It’s hardly a secret that the AccuSo staff have a picky palate when it comes to media outlets. So it stands out acutely when one of our favorite publications stoops to shoveling propaganda for the powers that be, like we see in a Foreign Policy opinion piece just yesterday:
[P]art of the goal: restoring Russia as a leader of world opinion after the reputational damage it suffered in Ukraine, muscling in as a power broker that needs to be consulted in important crises far from its borders and sphere of influence […] But even members of the reliably shrill pro-Kremlin chorus seem to admit that nobody but Russia likes this configuration — and that Russia, like Pushkov said, doesn’t really need this at all.
Sadly, FP is beginning to sound a little “shrill” itself in its careful and side-mouthed denunciations of Russia’s Syria intervention. In policy and opinion pieces language is everything. Articles like this, or their recent attempt to paint Syria as a US-Russian proxy war, spend more time rhetorically impugning Russian motives and capabilities than they do building a historical or evidentiary case for that position.
When Russia intervenes in Syria it’s “muscling in as a power broker”. Putin “has become a prisoner to that bet [on Assad] and to a certain honor-bound logic.” Putin’s a prisoner! Trapped! Floundering! Stumbling through his Middle East policy like a 3-year old up past nappy time! What a fucking moron!
Only two paragraphs later though, “other regional powers see Russia as bad and unpleasant, but they also see that it acts clearly and consistently.” A lesser observer might interpret this as a smart geopolitical strategy: establishing trust and respect through clear and consistent leadership.
Foreign Policy quotes Sergei Markov:
“Russia has to be distracted by Syria because there is a vacuum forming there that, if Russia doesn’t fill it, becomes dangerous for Russia” because of the presence of the Islamic State, Markov explained. “It’s not proactive. It’s done out of necessity.”
Russia, a major petro-player and a regional power directly abutting the Middle East, is assuming a paternal role in its area of influence. Why would this be a “distraction” for Russia any more than managing situations in Iraq or Taiwan are “distractions” for the United States? In a post-WWII world where “just war” theory has matured into the responsibility to protect it’s the mark of a mature power to intervene in stagnant and unresolvable conflicts. Or so I’ve been told.
One moment the article argues that Russia is fumbling into “crises far from its borders and sphere of influence.” Syria is described as a distraction from the real Russian interest in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia is engaged in long-term diplomatic overtures toward long-time Syrian antagonist Turkey. Among other things Russia hopes to lay pipelines through Turkey that could entirely bypass their interests in the Ukraine. Far from lying outside of Russia’s sphere of influence, the northern edge of the Middle East directly impinges on Russian interests, both politically through the Caucasus and economically in terms of Russian oil interests.
Given the geopolitical relationships between Turkey and Russian allies Syria and Iran, and Russia’s petro-political interests in the region, it hardly seems careless or reactive for Russia to intervene. Rather, for Russia to assert itself as a reliable, strong, neutral, and consistent actor in the region begins to look like a proactive strategy of a global power seeking to consolidate its influence among rival regional players as part of a long-term strategy, not only in the Middle East but stretching to the Western tips of Russia’s oil pipelines.
When even measured and relatively neutral English-language publications are engaging in these backhanded rhetorical tactics it’s a safe bet they’re echoing the interests and concerns of English-speaking powers. To a detached observer Russia’s interventions in the Middle East are no stranger or more desperate than any American foreign policy over the last decade, instead standing to advance Russian interests throughout the hemisphere. As the United States continues to fumble its mixed interests in and around the Syrian and Iraqi theater it’s plain that these same powers are deeply concerned by Russia’s success.