Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

The left’s dilemma on Syria and Putin

By Joe Gill

Middle East Eye

Owen Jones’ call for the left to oppose Putin did not address the most serious charge that the Russian president is escalating the war in Syria

Owen Jones recently implored the British left to take their fight to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. As a leading voice on the left, his piece was interesting more for what he left out.

Jones points out that Putin has many fans on the right in the US and Europe, including Donald Trump and Ukip’s Nigel Farage. Amongst the reasons he suggests the left should put Putin in its crosshairs are his close ties to the far right in Europe, the dreadful toll among journalists who have opposed his rule, his homophobic policies and his links to oligarchs.

But in the entire critique he did not once mention the Russian president’s war in Syria.

Putin’s current bombing campaign and involvement in ground actions is the biggest military action by Russia outside its borders since Brezhnev sent tanks into Afghanistan. Since 30 September, the bombing in Syria has killed more than 1,000 civilians and twice as many IS and al-Nusra fighters. It has radically improved the survival chances of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which until Russia’s intervention was teetering towards disaster.

1 reply »

  1. Matthew Lyons has an interesting new post up about the divisions on both the Left and Right over Russia and Syria.

    As an opponent of the American empire, I naturally favor the transition from a unipolar world order to a multipolar world order. As Jill Stein recently pointed out, the US maintains around 700-800 foreign military bases whereas all the other nations of the world combined maintain about 30 foreign military bases collectively. In other words, Washington, DC really is “Rome on the Potomac.”

    There are a wide range of reasons to oppose the US empire, but the most important one is its lethal nature. No other contemporary nation has generated the body count of the present US imperial system. The fact that the nations of the BRICS axis, the Resistance Block, and Latin American left-populism are rising in opposition to US imperialism would seem to be a positive development in this regard.

    However, this does not mean that these nations represent model societies. Russia is an autocratic state that practices a regional imperialism, which is the Russian political tradition. Nothing new there. Russia regards its legitimate sphere of influence as Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Again, this is in keeping with traditional Russian foreign policy. It would be best if the West gave Russia its space on this question and ended efforts to encircle Russia by means of NATO expansion and the network of military bases in Central Asia.

    Syria is a family fiefdom, which is not uncommon in the Middle East, although an advantage of the Assad regime is its secular nature. Better Assad than an Islamic state (the most likely alternative if Assad falls). Syria rejects the Washington Consensus. That and Syria’s anti-Israel position are why the US wants to topple Assad (which would likely have the effect of strengthening Sunni fundamentalist terrorist organizations in the region, although Washington doesn’t seem particularly concerned about that).

Leave a Reply