March 25, 2016
Aleksey Peskov interviews Nikolay Starikov, historian, author and head of The Great Fatherland party
Translated by Kristina Kharlova
Assad has no match in Syria
Normalization in Syria without its current leader is impossible
Syria today is personified by Bashar al-Assad, says historian and publicist Nikolay Starikov. He shared his fresh perspective on the processes of the past and contemporary events.
– How close were the stated goals of our leadership of our military engagement in Syria consistent with real goals?
– I think that the declared goals are fully consistent with the plan. The main task of Russia – stopping the process of destruction of states and chaotization of the Middle East that was launched by the United States. Eventually we must strive to prevent aggression of created by Americans terrorist organizations against Russia through Afghanistan and other countries. If the sovereign states will be restored in the Middle East, the terrorist groups on their territory will not be able to survive. In this respect, Russia’s policy is fundamentally different from the policy of the United States, who under the guise of fighting for democracy are engaged in destruction of states with the subsequent planting of terrorism.
– To wreak havoc is not a very clear objective of U.S. policy. Perhaps this is an intermediate result of some other aspirations…
– We are in a new type of war – some call it a hybrid, others want to come up with some other name. Russia possesses a serious arsenal of nuclear weapons, which is supposed to be a guarantee of non-aggression by any other state. The keyword here is “state”. But what if the Russian Federation is attacked not by a government, but hundreds of thousands of militants of some unrecognized structure crossing borders and trying to invade our territory? It is clear that border guards and troops would begin to resist the invasion, but then the question arises about the possibility of using nuclear weapons in such a situation. Obviously, from a legal point of view this is impossible because the neighboring country has not declared war on us, moreover – in fact it is itself a victim of the same terrorist groups. Therefore, our ‘partners’ move the armed confrontation into the area where the possession of nuclear weapons will no longer play any role. And it is no longer a guarantee against aggression. And if to this we add the probability of attack of a huge mass of militants on some third states with the subsequent dire consequences for Russia, then a whole new picture emerges.
I mean the countries of Central Asia. Quite poor, with strong contradictions – there was a civil war in Tajikistan for this reason. And the invasion of militants in the region will immediately increase the terrorist army perhaps up to a million. Can Russia watch this process as an observer? Maybe – if it was headed by a leader with limited vision, confident that we will not be affected. But in reality, Russia must ensure against such development of events. This is the situation in which our nuclear weapons cannot help us.
– Is the hybrid warfare you describe a result of random developments, which has turned into a phenomenon, or were this strategy and tactics born in the bowels of the Pentagon, or any other institution?
– Modern terms are often given to those phenomena that have long been known and were repeatedly carried out in practice. Hybrid war is no exception. If we look at the history of British colonial wars, we will see: in many cases it did not declare war, while leading full-scale military operations. Guns are firing, but there is no ‘war’. So any diplomatic action to prevent aggression is impossible. History knows cases when a certain third force was used, formally unconnected with a government, the same “East India company”, which was engaged in the capture of India and other countries. As for the twentieth century, a very characteristic episode – Japanese invasion of China in the early 30-ies. And despite the fact that there were hundreds of thousands of victims among the Chinese population, this war is not part of the common WWII history. As if until 1939 it did not take place. So war without a declaration of war was not invented today.
– The reasons for sending troops into Syria, or rather, the motives become much clearer in this context. But as the entire Western world was shocked by the swiftness of the action in the beginning, so it was perplexed by the rapid decision to withdraw, albeit partial, of our contingent. No one was expecting it.
– I’m a civilian, but as far as I understand the principles of military tactics and strategy, all actions of military commanders must be unexpected for the enemy. There are several reasons – so there is no time to react, so it is difficult to predict the actions of the other side. With regard to the situation in the Middle East, Russia is demonstrating just such an unexpected action. Why? Because we are bombing the terrorists on the ground but actually confront the evil will of the powers which arm them, supply, direct, share intelligence and transfer the most modern weapons systems. The confrontation is not with some ISIS intelligence, but with American, British secret services. Thus the respective actions must be sudden and decisive, so that the enemy could not calculate several moves ahead. We must understand that geopolitical confrontation between Russia and the West continues, even when there is supposedly “cooperation”, as in Syria. And then the actions of the Russian leadership immediately become clear and logical.
– Russia’s actions in Syria – what and whom are they supposed to demonstrate?
– The brilliant operation of our Air-space forces is, of course, not just advertising of our weapons. Most importantly – the resolve of our leadership to protect Russia’s geopolitical interests with weapons in their hands, despite the position of other states. The whole world needs to understand that international law must be enforced, that one state can not arbitrarily destroy a sovereign country and that we are ready to defend this right, reinforced by the UN Charter. After Syria our leadership is forcing others to reckon with Russia’s position on a much larger scale than it was before Syria.
Our president several times, explaining the basics of geopolitics, used the analogy of backstreet fights. Here it is also appropriate. If you show the will to defend your interests, enter a fight once, even with those who are obviously stronger you could be beaten up. But they will not want to deal with you again, because it is obvious – although they can break your nose, they may have their noses broken too. As a consequence everyone else will have to take your interests into account.
Russia has always been one of the main players in global politics. Without our permission, as they used to say, no European gun could fire a shot. Then we reached the level where “guns did not shoot” on a global scale. The entire system of state defense, built on the blood of our soldiers, was destroyed by Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Today is just the process of its recovery.
– What will happen to Syria, what do you think?
– Today the most important thing for Syria is the preservation of the state. Yes, now part of the territory is in the hands of Kurdish forces, who will be reluctant to accept the restoration of control over these areas by Damascus and will negotiate about autonomy. In this situation, the Americans will begin to incite the Kurds to full disobedience to the central Syrian government, will support “complete independence,” persuade them to continue the struggle.
Some provinces will remain under Islamist structures, so a restoration of complete control over its territory by Syria will require quite a long period. Most importantly, today the issue of the liquidation of the central government, which would mean the destruction of Syria as a sovereign state, is off the agenda.
International politics is a complicated issue, but I can draw a hypothetical picture, when things may look differently. God forbid, but imagine for a moment that something happened personally with Bashar Assad. Is there another figure in Syria, who is just as determined to take responsibility for the state and the people? We can not immediately find an answer to this question. Western intelligence often achieved their goals by physically eliminating political leaders. Remember Libya. When did it become possible to say that the country is no more? At the time of the brutal murder of Muammar Qaddafi. While he was alive, the hope for the preservation of the Libyan state remained. Syria today is personified by Bashar al-Assad, whether you like it or not. Thus Assad must be protected by all means, wishing him good health and political wisdom. I think he will become an example of a courageous struggle for the interests of his people. Nobody, including the Americans, was expecting that an ophthalmologist who studied in the UK, completely integrated into Western environment, would turn out to be such a tough fighter for the interests of his people.
– He was accused of using chemical weapons…
– It is a myth. If there was proof there would already be a trial at some court in the Hague, all the evidence points to falsification. Note: when Russia saved Syria from the impending bombing – remember the brilliant move with the proposal of removal of chemical weapons, Americans immediately moved the zone of instability closer to our borders. Then began the events in Ukraine. At the moment ISIS was nowhere to be seen in Syria, there was the Free Syrian Army, Al Qaeda. And in a couple years rose to the most powerful jihadist movement. Experience teaches us that weeds do not grow taller than a man, unless they are purposefully watered.