Russia has a new role both as the ally of moderate Islam against Western aggression, and as a factor for reconciliation between Islam and the West
How will a future historian will define this present era of human civilization?
Even though it is unusual to begin an article with a question, the present state of international affairs obliges it.
The occupation of Palestine and Kashmir, the endless war in the Middle East, the refugee crisis, the crisis of the fraudulent world monetary system, the unequal distribution of wealth, widespread poverty and malnutrition, the monster carbon footprint of the world’s developed economies, right wing extremism and the extremism of the far left, and last but not the least terrorism – will these be the topics that give titles to the chapters of the history of our present era ?
The West’s Democracy God
The post colonial world gave rise to republican states. In the name of securing sovereignty and national security artificial borders were imposed, originally drawn up by the ex-colonial powers.
Developing and under developed nations are continuously pressured to meet the criteria of standard Western development. In the political arena the West assesses and defines the world according to its ideas of human rights, feminism, globalisation and most importantly democracy.
On the one hand the West dictates to the world the parables of Western values – which it insists the world must adopt – whilst on the other hand they use war and economic sanctions to punish any deviation from any of these ‘values’.
Among all the values which the West is imposing, democracy has come to serve the purpose of God.
This God is a jealous God, who takes no partner. This new God only appears in suit and tie and dictates his revelations in English. The theology of this God has “enriched” rituals of capitalism and of the free market economy.
Which of course leads inexorably to the next step: in the name of this sacralised capitalism and free market economy big Western corporations exploit the national recourses of under developed and developing nations.
Nations who oppose this Western democracy commit blasphemy and must therefore sponsor terror.
The punishment for blasphemy against this new God is severe: bombing, sanctions, ‘nation building’ and ‘democracy promotion’.
So the result in the end of this Western superiority complex is the West’s constant threatening of the East and the invention of the idea of the ‘Clash of Civilisations’, leading to East and West being eternally divided from each other.
In other words the end result of any US and Western dominated unipolar world is the division of humanity amidst ‘Clash of Civilisations’ rhetoric.
In reality any true democracy should make space for both true conservatives and true leftists. That way genuine extremism can be avoided and replaced by valid and purposeful argument.
That of course is not the sort of democracy the West ‘promotes’ any more.
The result is that in the West today, instead of the historic division between true conservatives and true leftists, there is dominance of neo-conservatism and radical neo-liberals.
The clash between what are in reality simply two extreme forms of the same political ideology has closed the space for moderate voices. The result is the destruction of basic ideals of morality within the Western political establishment.
The role of the West in the Syrian war is a good example of what comes from this moral quagmire. In the name of arming the so called “moderates” the West has actually been arming and funding the throat and head cutting fanatics of ISIS/Daesh.
Today however the global dominance of the United States is being challenged by the re-emergence of Russia.
The New Russia
This is not the first time that Russia has set out an alternative vision for the world.
After the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 Russia became the centre of Orthodox Christianity, which helped Russia to develop its own identity as a separate civilisation different from the West.
Whilst the Vatican sponsored relentless wars in a crusade against the Muslim world to seize tiny pieces of land on the east Mediterranean coast, Russia preached the value of a completely different pacific non-crusading Christianity. From east to west, the vast territory of the Russian empire welcomed people from all walks of life and all types of belief.
Russia’s identify was lost following the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. In the name of establishing the rule of the proletariat Russians were forced to reject the core of their own civilization: Orthodox Christianity. That gave rise to the Soviet Union, which however fought two world wars, saving Europe from its own hubris of colonial and self destructive racial pride, and facilitated the struggle of the colonially oppressed peoples for freedom and nationhood.
The current re-emergence of Russia as a superpower has finally come to the notice of the world community as a result of the Syrian War. Russia’s bold stand in defence of the legitimate government of Syria challenged the entire system of chaos which the West’s unipolar world order has created.
But what is this Russian superpower which is now re-emerging? This is obviously a vital question of huge importance in determining the shape of the modern world.
The answer to this question in my opinion highlights the sources of Russian strength, showing why the new re-emerging Russian superpower has been able to face down the US hyperpower, and why it will also succeed in sustaining itself.
The key to Russian strength is its return to moderate values. As the Russians regain their faith a true conservatism now balances the former one sided extreme leftism of the Soviet Union.
As a result whilst the West has adopted a flawed neo-conservative/neo-liberalism model of fake democracy as its religion, Russia has become the beacon of true religion and true democracy for moderate faithful religious people everywhere.
The result is that the Western sponsored war in Syria has created a new window of opportunity for unity between two different world systems: Islam and Russia.
The State of the Muslim World
Let us now turn to look at the Muslim world.
Divisions between Muslims are uncountable today. The endless war in the Middle East gives grounds for feelings of hopelessness. Muslims are betrayed by their own leaders in these most difficult times. The plutocratic states of the Gulf and the House of Saud are in the pocket of the Western ruling elite. The extreme ideology of Wahhabism and Salafism wants to destroy every other sect of Islam.
These conditions create opportunities for the West to create more chaos, which ultimately results in even more wars.
The Syrian War
On the other hand, following the fall of the Soviet Union and Russia’s re-embrace of its Orthodox Christian roots, the political establishment in Russia has successfully reconciled moderate conservatism with the country’s leftist tradition. We can see the positive impact of this reconciliation and adaption of the Russian nation’s two values in the rational and balanced method of contemporary Russian governance and policy making.
In the Syrian war we have observed for the first time in the history of Islam a Sunni majority population stand in support of a Shi’a led government to defeat a Western intervention.
Here it is important to stress the wisdom of the Syrian Arab Army, which grasped what the results would be if the Assad government were to fall as a result of the attack orchestrated upon it by the Western powers. Perhaps the Syrian Arab Army learnt the lesson from the mistake the Iraqi Army when it abandoned Saddam Hussein during the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
There are some independent Western think tanks, which remain “relatively” free from the influence of the mainstream ‘warhawks’, but which still demand the removal of President Assad for various debatable reasons in order to achieve a political settlement in Syria. However there are two fundamental problems with this approach.
Firstly, in light of the war going on in Syria, any effort to change the government of Syria at a time of existential crisis for the country would create a power vacuum, just as previously happened in Iraq and as is now the case in Libya. Given the conditions on the ground in Syria, that would be bound to turn Syria into a safe haven for terrorist groups like ISIS/Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra.
Secondly, no matter what happens in Syria, it should be a fundamental principle that only the Syrian people have the right choose their government. In the chaotic and violent environment which now exists, there is no chance of the Syrian people being able to express their view through nationwide election.
Russia’s intervention in Syria
Russia’s involvement in the Syrian war is strategically unique, and has been very effective in terms of achieving quickly a positive outcome.
President Putin extended Russia’s hand by providing Syria with military help in response to an official request from the Syrian government. Politically and diplomatically the fact that Russia was responding to a formal request for help from the legitimate government of Syria helped Russia counter Western propaganda that might have sought to portray Russian intervention in Syria as an invasion of Syria.
Russia also took the completely correct decision of not putting ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria.
If Russia had sent infantry brigades to Syria, then it would have created opportunities for the West to intensify the war into a broad regional conflict so as to trap the Russians into a never ending war; just as the US is trapped in precisely such a war in Afghanistan today.
So Russia maintained a controlled approach to help the Syrian Arab Army that kept the door open for Russia to withdraw.
Of course both the Russian military and the Syrian Arab Army must be given credit for the successful use they made of this controlled approach. Accurate intelligence sharing between the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian Air force played the key role in achieving success, ensuring that the aerial bombing by the Russian Air force was effective, thereby creating the opportunities for the Syrian Arab Army to go onto the offensive and regain territory from ISIS/Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra.
The Role of Iran
This controlled approach also created space for regional players like Iran to involve themselves in the conflict on the side of the Syrian government and share in the successful outcome of the war.
The Syrian Arab Army’s victory also makes the position of Iran stronger diplomatically and politically. The result is that the West, especially US, can no longer ignore or overlook the role of Iran if they genuinely seek an end to the conflict.
The US along with its Western allies has already been forced to compromise with Iran in the recent Nuclear Deal. Now the West is being forced to compromise with Iran in Iraq and Syria because of Iran’s growing local influence as the regional superpower.
Syria’s – Not Russia’s – ‘Mission to Accomplish’
Lastly Russia’s timing in scaling down its massive but successful bombing campaign was also strategically unique.
The most important thing the Russians have never done in Syria is declare “Mission Accomplished”. Accomplishment of the mission has to come from the Syrian government and the Syrian Arab Army, not from Russia, because it is the Syrian people who are the ones who are principally fighting this war, for their own and for Syria’s survival against Western backed terrorists.
The real accomplishment of the mission will anyway not be achieved after the end of the fighting because though it obviously has to include a military victory such a victory can only be firmly consolidated by a political and diplomatic settlement.
The battlefield victories of the Syrian Arab Army have created the opportunity to bring the other side to the table at the talks underway in the Kazakh capital of Astana. Right now in Astana the opposition has no option but to talk with the Syrian government directly, something it has always resisted doing until now.
The Role of Turkey
The positive role Turkey is playing in favor of a peaceful settlement is also a major development. Turkey is a major military power in this region and is Syria’s largest and most powerful neighbor. The Turkish government can therefore be expected to play a decisive role in influencing the outcome of the negotiations which will bring an eventual end to the war.
The most important point to emphasise here is that the negotiations in Astana is the result of a joint Turkish-Russian diplomatic initiative. Russia had to make a major political and diplomatic effort to achieve this.
When Turkey shot down the Russian SU24 bomber near the Turkish border in November 2015 Russia could have retaliated against Turkey in kind. However that would have merely escalated the situation, bringing relations between Russia and Turkey to the point of crisis.
Instead President Putin showed great forbearance and patience, refusing to provide the West with a chance to trap Russia into a direct confrontation with Turkey which might have involved NATO and which might have threatened to turn the Syrian war into a global war for which Russia is unprepared and in which it would have been at a severe disadvantage.
President Putin also showed clarity and strength in decision making during the military coup in Turkey, giving support to the Erdogan government whilst the attempted coup was still underway.
For his part, after securing his government’s survival by defeating the coup, Turkish President Erdogan wasted no time visiting Moscow, where he gave the signal for a revision of Turkish foreign policy towards Russia.
This has had important consequences. Despite being a member of NATO Turkey is refusing to participate in the recent military buildup by NATO around Russia’s eastern border. Moreover the new Turkish-Russian relationship is becoming even stronger through the establishment of joint economic projects like the Turk Stream pipeline, growing Russian investments in Turkey, and Russia’s phased withdrawal of the economic sanctions it had previously imposed on Turkey.
Conclusion: The Emerging Alliance of Russia and Islam
Now let us review all these developments from a civilisational perspective.
In these dark times of internal division in the world of Islam, the Syrian people – Shi’a, and Sunni, together with all the other sects of Islam living in Syria – united together to defend their country against foreign aggression. They found their ally in moderate Russia.
The Muslim world is in fact edging closer to an alliance with Russia precisely because of its betrayal by its own self-appointed rich Gulf “leaders”, who have been trying to dominate the Muslim community through their version of pseudo Islam, which is destroying the image of Islam as a religion of peace, and which is destroying the voice of the moderate Islamic establishment.
The good news is that this alliance between Muslims and Russians is getting bigger and stronger. The new role Turkey has adopted can only have a positive impact on the development of this new alliance.
Moreover the only nuclear powered Muslim nation, Pakistan, is also getting closer to this alliance.
In November 2016 Russia and Pakistan conducted their first ever joint military exercise despite huge objections from India. Further building up Pakistan’s confidence is the fact that Russia and China at the recent BRICS summit jointly rejected India’s effort to have Pakistan declared a terrorist state.
A Possible Rebirth for the West?
What impact will this new emerging alliance have on the West?
After fighting two world wars the West is still in crisis, having failed to develop a political philosophy that can embrace new emerging nations from the east as equal partners. As a result the chances of new global conflicts are increasing in a way which could be suicidal for the whole of humanity.
Russia’s role in its new emerging alliance with the Muslim world will be not to fight this global conflict. It will be to prevent it and by doing so to help the West in its quest to find a political soul that reflects humanity first, and which decisively rejects war, because in war there are no winners, war being first and foremost about the destruction of the human spirit.