record players’ for details) he’s done it again. Putin I mean. He’s done it again. He’s done it again. He’s done it again.
Through the crackle and hiss and static you can hear the sound of progress. Russian progress I mean. To continue my analogy – Putin’s needle has skipped forward on the disc. That doesn’t necessarily mean progress towards peace, although it might. However, what the Russians have done is furthered their interests in Syria and Ukraine.
The latest progress is twofold and connected. Regular readers may have noticed that the W&Y has long argued that Putin has quietened down the Ukraine conflict to position himself as a responsive player. He has simultaneously heated up Syria to safeguard the Russian port at Tartus and to ensure that as he is now part of the problem, he is now part of the solution. The link is that if you want co-operation on Syria – then let’s talk about the sanctions against Russia re Ukraine.
Well, lo and behold this week the German Foreign Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel showed up in Moscow, met Putin, emerged from the Bears den and ventured the ‘personal’ opinion that perhaps it was time for sanctions against Russia to be eased…. This comes three months before the next time the EU has to decide whether to renew the sanctions.
Then on Friday, in Vienna, all the players in the Syria crisis met for the first time. Yes, there have been many meetings on Syria – but not with the Iranians in the same room as the Americans and Saudi Arabia.
Why has this happened? Because Russia has changed the game, and so now, if Russia thinks it might be a good idea to have a major player involved in peace talks, the player gets invited. The stubbornness of the Americans and Gulf States to publicly admit that Tehran has a vote in all this has delayed progress towards talking.
All they could agree on in Vienna was to meet again. It’s going to take months of negotiations, and the talks may collapse – but at least they are all around the table.
A few months ago, on one side of the argument there was unanimity – Assad must go now! But since Russia began airstrikes the Americans, Germans, Brits, and French have all changed 4 years of policy and accepted he might have some sort of vague ‘transitory’ role. Turkey has said he could remain for a ‘’symbolic’ 6 months. Even the Saudis have said that although he must go, that could be within a ‘specific time-frame’. It may be unpalatable, but Moscow has bombed its way to these changes.
He’s done it again. He’s done it again…