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Published in Press Stream:
October 22, 2015

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Published in Stream:
October 22, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia's Official Line On Syria: Fighting Terrorism Is About "Preserving Government Institutions"
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Stream: October 22, 2015
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Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has given a briefing today which has been tweeted out by the MFA's Twitter account. The tweets provide a fairly concise overview of Russia's official positions in the light of the visit of Syrian President Bashar al Assad to Moscow two nights ago.

A major theme -- Russia is not alone, but is instead allied with many countries, including Belarus and BRICS (the association of emerging economies -- Brazil, Russia, India, China,  and South Africa).

Interestingly, Russia's influence within Belarus and BRICS is often debated, and falls far short of the Kremlin's propaganda, as does the economic prowess of BRICS which has been lagging of late with major economic struggles in Brazil and China, to say nothing of Russia's economy, and with political instability in Brazil.

Zakharova then moved on to issues which more directly relate to Syria, speaking about chemical weapons and ultimately the fight against "terrorism."

The goal here is to remind the world about the role that Russia played in the removal of chemical weapons from Syria. However, the revelation of new, and previously undisclosed, chemical weapons sites in Syria suggests that either Russia failed to rein in Assad, or both Putin and Assad lied about the extent of Syria's chemical weapons:
Furthermore, new uses of sarin gas, to say nothing of the fairly routine use of chlorine gas by the Assad regime, stands as proof that Russia and Syria have broken their promises on the removal of chemical weapons:
Then Zakharova gets to the heart of the briefing -- Syria:
And here we have the formulation of Russia's official line on Syria -- since Russia has likely killed more civilians than anti-Assad rebels, and Assad certainly has, we can discount that statement as spin.* The Russian goal is to preserve government institutions. Anyone who wants to remove government institutions by force is a "terrorist." Moderate rebels given TWO anti-tank missiles by the CIA in order to destroy government tanks and bases, therefore, appear to be the biggest threat to Assad's institutions, the reason why Russia is pounding those rebel groups.

Assad's visit to Moscow, therefore, does not suggest that Moscow is changing its position, but simply doubling down on it's previous position that Assad has to be part of the solution for Syria (something we debate in our latest podcast):

*Counting casualties in the Syrian crisis is a complex and effectively impossible task at this rate. Many sources often quoted by the media are highly unreliable. On the other hand, groups which have highly scientific and consistent methods for counting casualties have had problems keeping up with the sheer number of dead, as a result of stringent standards in a chaotic situation, lack of access to certain areas, and from losing staff members to the violence themselves. The Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC) has perhaps the best methodology, but their tally is likely far behind the extremely high numbers of deaths. Still, using their numbers, civilians are nearly three times as likely to be killed as combatants.

-- James Miller