On April 12, 2017, the UN Security Council voted on a resolution which aimed to condemn the reported use of chemical weapons in northern Syria on April 4 and to demand that all parties provide speedy access to investigation. How did key rising powers react to the reported use to chemical weapons in Syria and the subsequent US intervention? Find out here.Continue Reading →
On September 19, the Syrian army declared the end of a weeklong ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia. The Syrian regime accused rebels of violating the truce, Russia blamed a U.S. airstrike that killed dozens of Syrian troops, and the United States condemned an attack on a UN aid convoy as being conducted by Russian forces. Many observers hoped the ceasefire might lead to a longer break in fighting with a goal of finally ending the civil war that has been raging since 2011. However, airstrikes by the Syrian government and Russia against rebel targets in Aleppo have resumed at a steady pace.
While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry argued “the ceasefire is not dead” yet, rising powers reacted to the deal’s apparent collapse. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Russia, China, India, and Brazil on the current situation in Syria and the breakdown of the ceasefire agreement.
According to some reports, Russian military leaders in Syria and within the Defense Ministry held an “unusually skeptical attitude toward the deal” and predicted the deal would collapse because of Syrian rebels and U.S. violations. In seeking blame for the ceasefire’s breakdown, the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the United States of being “‘preferred to fully distance itself‘ from keeping in touch with the Russian Armed Forces, ignoring their inquiries and not answering the phone.” Once the deal collapsed, the Kremlin said the chances of restoring the ceasefire were “weak.”
For the breakdown of the ceasefire itself, some directly and indirectly blamed the U.S.
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov scolded Washington for not doing enough to control Syrian rebels under its guidance, adding that “Syrian government troop withdrawals had not been matched with rebel retreats.”
- One senior lawmaker in the upper house of Russian parliament, Franz Klintsevich, claimed “Washington is trying to shift the blame for an attack on a humanitarian convoy in Syria on Russia.” He added, “if the [United States] does indeed seek peaceful settlement in Syria, it needs to really cooperate with Russia rather than make unfounded accusations.”
- Pravda published an op-ed titled “U.S. Massacre of Syrian Anti-ISIS Soldiers,” which made note of the U.S. “stubborn refusal to cooperate against terrorists.”
- John Wight, a political commentator for Sputnik, stated “if the Americans genuinely and sincerely held the wellbeing of the Syrian people as a priority in this conflict, they would have already joined with Russia, the Syrian government, and its allies in defeating Daesh, Nusra, and the various other groups of religious and sectarian fanatics.”
- Sputnik reported the United States further strained the U.S.-Russia relationship “as both countries, distrustful of each other and their local allies, try to salvage the fragile peace process in Syria and breathe life into the” ceasefire agreement.
Russian officials and journalists all expressed some level of skepticism over the original ceasefire deal:
- Vanessa Beeley, analyst and journalist, said “there is no guarantee the radical groups backed by the United States, the Gulf states and Turkey will respect the upcoming ceasefire.”
- Russian political analyst Vladimir Frolov agreed with the pessimistic outlook of the deal and explained that “a gaping lack of trust between Moscow and Washington, unruly and suspicious local proxies, unhappy outside players in Iran and in the Gulf states, a hodgepodge of legal loopholes and lack of viable enforcement mechanisms” make “a successful implementation” quite “hard to fathom.”
- Looking ahead, Russia announced it would send its aircraft carrier to Syria’s coast for use against ISIS and other groups fighting in the country. Kerry has asked Russia to ground its warplanes in order to save the ceasefire.
China supported the ceasefire deal when it was announced with Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang appealing to “all parties involved to enhance coordination and cooperation to continue to carry out the ceasefire in Syria, as well as make joint efforts to help restart Syria Peace Talks and provide humanitarian aid smoothly and effectively.” At the United Nations, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang offered $100 million in humanitarian aid to address the refugee crisis stemming from Syria and other war zones.
Chinese media and experts debated the country’s efforts in Syria and why the ceasefire failed, largely blaming the United States.
- Last month, Rear Admiral Guan Youfei of the PLA Navy visited with Syrian and Russian senior military officials and pledged medical training for Assad’s forces. This marked an increased level of Beijing’s engagement in Syria from its usual stance of non-interference.
- China’s newfound interest in the Syrian civil war and general support for Assad may be related to “the presence of the Turkistan Islamic Party,” an insurgent group with ties to one Beijing linked to violence in Xinjiang after 9/11. Chaos in Syria spilling over to the broader Middle East also puts China’s “One Belt, One Road” investments in the region at risk.
- Analysis published in Xinhua declared the errant U.S. airstrike on the Syrian military as “one of the main reasons behind the faltering efforts to resume a recently-established ceasefire.”
- Xinhua writer Chen Shilei said China’s investment in developing countries have improved economic conditions to reduce “people’s pressures to leave home” and called on the “international community” to “act urgently and strongly in unity to more effective respond to the issue.” This view was echoed by Chinese Ambassador La Yifan.
- The Global Times singled out the United States and Europe for having “hastily pushed for Western-style democracy in the Middle East, contributing to the inflow of refugees” and the ongoing crisis. Chen echoed this view as well.
The Indian government has largely refrained from taking a strong position on the Syrian civil war as New Delhi seeks closer ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council states as well as Israel. In August, the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar met with Assad to restart several business deals – including a $320 million power plant project and investments in the Syrian oil industry – suspended at the start of the civil war due to safety risks for Indian workers. The two countries discussed their “common problem of cross-border terrorism” with support for India’s position on Kashmir and plans for further cooperation on counterterrorism.
When the ceasefire was announced, several India media outlets expressed hope the deal would lead to a lasting peace in the war torn country.
- Left leaning The Hindu said it was “the best opportunity for a solution to the five-and-a-half-year old civil war” due to its support by the “rebels and the regime” as well as Moscow and Washington.
- The Pioneer – a newspaper favorable to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – called the ceasefire “Syria’s chance for peace” though “obstacles remain” such getting Russia to push Assad toward an “honorable exit” or “devises a comprehensive framework under which the major opposition parties are brought under one head.”
- The ceasefire should evoke “cautious optimism” wrote The Times of India, though the paper did not think the agreement would “solve Syria’s long-term problems” such as who will lead the country.
The Brazilian media covered the cease-fire in Syria, its collapse, and recent negotiations between Russia and the United States to reestablish a truce. While Valor Econômico covered the Brazilian government support for the initial cease-fire, there has been few follow-up reports on President Temer’s position and associated efforts regarding the United Nation’s sponsored efforts to broker a temporary peace. Brazilian Foreign Minister José Serra remarked that Syria is a “sister” nation and Brazil supports efforts to reach a final peace. However, the Brazilian government has not played any demonstrable role in the conflict aside from calling for dialogue.
Much of the Brazilian media covered accusations that blamed Russia and the United States for the collapse of the cease-fire. Several media outlets drew from Sputnik, the Russian news agency, to report on Russian allegations that the U.S. Department of Defense was to blame.
- Valor Econômico, the prominent Brazilian economic and financial media outlet, reported Foreign Minister José Serra’s remarks that “the cease-fire serve as a positive step forward toward a resolution of the Syrian conflict through dialogue.” Serra also insisted that all parties comply with the UN Security Council’s resolutions aimed at impeding the flow of weapons to those forces associated with the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
- Veja.com, the popular Brazilian news magazine, reported on Russian allegations that the United States did not comply with the terms of the cease-fire, quoting Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Igor Konachenkov saying “it seems that the objective of Washington’s nebulous rhetoric is to hide the fact that the U.S. government is not complying with the conditions of the cease-fire.”
- Sputnik Brasil, the Russian government media outlet for the Brazilian audience, claims than an unnamed Turkish diplomat suggested that the recent bombings of Aleppo were carried out by the United States Department of Defense, the Pentagon, and that there as a split between the White House and the U.S. armed forces
- Globo reported on efforts to reestablish the Syrian cease-fire and the recent meeting of the International Syria Support Group. The Rio de Janeiro paper summarized the meeting as long, painful, and very disappointing in the words of the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.
- The weekly magazine Istoé recounted the failure to restart the cease-fire and Kerry’s call for a suspension of all aerial bombardments while efforts continue to reach a renewed cease-fire agreement.
- Portal Vermelho, a popular media outlet of the Brazilian left, drew from the Russian outlet Sputnik to summarize an Associated Press story quoting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the United States intentionally bombed Syrian government forces as the cease-fire collapsed.
The terrorist attacks in Paris by the Islamic State (IS) last Friday killed at least 129 people, leaving France and the world in great horror and sorrow. French President Francois Hollande responded by calling the attacks “an act of war” and pleading to wage a “merciless” fight against terrorism. U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the terrorist act an “attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share.” In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil on the Paris terrorist attacks.
Chinese officials unanimously condemned the attacks and extended their condolences to France. (more…)Continue Reading →
Europe is currently witnessing a massive refugee influx as millions of people flee war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Libya. While Germany has taken on leadership by welcoming 800,000 migrants this year, European countries have yet to come up with a unified EU policy to address the refugee issue. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil on the ongoing refugee crisis.
Chinese commentary blamed the United States and the European Union for causing the refugee crisis as a result of U.S. intervention in the Middle East. (more…)Continue Reading →
On September 14, the United States and Russia reached a sweeping deal that called for Syria’s chemical weapons to be removed or destroyed by the middle of 2014, ending a political gridlock over American airstrikes that severely divided Washington and the international community. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Russia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea on the U.S.-Russia agreement and Russia’s role in the negotiation process.
Earlier in the month, President Putin’s New York Times op-ed to Americans on the Syrian crisis and U.S. Senator John McCain’s response to Putin in Russian newspaper Pravda evoked a flurry of analysis and opinion. (more…)Continue Reading →
Following alleged chemical attacks on Syrians last month, U.S. President Barack Obama has called for punitive military strikes against Syria, generating enormous debate in both the United States and the international community on how to respond. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Russia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea on the implications of possible U.S. military action against Syria.
Opposing U.S. military strikes against Syria without UN approval, the Russian government urged Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control, stressing the need for a diplomatic, political solution. Commentators generally supported the government’s decision to seek a diplomatic solution, but were at odds over whether negotiations will succeed.Continue Reading →
The Egyptian military’s deposition of former President Mohamed Morsi has observers around the globe reflecting on how events have changed since the Arab Spring in 2011. This Post compares domestic viewpoints expressed then – from China, India, Russia, and Japan – to opinions in these countries now on the unfolding story in Egypt.
Read our 2011 Policy Alert for additional comparative views.
While China’s Foreign Ministry said it would ultimately respect the decision of the Egyptian people, media commentary echoed doubts expressed in 2011 that these kinds of “revolutions” could ever lead to democratic change in Egypt:
- “Color revolutions will not bring about real democracy,” ran the headline of an editorial in theGlobal Times. “Whether the [democratic] system is applicable in other countries is in question, as more and more unsuccessful examples arise,” said the Communist Party-sponsored English daily.
- The Global Times remained cynical about the “prospects of revolutions” bringing about real democracy, especially when it leads to the copying of “a Western-style democratic system.”The editorial predicted the Egyptian people will “soon get sick of the army” and how events play out will be a test of “whether a country can escape from post-revolution chaos.”
Additional sources shared these pessimistic concerns:
- A China Daily editorial felt the coup d’état “ignited deep worries that the most populous Arab country may plunge deeper into political crisis and social unrest.” The paper worried “divides and even hatred between different forces and factions will still exist after Morsi’s ousting” and will make reconciliation “difficult in the short term.”
- The South China Morning Post wondered why the Egyptian public was so quick to praise the army for deposing Morsi after decrying the military as “thugs” when it aided the collapse of former President Mubarak’s regime. Unless “all sides keep their bargain and are tolerant and understanding,” the paper declared “Egypt’s future will be bleak.”
- Xinhua reported that overthrowing Morsi may further complicate Turkey’s efforts to improve relations with Egypt and coordinate economic and foreign policy, especially on the crisis in Syria.
Editorials in leading newspapers did not express the same optimistic outlook they espoused after the end of Mubarak 30-year rule:
- The Hindu said “the Egyptian state has lost all legitimacy” and that “we are almost certainly witnessing a transformative moment in the modern history of West Asia.”
- The Hindu called the recent coup an “ominous development” after the Arab Spring seemed to “herald a genuinely democratic future for Egypt.” The editorial hoped that the military – despite its “long record of corruption and other abuses of power” – will “quit politics” or “else gains of the Tahrir Square revolution will be tragically lost.” This concern was shared in a Business Standardop-ed by Una Galani.
- The Indian Express characterized the Egyptian uprising as “a re-emergence of the Arab tradition of liberalism.”
- The Indian Express was surprised “how feeble in the end appeared to be the fidelity among protesters to the yearning for democracy that electrified Tahrir two years ago, and the so-called Arab Spring.” This view was shared by The Hindustan Times¸ which argued that recent events “dashed any hopes that what was sowed by the Arab Spring would lead to a speedy democratic harvest.”
Other media sources were more optimistic that the military coup was just a bump along Egypt’s path toward democracy:Continue Reading →
The collapse of the Soviet Union generated a wide range of contending views in Russia on the nation’s place in the world and its relationship with the West. In more recent years, however, Russian foreign policy can be largely characterized as one shaped by a pragmatic approach to balance of power politics and economic development. This outlook and its policy manifestations, along with dissenting views, were the theme of a recent conference on “Russia as a Global Power,” organized by the Rising Powers Initiative at the Elliot School of International Affairs.
Russian worldviews since 1991 can be categorized into roughly three schools of thought, argue Andrew Kuchins and Igor Zevelev in Worldviews of Aspiring Powers. The “Pro-Western Liberals” stress a European identity and favor closer integration with Europe through collective security and economic liberalization, but they have fallen out of favor since their brief rise in the early 1990s. The “Nationalists” see Russia as a distinct civilization apart from the West, and advocate the use of military power to secure Russia as an independent center of power in Eurasia. In contrast to the regional perspective of the Nationalists, the “Great Power Balancers” believe that Russia should have global aspirations in a multipolar world where international status is attained through both economic and military strength. The three Russian experts featured at the conference roughly reflected this spectrum of worldviews in their discussions on a wide range of topics including Syria’s ongoing conflict, the creation of a Eurasian Customs Union, and Russian relations with China and India. (more…)Continue Reading →
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) recently convened in Tehran for its 16th Summit, drawing attention to the relevance of the NAM, members’ relations with Iran, and the ongoing turmoil in Syria. This post highlights commentary on the summit in the Indian, Russian and Chinese press.
The NAM summit drew considerable attention and commentary in India, due to both India’s status as a founding member of NAM and the bilateral meetings that PM Manmohan Singh had with leaders of Iran and Pakistan on the sidelines of the summit.
- The Hindu, known for its mix of leftist and soft-nationalist viewpoints, printed an editorial hailing the NAM’s significance and outlining two reasons why the summit was important for India: Singh’s public opposition to intervention in Syria was India’s “clearest statement of differences with the US on this issue,” and his meetings with the Iranian leadership demonstrated that “New Delhi’s relations with Tehran would not be dictated by the U.S.”
- In contrast, Pramit Pal Chaudhuri of the Hindustan Times acknowledged that anti-Americanism no longer characterizes the NAM. Instead, the paper’s foreign editor argued, the NAM as potential as a multilateral forum that could “provide a means to limit or slow down the expansion of Chinese interests in the world.”
- C. Raja Mohan, known for his great-power realist views in his Indian Express column, dismissed the “utter incoherence of the NAM as a collective political entity.” According to Mohan, the real winner at the NAM summit was Egypt’s new president Mohamed Morsi, whose attendance defied America’s wishes and whose public statement in support of the Syrian opposition riled the Iranian host.
- In the usually liberal-globalist paper The Times of India, an opinion piece similarly lauded Egyptian president Morsi for asserting an independent course of foreign policy: “NAM enables its member nations to…reject Washington’s current foreign policy… (more…)
Last week, China and Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. In this post, we examine Chinese and Russian views on the Syrian crisis.
Commentary in China was generally critical of the West and supportive of China’s UN veto on Syria as a stance consistent with its approach to international issues.
A number of Chinese state-run news outlets criticized the West for intervening in Syria’s internal affairs, adding that the rejection of the UN resolution reflects the will of Moscow and Beijing to counter Western influence.
- At present, Syria has become “a game by and between great powers…that seek to set the template for resolving the crisis of a sovereign state,” declared the People’s Daily.
- Xinhua editor Lu Hui argued that, “Behind the excuse of ‘for democracy and liberty of the Middle East,’ the real motive of the Western countries is to change the political landscape of the whole Middle East area for their own benefit.” He outlines two benefits the West hopes to gain via Syria: