After Russia’s initial airstrikes in Syria, David Cameron and Barack Obama have both come out against Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy. The Prime Minister has stated that Russia are making the situation worse and they are not discriminating between IS or rebel groups. The President has declared that the airstrikes are only strengthen IS.
It’s not surprise that both Cameron and Obama disapprove of Russia’s military action as the indiscrimination between IS and the rebel groups, hinders their goal to ultimately oust Bashir al-Assad. Although the west does not back IS, it does back the rebel groups with arms, advice and aide. Therefore, Russia’s action is decreasing opposition to the Syrian dictatorship. But that is partly Russia’s aim. Putin has declared al-Assad as the legitimate leader of the country and therefore is backing his cause.
Russia currently have a presence in five Syrian cities and have attacked another dozen. Although they have suggested that they are intervening in Syria to stop IS, I don’t necessarily believe that to be their real goal. Putin’s reputation and approval rating in Russia is extortionately high. He has the highest approval rating of any leader in the G20. In 2012, this wasn't the case. Just after winning his third term as president, Putin’s rating was far lower. It now sits above 80 per cent and that is down to his strong, yet extreme, foreign policy in Ukraine.
So, what is Putin doing in Syria? It’s not because he wants to see the end of IS. It’s not because he wants to help al-Assad reclaim his country. Putin is in Russia to increase his already high approval rating by showing his strength on the world stage. To Russians, a strong leader isn't one that sits down and negotiates. A strong leader isn't one that introduces human rights acts. A strong leader is one that shows Russia’s strength by means of military force.
Let’s not pretend that Russia’s presence in Syria isn’t dangerous. With Russian and US airstrikes both occurring in at the same time and potential British airstrikes as well, we are looking at a ticking time bomb. It only takes one mistake and it’ll strain Russian-Ally tensions.
Airstrikes are not the answer to solving the troubles in Syria. Neither is the backing of rebel groups. What needs to happen is a negotiation with the surrounding Arabian states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran and even Turkey, with the aspiration of tackling the underlaying problems of the country. We need a peaceful overthrow of al-Assad and impose strict embargoes on the neighbouring states if they do not work together to help achieve the goal.
The treat of IS won’t be as easy to cull. Compared to tackling al-Qaeda and the Taliban, IS is proving to be a far more difficult problem. I would suggest that this is because there doesn't seem to be a clear leader or hierarchy of the group. Nor are they stationed in on country or state. We can’t negotiate with IS but neither can we use military force. What needs to happen is the advancement of the Arabian states in areas such as education, religion, healthcare and living conditions. With improvements made here, IS won’t seem as attractive. The only problem being that this is something that takes billions of dollars and decades to see.