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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Geopolitics and Syria Today

Geopolitics and Syria Today

Helena Cobban
The last days of 2016 saw two notable developments in U.S-.Russian relations. In the first, the U.S. government expelled more than 30 Russian diplomats from the country and shuttered two Russian Embassy recreational compounds, on grounds that these people and compounds had been used to spy against the United States. In the second, Russian, Turkey, and Iran jointly announced the conclusion of a ceasefire agreement for their forces and all allied forces in Syria, and their agreement on a framework for talks about the shape of a political resolution to Syria’s complex internal conflicts.
The second of these developments did not directly affect U.S.-Russian relations. But this ceasefire supplanted all the efforts the Russians had previously made to work with U.S. Sec. of State John Kerry to reach a ceasefire (or a “cessation of hostilities”) in Syria, and it clearly showed that Turkey, a full member of NATO, was at least as ready to work with Russia in Syria as it was with the United States. Thus, the December 29 ceasefire agreement signaled a non-trivial shift in the balance of power between the United States and Russia in this part of Western Asia.
(It is meanwhile unclear how long the diplomatic crisis over the allegations of espionage will last after the inauguration of Donald Trump as President… )

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