RUSSIA’S INTERVENTION IN SYRIA- THE ISIS CHALLENGE 8
Russia’sIntervention in Syria- The ISIS Challenge
RussianIntervention in Syria- The ISIS Challenge
Thefight against terrorism has taken centre-stage in almost all nationsof the world today, especially with the emergence of powerful terrorgroups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Whilegroups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban are a major threat to nationalsafety in various countries (Baylis, Wirtz & Gray, p. 176), ISISis considered to be posing a great danger to global safety. Thisexplains why a number of countries, including the US and Russia, havecome to the forefront in an attempt to contain this deadly terrorgroup. However, this is not an easy feat especially when the group`sstrategic and violent actions are taken into account. According tothe Institute for the Study of War (2015), ISIS is guided by a verystrategic statement of mission, "To Remain and Expand" (p.11). Consequently, the group has proven itself as being difficult tobeat, particularly due to its strategic moves and violentcounter-strategies. In what is alleged to be Russia`s response to thethreat posed by ISIS, President Vladimir Putin`s forces recentlylaunched airstrikes in Syria, claiming to target ISIS terrorists.Interestingly, the airstrikes have generated controversies, with theUS claiming that the attack was actually directed towards communitiesthat were opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad (Walker,Chulov & Borger, 2015 para 4). This claim insinuates that Russiadoes not consider ISIS to be a significant threat to peace in Syria,but rather gives the impression that Russia could be looking forwardto obtaining certain advantages from Syria, hence its support foral-Assad`s regime. Based on this argument, it can correctly be saidthat Russia`s recent actions towards Syria are a manifestation of thetheory of complex interdependence, which postulates that theinternational system is made up of transnational actors that aresensitive to one another`s needs to the extent that they turn out tobe mutually independent (Rana, 2015 p. 291).
Apartfrom illustrating the complex interdependence theory, the manner inwhich Russia recently responded to ISIS in Syria could also bethought of as demonstrating realism, albeit in various forms. Onesuch form is neorealism, which postulates that nation-states play asignificant role in defining universal systems (Baev, 2015 p. 2).Applying this concept to the case at hand, one could rightly considerRussia as being rational in that its actions are focused on creatinga particular shape or structure for the global system, particularlyin the Middle East region. Neorealism theory suggests that statesthat the primary concern of all states is their own security togetherwith survival, which is why they will behave in ways that help inpreserving their autonomy (Rana, 2015 p. 293). Russia`s key aim isthe preservation of its material and structural formation within theglobal system (Dannreuther, 2015 p. 7).
Thetheory of neorealism can apply in offering an empirical reason ofvarious factors that have led to Russian involvement in Syria. Thistheory also provides a comprehensive outlook of Russian foreignpolicy. Constructivism and neorealism are theories that could be usedin explaining Russian intervention in Syria. With regard toneorealism, Russia’s strategy towards Syria indicates that theformer rejects the structural realist thesis that state sovereigntydoes not exist, and that conflicts are primarily caused by thedomestic nature of regimes as well as individual states (Hyde-Price,p. 30). Owing to this perception, Russia chooses to support Syria’sregime, thus illustrating that it respects and believes in thesovereignty of the government.
Inwhat appears to be efforts to enhance the sovereignty of al-Assad’sregime, Putin’s government launched airstrikes against opponents ofthe ruling regime. In as much as Putin claims that the attacks weredirected towards ISIS, an exposition provided by Black (2015, para 1)reveals that Putin was offering reinforcement to al-Assad`s weakmilitary base. From a neorealist point of view, this implies thatPutin is worried that al-Assad’s regime faces a risk of beingtoppled by opposition groups unless its military base is strengthened(Rotberg, Rabb & Gilpin, 1988 p. 40).
Neorealismmight apply in two major mechanisms. To start with, Russia believesthat by supporting Assad`s regime, it will preserve its materialinterests. As a result, Russia must protect the current regime.Secondly, Russia assumes that the threat posed by Islamic State coulddirectly interfere with its structural system, and more soconsidering that failure to support Assad`s regime would weaken thearms trade between Syria and Russia (Allison, 2013 p. 805). Thisnecessitates Russia`s protection of its structure through theestablishment of numerous intervention measures, both political andmilitary. Despite the fact that neorealism focuses on material andstrategic interest in Syria, Russia claims that it does not considerthese interests as essential to its structural position, but that itis only fulfilling existing bilateral agreements (Lovelace, p. 177).
Accordingto suggestions by neorealism theory, attainment of structuralposition gains by a state is through shielding its allies. This isparticularly in those allies that could offer a counter-veiling aidagainst its enemies, that is, Russia against the United States. Thiscan be perceived as Russia attempt to put Syria within its axis ofpower. Various claims have highlighted that the core reasons whyRussia has kept Syria so close is due to their shared positionsregarding the hegemony of the United States. Therefore, by protectingAssad, Russia will be better positioned to protect its structuralposition by maintaining the existence of a pro-Russian bloc in theMiddle East (Institutefor the Study of War, 2015).
Russianperceptions are that any threat to its allied blocs in Syria is adirect threat to its global position. The main interest in Russia isto retain its naval base within the Mediterranean region withinTartu’s city in Syria. Possession of the naval base will entirelyrely on the Pro-Russian regime (Rogers & Reeve, 2015 p. 1).Tartus base is of great significant as it portrays Russian materialability in terms of military strength. Moscow is also a chiefsupplier of weapons to Syria, and this is a key consideration forRussian interest in Syrian intervention.
Inreference to other states’ viewpoint on Russia’s response, animportant theme that emerges is that even though the Russiangovernment has, reportedly, issued calls for collaboration with otherstates in order to contain the ISIS threat, it is particularly notkeen on cooperating with the west. Reacting to the criticism that theairstrikes launched in 2015 were not specifically targeted at ISIS,President Putin’s response was that “Russia would not plungehead-first into the conflict but would provide temporary air supportfor a Syrian army offensive” (Walker et al., 2015 para 10). Thisstatement implies that Russia believes in the theory ofconstructivism, which portrays the globe as “a social interaction,”(Tsygankov, 2012 p. 268), hence the argument that every state shouldbe treated with recognition as well as confidence.
Nevertheless,the position of the US regarding Russia’s actions implies thatRussia seems support for Syria’s sovereignty is only superficial.In other words, the theory of constructivism bears little relevanceto the case at hand. On the contrary, there is plenty of evidenceshowing that Russia pretends to be fighting ISIS in Syria, whereasits real mission is to reap political and material gains fromal-Assad’s regime. For this reason, the theory of complexinterdependence best explains Russia’s airstrikes on Syria.
Ona different note, it might be worthwhile to analyze the reactions ofother states, specifically the US, to Russia’s move. According toWalker et al. (2015), US’ take on the state of affairs is thatPutin and his government has worsened a serious situation, and thatRussia is driven by ulterior motives. From these allegations, it isevident that there is gross competition for power among the twocountries. From an international relations theory point of view, thiscan be translated to suggest that realism and complex interdependencetheories are at play with the US demonstrating realist ideals in abid to safeguard its hegemony within the Middle East. On the otherhand, Russia is pursuing its strategic interests under the guise ofrecognition and respect for the sovereignty of Syria. Amid thisdilemma, it emerges that ISIS will continue posing the significantthreat to state and global security unless nations take a unifiedapproach towards this deadly terror group.
Inconclusion, the fight against terrorism has taken different angles.Many nations, led by the US and Russia have been in forefrontfighting ISIS. However, as it turns, US and Russia have ended upaccusing one another in the fight of terror. This kind of chestthumping between the leading nations in fighting terror will only endup complicating the issue more. However, if the two nations couldjust come together, they will basically overcome the terror issues.
Allison,R. (2013). Russia and Syria: explaining alignment with a regime incrisis. InternationalAffairs, 89(4),795-823.
Baev,P. K. (2015). Russia`sPolicy in the Middle East Imperilled by the Syrian Intervention.Norwegian Peacebuilding Research Centre (NOREF). Available at <<http://noref.no/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application/46688c6618b09802a81738ebd990c538.pdf>>
Baylis,J., Wirtz, J. J. & Gray, C. S. (2015). Strategyin the contemporary world: An introduction to strategic studies.Oxford Oxford University Press.
Black,I. (2015). Wake-Up Call on Syrian Army Weakness Prompted RussianIntervention. TheGuardian,<<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/01/syrian-military-weakness-russian-intervention>>
Dannreuther,R. (2015). Russia and the Arab Spring: supporting thecounter-revolution. Journalof European Integration, 37(1),77-94.
Hyde-Price,A. (2007). Europeansecurity in the twenty-first century: the challenge of multipolarity.Routledge.
Institutefor the Study of War. (2015). TheISIS defense in Iraq and Syria: countering an adaptive enemy.Retrieved from <<http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ISIS%20Defense%20in%20Iraq%20and%20Syria%20–%20Standard.pdf>>
Lovelace,D. C. (2016). Theevolution of the Islamic State.New York, NY : Oxford University Press.
Rana,W. (2015). Theory of Complex Interdependence: A Comparative Analysisof Realist and Neoliberal Thoughts. InternationalJournal of Business and Social Science, 6(2),290-297.
Rogers,P., & Reeve, R. (2015). Russia’sIntervention in Syria: Implications for Western Engagement.Available at <<http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/sites/default/files/PR%20briefing%20October%202015.pdf>>
Rotberg,R. I., Rabb, T. K., & Gilpin, R. (1988). TheOrigin and prevention of major wars.Cambridge [Cambridgeshire: Cambridge University Press.
Tsygankov,A. P. (2012). Russiaand the West from Alexander to Putin: Honor in internationalrelations.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Walker,S., Chulov, M. & Borger, J. (2015). US accuses Russia of‘throwing gasoline on fire’ of Syrian civil war. TheGuardian,<<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/30/russia-launches-first-airstrikes-against-targets-in-syria-says-us>>