Syria and Ukraine: Two Conflicts That Will Never End
Cynicism. It is a term which any reasonable adult has adopted to describe global conflict resolution. For most of us that have studied global politics, war, strategy, and conflict resolution, we have come to accept several hard truths.
- Global politics and war are vastly more complex than the bitesize sound blurbs that we see on the news. The platforms, teams, and tactics are constantly changing and evolving. Trying to track state and non-state actors by their edicts, policies, and directives is only a small piece of the analytical pie. We are better off analyzing the men and women that provide the strategic directives. Still, battlefields change, and policy waxes and wanes based on position; nothing is static, including policy.
- The world of politics and warfare move very slow, until they don’t anymore. Maintaining status quo gives us all a sense of safety and control. However, policy and warfare are also non-static and one event can change everything.
With those two hard truths out of the way, I will do my best to explain why the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria have no end in sight.
No End in Sight to Syria & Ukraine Conflicts
Let me start with Syria. Conspiracy theorists, armchair analysts and even slightly reputable analysts believe that Syria (the conflict) was part of a larger scale attempt by the West to alter the political and social landscape of the Middle East; a byproduct of G.W. Bush’s “democratization” of the Arab world. I am not certain if that is the case or if it was just the natural tidal wave of revolution, which has been known to historically pop up throughout the world.
What I am certain of is that Syria is not Libya, Egypt, or Algeria. Syria and Assad have a powerful benefactor; Russia and Putin. As far back as Assad senior and the U.S.S.R., Russia has guaranteed military support to Syria. Putin most certainly would not let his “word” be broken. A newly fortified Russian government and military will back Assad until the bitter end, even despite attempts by the U.S. to remove him from power.
While many narratives, reasonable and absurd, blame the creation of ISIS on Obama, Clinton, and the Easter Bunny, it is important to note that, unlike Egypt and Algeria, these theories exist. The existence of these theories should be a big tipoff that the mighty ” Russian Bear” is deadlocked in a war to save Assad, appear powerful and malign Western adversaries in the region.
On the flipside, the U.S. cannot, nor will not, forfeit another fight in the Middle East. Obama’s pullout of Iraq, Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” and drawdowns (and new deployments) in Afghanistan hint at a United States that must hold out in the Arab World; to avoid a total loss of strength and face.
Enter Cold War 2.0; neither side flinches, gains are nominal and easily lost, and the war never ends.
Ukraine, the Buffer Country
The same applies to Ukraine. Known as Europe’s “Bread Basket” for its vast fields of wheat and other food products, Ukraine is also the buffer state between Russia and the EU. That is ultimately why Ukraine is important to Russia and Western powers.
Before the “Maidan” protests, support from the West and Russia for Ukrainian political, economic, and social agendas teetered back and forth. Prior to rising gas and oil prices, Russia would have treated a “coup” in Ukraine with far more delicate gloves. However, a cash-flushed, nervous and wary Kremlin knows that decisive action must be taken to stop the spread of the West onto Russia’s borders.
Vladimir Putin is especially bothered by Western coups, both real and imagined. Putin narrowly escaped from the Leipzig KGB Rezidentura during the toppling of the Berlin Wall. He knows all too well that power can shift rapidly if threats are not contained. He sees in Ukraine, Lithuania and Estonia the same forces that brought down the U.S.S.R. A man of his insight and position cannot allow those things to happen again.
On the other side, the West never wants to deal with a strong Russia again. The Cold War was exhaustive. Faced with the ongoing “Global War on Terror,” Western powers would prefer a Russia that is regionally cooperative and a global non-threat.
Ukraine represents important thoughts and strategies to both sides. Russia needs a buffer, and the West needs Russia contained.
Cold War 2.0.
Ukraine will remain in a suspended state of flux and warfare. Two giants will pull at this country, and corrupt Ukrainian officials will line their pockets with gold and guns from both sides. Ukraine will ultimately never choose a side. Like a child in an ongoing divorce, Ukrainian officials will collect the spoils from the feuding parents, but never get the stability they truly need.
The conflicts in both Syria and Ukraine will not end in the foreseeable future. Much like Latin America and Africa during the Cold War, the world’s mightiest powers will wage proxy wars in these areas until something much larger pulls these nations in one final direction.
Syria and Ukraine are part of two power’s “Strategy of Tension,” and there is no end in sight.