# LUC MICHEL’S GEOPOLITICAL DAILY/ TRIPARTITE SOCHI SUMMIT (‘THE AXIS OF ORDER’) SEEN FROM RUSSIA: ‘A NEW YALTA THAT EXCLUDES THE AMERICANS’

LM.GEOPOL - The axis of order (2017  11 28) ENGL 1

LUC MICHEL (ЛЮК МИШЕЛЬ) & EODE/

Luc MICHEL pour EODE/

Quotidien géopolitique – Geopolitical Daily/

2017 11 28/

“Russian commentators were generally jubilant. Some compared Sochi to the Yalta Conference in 1945 that sought to establish the ground rules for the world once victory over the Axis countries had been achieved. The difference being that at Yalta Great Britain and the United States shared the spotlight with the Soviet Union, now they had been reduced to extras”

- Kommersant.

“The Russian military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean is necessary for keeping the balance of power and interests, which we lost after the USSR’s disintegration 25 years ago”

- Russian Defense Ministry (briefed Gazeta.ru).

RUSSIAN MEDIA COMMENTS FOLLOWING TRIPARTITE SOCHI SUMMIT:

“A NEW YALTA THAT EXCLUDES THE AMERICANS”

On November 20, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Sochi. Two days later, on November 22, Putin met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, for а tripartite meeting, reaffirming their cooperation in Syria.

PUTIN’S MEETING WITH ASSAD

Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that Putin wanted to meet Assad, before the tripartite meeting with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts, in order to lay the groundwork for a common understanding (1). Peskov then added: « The political settlement in Syria is Possible only in the most inclusive format, that is, with the participation of all the political actors in Syria. It can be achieved by the participants of the internal political process and only on the basis of mutual consensus, i.e. mutual agreements and compromise (2). During the meeting with Putin, Assad thanked Russia for its military support and voiced his hope that the support would continue against foreign interference. Assad said: « At this stage, and especially after our victories over the terrorists, we are interested in promoting the political process. We believe that the political situation that has developed in the regions offers an opportunity for progress in the political process. We hope Russia will support us by ensuring the external players’ non-interference in the political process, so that they will only support the process waged by the Syrians themselves. »

THE TRIPARTITE MEETING (RUSSIA – IRAN – TURKEY):

“THE AXIS OF ORDER”

Concerning the tripartite meeting, the three heads of state agreed in a joint statement that the de-escalation areas in Syria have been « quite efficient and greatly helped to reduce violence. » They also acknowledged that the Astana format become an « effective instrument for contributing to peace and stability in Syria ». The three Presidents decided that Iran, Russia and Turkey would continue « their coordinated efforts to ensure that the progress in reduction of violence is irreversible. » They then reiterated their commitment to « sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity » of Syria.

“Russian commentators were generally jubilant. Some compared Sochi to the Yalta Conference in 1945 that sought to establish the ground rules for the world once victory over the Axis countries had been achieved. The difference being that at Yalta Great Britain and the United States shared the spotlight with the Soviet Union, now they had been reduced to extras”. The victors were dubbed the “axis of order” undoubtedly a dig on George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” who had sacrificed to uphold the principles of international law and state sovereignty.

HOW THE RUSSIAN PRESS SEES PUTIN AND ASSAD MEETING ?

* Putin-Assad Meeting – RISS Expert -

“No One Is Pushing For Assad’s Resignation”:

Commenting about Assad’s future, Elena Suponina, advisor to the director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), said: « At the moment, all without exception – the Saudis, the Qataris and the Americans, are not pushing for Assad’s speedy resignation. This has currently been dropped from the agenda, but it hardly signifies that the U.S. considers him as the Syrian ruler in the future. Moscow as well is under no illusions. Yet, at the moment, Assad is this country’s president. The situation in Syria is appreciably better than it was previously, though the fighting is still going on. No one can guarantee calm in the upcoming month and it’s still possible to rock the situation…, in case the Americans get a bee in their bonnet. » (Riss.ru, November 21, 2017)

* Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of ‘Russia in Global Affairs’ and Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, said:

« The question regarding Assad’s ‘surrender’ was relevant before Russia’s campaign began. Why should it be done now, when he actually won the war? Moreover, those who demand that – on what basis do they make their demands if they could not topple him when he was on death’s door? » (Rbc.ru, November 22, 2017)

* Russian political scientist, Leonid Isaev, said:

 

« It does not matter with whose help Assad won – be it our help or Iranian help, or whether the victory was achieved by violating international norms or not. What matters is that he won. So, it’s very hard to force him to make any concessions now. » In Isaev’s judgement “Moscow’s leverage on Assad is partial and limited, since even if Assad refuses to fulfill his obligations and promises, Russia will keep assisting him anyway.” (Rbc.ru, November 22, 2017)

* Yuri Shvytkin, deputy chairman of the Duma defense committee, said:

« Vladimir Putin has presented the armed forces leadership to Assad. This definitely was instructive for Assad and other countries showing that Syria is under our country’s reliable protection as personified by our military forces. Putin let them understand that if needed we will not allow an escalation to the conflict and a humanitarian crisis. » (Ria.ru, November 21, 2017)

TRIPARTITE RELATIONS: RUSSIA’S RELATION WITH IRAN AND TURKEY IS “ONLY REALPOLITIK” (LUKYANOV)

Lukyanov commented in the Russian government daily newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta:

« Over the course of some years, the war in Syria has been perceived as an arena for great power confrontation – and first of all Russia and the U.S. Thus, the default consideration was that they held the key to a solution and that until the superpowers would reach agreement, nothing would fundamentally change on the ground. Moscow and Washington tried to reach agreement on numerous occasions. However, due to various reasons those attempts failed. The real key for the settlement was found in combination of the military power of one of the superpowers – in this case Russia –and painstaking diplomatic work involving regional players, Iran, Turkey and later to judge by everything Saudi Arabia that was originally on the other side of the front”.

« [Nevertheless,] there should be no illusion regarding the durability of the relations [between Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia] and the mutual trust. It was about realism and a partial confluence of interests. The sides embarked on cooperation deliberately and cool headedly – and this provides hope that the process will be sustainable. One of the main reasons [for cooperation] was the confused and incoherent U.S. position. » (Rg.ru, November 11, 2017)

POST-WAR SYRIA …

“IRAN, RUSSIA AND TURKEY WILL DEFINE THE FUTURE OF SYRIA” (RIA COLUMNIST)

* In another article titled “The Axis of Order”, RIA contributor Gevorg Mirzoyan wrote:

« At a time when the U.S. completely lost its sense of direction in the Middle East, a serious demand for ‘order’ has emerged. Russia, Iran and Turkey became the stretcher bearers of this axis of order. In fact, those countries have inaugurated themselves to serve that role in the recent summit in Sochi. This summit has already been called by some [experts] as a Middle Eastern Yalta. This triumvirate, by the right of victors against ISIS and Al-Nusra, will define the face of post–war Syria. In this regard, it is quite interesting thing that one most important word was absent from the joint declaration on the summit’s outcome – Geneva. The high negotiating parties decided that that « Astana format and its achievements became an effective instrument in promoting peace and stability in Syria ». Thus they have not only underlined the fact that Syria’s fate would be defined in Astana (where real field commanders meet) and not in Geneva (where political emigrants who call themselves representatives of the Syrian people), but also they made it clear that the sponsors of Astana, i.e. Russia, Iran and Turkey, would be in charge, and not the Geneva participants (Turkey and Iran are excluded from the Geneva process while Saudi Arabia, the US and Europe are in).” (Ria.ru, November 23, 2017)

Kommersant Columnist Strokan: The Interests Of Russia, Iran And Turkey Should Not Be Viewed In Any Way As Concordant

A NEW YALTA?

Sergey Strokan, a columnist for the business daily Kommersant, writes in his column:

« The meeting of the Turkish, Iranian and Russian presidents in Sochi, which was preceded by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s visit to Vladimir Putin, as well as Russian leader’s announcement on the imminent completion or the military operation in that country, will not only shape Syria’s post-war future, but will also harden the Middle East’s division into spheres of influence. Moreover, the effectively achieved victory over the new global evil, the Islamic terrorism, allows the troika of anti-Isis allies to consider themselves the victors in the most important twenty-first century war, a war that lasted for six years. In this context, though with some reservations, the meeting of the three presidents in Sochi may be considered as a contemporary analog of the Yalta Conference, which took place in February 1945 and in whose framework, the anti-Hitler coalition allies defined the contours of a post-war world order. This parallel between Yalta and Sochi seems appropriate, despite the historic interval of over seven decades, since Moscow in recent years continually claimed that the war in Syria has to do with not only with the fate of this specific state and its leader, but also it has to do with the world’s rules of the game, which were effectively set during Yalta conference and gradually ceased to serve as guidelines for the world’s powers.”

“Thus, during all those years in Syria, what was decided was not only about ‘who is who in the Middle East’ question and in world politics, but it was also about preserving such values as sovereignty, territorial integrity and yes the principles of international law in general…

« If in Yalta, Moscow’s allies were the U.S. and Great Britain. In modern times creating the coalition with the leading western powers failed. As a result, Washington and London now have to play the role of extras, who are being faced with someone else’s victory rather than one shared with Moscow. In general, the new coalition in Syria demonstrated that the decision making center has shifted from west to east. Traditional centers of power are [being replaced] by new ones. The once all-powerful Euro-Atlantic community is witnessing in Syria the boundaries of its capabilities and the ceiling of its power. The interests of Russia, Iran and Turkey should not be viewed in any way as concordant. Moreover, it is likely that after the joint victory, which succeeded in preventing a dismantlement of the state, their paths will diverge, just as happened with the Yalta allies, who started the Cold War. » (Kommersant.ru, November 22, 2017)

WASHINGTON’S ROLE IN SYRIA – RUSSIA’S FM SPOKESPERSON ZAKHAROVA: ‘THE U.S. PRESENCE IN SYRIA IS ILLEGAL’

Commenting on the Syrian crisis and the meetings in Sochi, Russia’s FM Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated:

« [The Washington Post, in its November 22 issue], referring to unnamed sources in the U.S. administration, …claimed that the U.S. was not planning to withdraw its forces from Syria after the rout of ISIS and had a plan to install a new administration in the north of the country.

« I would like to say that it is unclear why the paper is referring to some ‘unnamed’ members of the administration, when the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis (I mentioned this today), told journalists in plain language on November 13 that the U.S. military would not leave Syria, I quote, ‘before the Geneva process has cracked,’ and the U.S. will obviously interpret the terms of political settlement as it sees fit.

We have repeatedly drawn Washington’s attention to the fact that statements of this sort generate a lot of questions about the true aims of American and coalition military presence in Syria.

I mentioned this today and will repeat it: From the point of view of international law, the U.S. presence in Syria is illegal. The United States is doing this not only without the relevant permission or invitation from the Damascus government, whose ambassador is in the UN on the daily basis representing his country, but also against the will of the legitimate Syrian government. The U.S. is present there without any additional or other legal grounds. To call things by their proper names, they are behaving in a way that borders on occupation. If armed forces are present in a territory of another state and are waging active warfare without its explicit permission, while international institutions, namely the UN Security Council, are not delegating the relevant authority either, it is called occupation.”

« We commented on this recently. Contrary to statements by U.S. military representatives to the effect that the UN has allegedly authorized the United States, there is no UN Security Council sanction on their presence in Syria. [It will be recalled that] the UN Security Council is the only United Nations agency authorized under the UN Charter to approve decisions on the use of military force by the international community. No such decisions have been approved. Accordingly, the United States has no right to be there. »

Zakharova then added: « We are particularly concerned about plans to establish certain bodies of power independent from Damascus in areas controlled by the Washington-sponsored armed groups. This is being done without the consent of local residents. We have said this repeatedly and would like to stress it again: this is a direct path towards splitting the country.

« One part of the world community – you saw this in Sochi yesterday – is holding summits and trying to consolidate the public in some way or other. They are doing their best to provide a venue and the potential for dialogue between different representatives of the opposition, former extremists, who are laying down arms, and official Damascus. They are seeking to create the right atmosphere for talks on Syria’s future, which would be held by the Syrians themselves. On the other side, we hear statements like this, statements coming from Washington, which, regrettably, are backed by moves on the ground. To reiterate: From our point of view, this is a direct path towards splitting the country. In this connection, we have to remind our U.S. colleagues that in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 that defines the parameters of Syrian settlement, the United States, like the international community as a whole, has committed itself to unconditionally comply with the basic principle of respect for territorial integrity of Syria and do this in theory and in practice. » (Mid.ru, November 23, 2017)

THE FUTURE OF RUSSIA’S PRESENCE IN SYRIA

An unidentified high placed source in the Russian Defense Ministry briefed Gazeta.ru on the future of the Russian military contingent in Syria, once the active phase of the fighting has ended. According to the source, the total number of Russian servicemen in Syria will not exceed 4000-5000. He then explained: « The Russian military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean is necessary for keeping the balance of power and interests, which we lost after the USSR’s disintegration 25 years ago. »

(Gazeta.ru, November 21, 2017)

(1) Ria.ru, November 21, 2017.

(2) Ria.ru, November 21, 2017.

LUC MICHEL (ЛЮК МИШЕЛЬ) & EODE

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