The Paris attacks signify the broadening of an “area of darkness,” of places targeted by the Islamic State, into Europe. The jihadists are not making a distinction between Russia and France. This compels Russians and Europeans to reflect on what they have in common despite their many differences.
Russia’s leadership has so far resisted saying that the crash of the airliner in Egypt was an act of terrorism, for fear of a public backlash. But even if that were confirmed, Vladimir Putin would most likely decide to escalate Russia’s campaign in Syria.
Aware of the perils of a long military operation in Syria, Russia is taking another look at energizing the diplomatic track. But a number of issues will be very difficult to resolve, in particular the fate of President Assad.
The Assad regime is Russia’s main stake which allows the Russians to influence the situation in Syria and demonstrate their importance in the international arena by positioning Moscow as one of those players without whom the crisis cannot be solved.
Shoring up the Assad regime and killing jihadi fighters are not the only objectives that Russia is pursuing in Syria. Moscow’s intervention is as much about Washington as it is about the Islamic State.
Little more than a week into Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria, new evidence has emerged about the Russian public’s attitudes towards Putin’s latest military intervention.
Moscow is likely to come to grips with the idea that a political solution for the Syrian conflict would include a post-Assad Syria. But the real question may be whether outside players can join diplomatic forces with Moscow to finally end the crisis.
Any attempts to browbeat Moscow into stopping its military activity in Syria, not to mention changing its longstanding stance on the conflict, are a waste of time.
Vladimir Putin is making a bid to regain global respectability by leading a fight against ISIS and evoking the anti-Hitler coalition of World War II. The West is yet to be convinced that the appeal to be “brothers-in-arms” is serious.
Not only Russia, but also the entire world might face a dilemma: Choosing between a very sinister authoritarian regime and the Islamic State.