Now that Putin has achieved his goals in Syria, expect a Syrian Deal to be put on the fast track.
Putin’s first goal was popularity back home and it looks like he was very successful here. Secondly, he was able to shore up Assad and is now able to go to the negotiation table with a much stronger hand. Third, the naval base at Tartus and the airbase at Latakia are now entrenched assets of the Russian military in any future agreement. And let’s not forget that Putin now has the West talking again to him – this means Russia is back on the world stage.
The major stumbling block to further negotiation has been what to do with Assad. US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Moscow on Thursday (March 24th) and there seemed to be progress on the next steps to be taken in Syria. The meeting lasted four hours.
In short, they agreed to maintain the cease fire, expand humanitarian aid, exchange of prisoners and to pursue a political solution in Geneva.
My take on the Russian pull-out of Syria is as follows:
- Expect a Syrian Deal relatively quickly since this is the beginning and end of the proxy war in Syria.
- The Saudis recently announced a production cut in oil. This is significant since they stated they will do this even without the Iranians agreeing. For the Russians and others, an increase in oil prices is long awaited and much welcomed development.
- Looks like hostilities between Turkey and Russia are de-escalating. Russian has now lifted the ban for its citizens to travel to Turkey on holiday. This is a positive economic development for the Turkish tourist industry since Russians are a huge proportion of visitors.
- The US has essentially told the Saudis to stand down in this proxy war versus the Shia allies – Iran, Assad and Russia. In short, the US has stated they will not fight in Syria for the Saudis and that Saudi policy should change. The Saudis fear that Iran will gain too much and the US with the recent Nuclear Deal is essentially agreeing to this.
- It should be noted that Putin and Russian strategists are probably nervous of a stronger anti-Russian stance when Obama leaves office. They probably don’t relish the thought of dealing with Hillary (more anti-Russian than Obama) or in the worst case with Trump.