Small Wars Journal

Russia Moves in Syria, Iraq, Upending U.S. Role

Russia Moves in Syria, Iraq, Upending U.S. Role

Sharon Behn

Voice of America

With just two moves, Russia may have upended the U.S. role in the Middle East.

Working with its allies in Tehran and Damascus, Moscow first moved 28 attack and transport aircraft and enough housing for 2,000 troops to Latakia, Syria. Then Moscow set up a security and intelligence-sharing cell in Baghdad, Iraq, also in coordination with Iran and Syria, to fight Islamic State group (IS) extremists.

The result is that Russia has created a new Moscow-Tehran-Damascus axis of power in the region where it is “the only superpower willing to fight," said Michael Pregent, a visiting fellow at National Defense University.

“This completely undermines and marginalizes the U.S. fight against the Islamic State and supplants any leverage we have. We are not doing a thing,” Pregent said, criticizing what he called President Barack Obama’s “slow-burn” strategy in the region.

Other analysts have said that for months Washington had been losing its influence in Baghdad to neighboring Iran. Washington’s airstrike campaign also has done little to oust the IS militants from Iraq or Syria, and the Pentagon’s efforts to train a rebel force to fight the extremists has failed.

Elias Groll in Foreign Policy wrote that Baghdad’s decision to share information with Russia, Syria and Iran to combat Islamic State militants will “take the fight to the enemy in a way Washington has been unwilling to do.”

And setting up an active base to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “has greatly increased Moscow’s leverage in the region and over the final outcome of the four-year-old civil war there,” Groll said.

U.S. Sticking to Objectives

Moscow’s tactical moves have been effective, says Reva Bhalla, Stratfor Vice President for Global Analysis.

“Diplomatically, Russia is definitely tarnishing the image of the U.S. Russia comes out as the problem-solver and the U.S. looks like it’s fumbling,” she said.

By willingly putting military equipment on the ground with the intention to fight IS extremists, Russia, she says, is sending a very clear message to the region that it is willing to be a credible partner.

“Whereas before ... many have looked at Russia and said 'you are just a lot of talk' — now this whole Syria situation is having everyone recheck their assumptions," Bhalla said. By inserting itself into the Syrian conflict to become an indispensable player, she added, Moscow has essentially set itself up for negotiations on other issues such as Ukraine.

But the U.S. may not have compromised its objectives in the region, sticking to its longer-term, broader security goals regardless of Moscow’s maneuvers.

“The U.S. objective was to take a step back, and by doing so they were freeing themselves up to focus on other major priorities, knowing that military entrenchment there is a pretty thankless effort after a while," Bhalla said.

Ripple Effects

Some analysts have said the Russia-Syria-Iran alliance will also have a ripple effect on Washington’s major regional ally, Kurdistan, in northern Iraq.

Kurdistan is split between two major political forces: that of the pro-West Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) led by current Kurdistan Regional President Masood Barzani, and the pro-Iran Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Gorran parties.

“Whenever you have regional competitions escalate, the more you are going to see fragmentation within the Kurdistan political landscape,” Bhalla said. The security developments, she added, have created “an opening for Iran to get closer to certain Kurdish factions.”

That fragmentation could also quickly seep into Baghdad. On Monday, unnamed sources in Iraqi media were citing plans for a coup against the government of Haider al-Abadi in favor of his more pro-Iranian predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki.


Bill C.

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 12:45pm

Given my suggestion of a New Cold War -- one which finds the U.S./the West now doing expansion -- and such nations as Russia, China and Iran now doing containment, etc.,

Should we not see Putin's recent speech at the U.N. -- and his moves in such places as Ukraine, Syria, etc., today -- in the exact same light as we saw Truman's declarations and moves in the earlier stages of the Old Cold War?

Thus, to see Putin recent actions as a formal "throwing down of the gauntlet" and as a clear declaration and announcement that he (Putin), in one form or another, will, henceforth, seek to:

a. Prevent the U.S./the West from gaining greater power, influence and control in various regions of the world. This, by

b. Preventing the U.S./the west from (1) overthrow existing regimes so that we might (2) install our political, economic and social systems in various states and societies?

Thus, to see Putin's moves in Ukraine and Syria today in much the same light as we see/saw Truman's actions in Greece, Turkey, etc., cir. 1947, to wit: as (a) a clear and formal declaration of (b) a "containment" goal and strategy and, thus, (c) a New Cold War?

History, someday, to record this moment accordingly?

Bill C.

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 12:12pm

In reply to by Dayuhan

(Moved to the top of the page.)


Fri, 10/02/2015 - 5:27pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Yes, we all see the connection. So what?

Obviously Syria is a lot more important to Russia than it is to the US. Assad is a long standing Russian ally, and Russia has very few of those. Tartus, despite its limited facilities and capacity, is the only Russian-controlled naval installation in the Med. There is a large Russian contingent fighting with ISIS that Putin would rather deal with in Syria than in Dagestan and Chechnya. It's actually surprising that it took Putin so long to act.

By contrast, what pressing interest or goal does the US have to pursue?

If Putin wants to support Assad and position himself as the primary antagonist of every Sunni radical on the planet, how is that our problem? We can't stop him anyway, just sit back and watch the show. At least it isn't us sinking into the muck... for a change. Maybe time for the US to focus on protecting the Kurds to the extent possible and assisting Europe and the bordering countries with the refugee crisis, and let Putin step on his own putz.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 6:55am

In reply to by Dayuhan

See the connection to the Ukraine????

Russian propaganda show:
"That is our holy land. Without #Syria there is no #Russia"

ONE could flip this and state---"That is our holy land--without the Ukraine there is no Russia."

Yes, the Russians look bold, assertive, and proactive... right now. The question is how long that will last. Getting in is easy, getting out is not.

How will Russia look when it becomes clear that they can neither crush ISIS nor preserve Assad, and when it becomes clear that all they've done is step into a quagmire and unite opposition forces against them? How long before the terror attacks on Russian soil start? Before the Russians are forced to either withdraw or introduce ground troops?

Forget about how it looks now. Wait it out and see where it goes. The US needs to keep its eye on the long term ball, act according to its own interests, and not be distracted by Russia. The US has no need to compete with Russia to see who can intervene most aggressively. If Putin wants to go in search of his own personal Afghanistan, why should the US follow suit?

Outlaw 09

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 3:48pm

Putin can’t save Assad, it’s far too late for that

Hassan Hassan

September 28, 2015

In August 2012, Bashar Al Assad mocked the string of defections from the Syrian army as “a self-cleansing process” that would strengthen the country. Almost exactly three years later, Mr Al Assad gave a speech in which he made a striking confession that the army was seriously lacking troops.

“There is a lack of manpower,” he said in a speech in July. “Everything is available for the army, but there is a shortage in manpower. That does not mean we can talk about collapse. We will resist.”

A month later, news emerged of a Russian military build-up in Latakia. The deployment of Russian forces and equipment follows a noticeable deterioration in the army’s ability to stand its ground amid attacks by the rebels in different parts of the country. In Idlib, anti-government forces claimed back-to-back victories that left the regime’s heartlands in central and western Syria exposed for the first time since the conflict began. Similar gains were made by the rebels in the south and by ISIL in the central hinterlands such as Palmyra and Al Qariatayn in Homs.

Even within its support base, the regime suffered challenges. Many in Sweida objected to the deployment of their young men in conflict zones outside their province. Mounting agitation in Sweida forced the regime to allow Druze soldiers to fight in their areas, a remarkable concession. Draft-dodgers among Alawites added to the regime’s unease.

All the while Hizbollah and Iran supplied the regime with massive resources and elite forces to prevent its collapse. Dogmatic foreign fighters – from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere – fought alongside the regime in key areas such as Damascus, Aleppo and near the Lebanese border.

Despite the tremendous and consistent support provided by Damascus’s allies, which contrasts sharply with the confused and divided positions of the rebels’ putative backers, the regime has retreated and shown signs of weakness that apparently necessitated a Russian intervention.

Given this reality, could Moscow save the Assad regime? What more could Russian manpower and equipment do to turn the tide in favour of Mr Al Assad? The answer is that the Russian intervention will be more successful than many like to think. But it will also be too limited to turn the tables.

Russian involvement will revamp and bolster the Syrian army. In addition to weapons and logistics, Russian forces will work closely with the army’s elite divisions, such as the 4th Armoured Division, to upgrade battalions and paramilitary forces and to fortify strategic territories from Damascus to the coastal region.

This will require technical expertise and close supervision to compensate for the defection of experienced low and mid-level officers. One of the reasons the army has suffered defeats since April is the apparent focus on providing resources to the paramilitary forces rather than to the army. Even so, these informal militias are not yet ready to take the place of the army. The Russians might professionalise such militias or at least better link them up to the elite army divisions.

Also, the Russian presence will enable the army to respond quickly and effectively to surprise attacks. Russians fighting alongside the regime will also boost the morale of Assad supporters, many of whom have fled the country or evaded conscription. Additionally, the Russian deployment will deter any moves by regional countries to intervene in Syria, including through the establishment of ad hoc safe zones.

The Russians will help the regime to secure and fortify its bases, but not to claw back lost territories. The problem for the regime is not firepower but ground forces capable of pushing back incessant rebel attacks, something that Hizbollah and Iranian fighters are better equipped to provide in the Syrian terrain. Hizbollah has made successive gains against the rebels in some areas but it also suffered defeats or impasse, including in areas where it has a strategic depth, notably near the Lebanese border. A Hizbollah-led three-month offensive in Zabadani, for example, failed to clear a few hundred rebel fighters, compelling Iran to negotiate a truce with the militants.

The idea that Russian fighters will enable the regime to reclaim territory is a fantasy. Russia also has little to offer against ISIL in eastern Syria, except perhaps to reinforce three airbases under attack by ISIL in Deir Ezzor, Aleppo and Homs. Moscow will bolster the regime’s capabilities to defend itself in key towns and cities, but nothing more.

Western officials are therefore greatly misguided to signal a softening towards Mr Al Assad in the wake of the Russian intervention. They should recognise they are fast losing any shred of credibility among the opposition.

The Russian intervention and the West’s overtures will lead to a far more complex situation. Foreign and local extremists will be galvanised to fight against a familiar foe, as they liken Russia in Syria to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. When the regime’s supporters find that even Russia cannot dramatically turn the tide in favour of the regime, that will probably lead to a new wave of demoralised soldiers. And western countries, which claim to support the opposition’s cause, will have lost any leverage they may now have to play any effective role.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 2:12pm

Bill C--actually if one reads this IS was in fact losing to the US in 2010.

AND if you read the article quite closely they let us leave Iraq quietly--that was for all to see in their battle videos--they were undergoing extensive retraining and attacking the Iraqi security forces not the US so we could leave them alone which we did as we were on our way out.

The failure by Obama to leave a residual force in place is a major failure that historians will see and write about in the future and it will eventually tarnish the Obama legacy.

Really worth reading------

Why---what is extremely interesting is that it proves once again just adaptive IS was--in the period from 2010 until their breakout of Syria 2015 they drove on a consistent "campaign plan" and they announced them--there were no surprises it was all there to read---taken from this "Blue Print".

One of the serious failures of the US military was the inability to listen and to read--the Islamists always told us what they were going to do--we just did not want to believe it.

09.29.151:00 AM ET

Inside the ISIS Blueprint for Winning

Back in 2010, ISIS was on the downswing. The terrorist group then published a think tank-like pamphlet on how to get a country of its own.

Despite the success to come, the auguries boded ill for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi when he assumed leadership of the Islamic State in May 2010. American and Iraqi troops had killed his predecessor while he was at home, which meant the Islamic State had been penetrated by its enemies. Many of the group’s leaders had met similar fates at American hands. In response, the Islamic State shifted to a strategy of clandestine terrorism to cope with the setbacks but longed to fight in the open again as an insurgent group. An Islamic state is nothing if it has no land.

On the new emir’s desk was a plan to turn things around. Between December 2009 and January 2010, Iraqi jihadists had circulated a “Strategic Plan for Reinforcing the Political Position of the Islamic State of Iraq.” The document has the look and feel of a DC think tank report, with analysis and recommendations for policy makers. Think pieces and after-action reports are common in the jihadist movement, but it was unusual to see jihadists openly criticize the Islamic State. The criticism was evidence of how far the group had fallen. The tempo of the Islamic State’s attacks was nowhere near its height in early 2007, and the group held no land.

The strategy paper blamed the Islamic State’s fall on a “dirty war” waged by its American adversaries, who used “awakened” Sunni tribes against it. “When the Islamic State was at the pinnacle of its power and influence, [the Americans] bombed markets, public places, and mosques, and they killed the opponents of the State, so that the mujahids were blamed. On account of things like this, we saw the influence of the Islamic State fade and disappear and the apostate Awakenings spread.”

The delusions continued. The authors of the paper spun online videos of Americans trying to disarm improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as videos of Americans planting the devices and inadvertently blowing themselves up. The Islamic State did not provoke the Sunni tribes by oppressing them; rather, the jihadists’ enemies cleverly turned tribal leaders against the jihadists. Young men in the tribes supported the Americans only for money and for pride, styling themselves as defenders of their people.

The Islamic State has fallen, the authors acknowledged, but it will return just as the Taliban returned in Afghanistan after its defeat at the hands of the Americans. The American withdrawal from Iraq would be the time to act. “When the Americans withdraw within two years… the situation will be strongest politically and militarily for the Islamic plan to prepare to completely seize the reins of control over all Iraq.” But the authors recognized that other factions in Iraq were preparing to do the same.

The authors recommended several ways to overcome the other factions and control Iraq. Uniting them behind the “jihadist program” of the Islamic State was at the top of their list. “It is not about names and titles the Muslims would strive for. Aiding [the program] is a victory for the people of Islam and not a victory for a group, or a title, or a name.” Merely fighting the other factions without a goal would be “stupid.”

Militarily, the authors contended it would be a waste of time to focus on attacking the American forces in Iraq since they were leaving; rather, the jihadists should train their fire on the Iraqi military and police, whom the Americans hoped would continue to pacify the country for them once they left. By targeting them, the jihadists would instill fear in the hearts of potential recruits. They should focus in particular on the very few units that were capable of fight- ing against the jihadists.

Attacking government troops would also force them to abandon their bases in regions of the country where they were weak. That would open up security vacuums and drain the government’s resources when it fought to protect its remaining bases. The jihadists could exploit these vacuums by seizing the territory and any equipment or infrastructure that was left behind. “Make them always preoccupied with internal problems,” wrote the authors, quoting ancient China’s preeminent military strategist Sun Tzu.

Readers might find it odd that religious zealots who hate nonbelievers would quote Sun Tzu. But the practice is common, evidence of a pragmatic streak among some jihadists. In the early 2000s, for example, jihadists celebrated the strategic insight of Abu Ubayd al- Qurashi, an anonymous author who quoted dozens of non-Muslim strategists in his magazine column, “Strategic Studies.” Among others, Qurashi cited Robert Taber’s history of guerrilla campaigns, War of the Flea; William Lind’s writings on fourth-generation warfare; the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz; and the Communist revolutionary Mao Zedong. The authors of the “Strategic Plan” were carrying on that tradition.

The authors assumed guerrilla tactics would weaken the Iraqi government. But they also believed the jihadists could not establish their own state without co-opting the Sunni tribes. To do so, the authors advised the Islamic State to copy what the United States had done: give money and weapons to Sunni tribal leaders who were angry with the Islamic State. Doing so had reinforced the tribal leaders’ authority and bought the temporary allegiance of their young men.

The authors admitted that “the idea to recruit the tribes to eliminate the mujahids was a clever, bold idea and will be used by any occupier in the future because they make hard work easy for the occupier, just as they provide protection against the attacks of the mujahids.” But the authors were sure the tribes would rather receive money and weapons from fellow Muslims than from foreign occupiers who disrespected their religion or promoted thugs as tribal leaders. The mujahids should follow the American blueprint of creating tribal councils and militias they can work with, but do it better. The mujahids would be more respectful of local religious practice and power structures, and they could finance the endeavor with captured booty.71 As we will see, the jihadists’ respect for religious sensitivities and power structures was sometimes more theory than practice.

Uniting the jihadists behind a single program, intimidating Iraqi security forces, and co-opting the Sunni tribes would not be enough, asserted the authors. The jihadists also needed a “political symbol” or “avatar.” Several things go into the making of such a symbol: the greatness of his sacrifices, his high morals, and his evenhandedness. The head of the Islamic State at the time, Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, had achieved symbolic status. But the authors worried that none of his deputies was high profile enough to fill his symbolic shoes if he died (which happened a few months later).

In concluding their think piece, the authors stressed that jihadists have to instill confidence in those whom they rule. They could do this by protecting the people in lands they control and making them prosper, seeing to the needs of local governors and soldiers, selecting good executives and judges, ruling by Islamic law, implementing the hudud punishments stipulated in Islamic scripture, and distributing money from the treasury. Since the international media is biased against the jihadists, they said, the jihadists would need a media strategy to make sure their good works were known. The jihadists should also consider allying themselves with their opponents when they face a common enemy, just as the Prophet allied with the Jews against the pagans when they attacked him in Medina.

Blueprint in hand, the Islamic State was prepared for a comeback.

So the Russians anticipate being successful against IS and the other Islamists????

Outlaw 09

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 1:45pm

Bill--there are two additional points not discussed in the article---

1. the Russian military is taking the opportunity to combat test their new weapons and weapon systems under field conditions---in the Ukraine it was artillery/new munitions, EW, tanks and Spetsnaz AND non linear warfare--in Syria they are testing their sea and airlift logistic capacities, new ground attack aircraft plus air command and control interfaces together with UAVs and conventional fighting.

In order to perceive yourself as a superpower one must project power-----

2. secondly and here comes the Russian weakness which surprises me--they are virtually begging the US to join their intel collection and analysis center in Baghdad--you would think that their intel systems are the greatest but that made in the US seems to be better-they are extremely interested in our intel collection and analysis and targeting processes-AND

If the Russians fail in Syria then they can blame the US for intel failures---win win all around AND it cements for the world that the US works under the Russians NOT with the Russians thus cementing the perception that Russia is the leading superpower.

BTW the logistics and intel collection and analysis were two key areas the Russians wanted to exercise with us in Atlas Vision in 2012/2013.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 12:38pm

Bill C---this is my only further comment on this particular article---Russia when we really look at their handling of the "Islamic question" in the current Russian Federation ie Chechnya, the Caucasus's, the Crimea with the Tartars, and the Far Eastern regions--it has not been a blinding explosion of successes--actually we seem to have had a better track record even with 9/11 hindering our thinking than Russia does with strong armed brutal force.

Actually the world is slowly awakening to the simple fact that the Russian FSB "gently pushed" emphasis on the word "gently" 2400 jihadi's out of Russia to avoid fighting them in Russia ONLY to ship an entire Russian expeditionary army to Syria to "now what" fight them??

That is what the perfect example of the Putin" genius as a "strategist"?

How that will translate into Syria is anyone's guess.

At least we can see the military stalemate--can Russia?

Dempsey: "The fight against ISIL has reached a phase that I would call tactically stalemated"… …

IE Putin stated in his CBS/PBs that the US was failing and ineffective with the air strikes against IS--but if the figures are correct the air war has just about held the numbers being killed to the numbers drifting in to reinforce IS and basically stymied IS in further gains in Iraq.

AND without major boots on the ground--but if the Iraqi's, Iranians, Syrians and now the Russians cannot use the "space that has been gained" to make something happen...then what?

That is the stalemate that the former JCoS is talking about--in Syria IS is largely being held in check by the other anti Assad Islamist forces and the Kurds and little to nothing being thrown at them by the Syrian military who have been their "friends" since 2012.

SO yes they have "shown up the US and made an initial impression" but in the end IF they cannot deliver on removing IS then they also will take an even more serious hit to their image than the US has because they are going head to head militarily and would have lost.

Hate to say it --but JSOC did serious damage to the former QJBR then AQI up through 2010. Can the Russian Spetsnaz continue--questionable.

One thing I have learned in the ME--everything is about "perception"--I actually have called fighting IS and the various Islamist groups a "true war of perception" AND we the US do not do "perception well".

The second thing I learned in the ME is that the various Islamist groups are anything but slow in learning from their mistakes---they are definitely capable of adapting far faster than we are.…

Bill C.

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 11:58am

From Outlaw's "Politico" article provided below:

"Democratic revolutions are the dreams of those who have unrealistic views of the world. The USSR learned that it could not export socialist revolution; the West must learn that it cannot export democratic revolution."

Thus, a perfect explanation of the New Cold War (Order?) as I have explained before. With:

a. The U.S./the West now doing "expansion" (as the former Soviet Union/the communists did during the Old Cold War). And

b. Russia now -- as the U.S./the West did during the Old Cold War -- doing "prevention"/"containment"/"roll-back" (of the U.S./the West's such "expansionist" efforts).

The "dreams of those who have unrealistic views of the world" (then and now?):

a. Such things as "universal values" (of the western or communist varieties).

b. Such things as "overwhelming appeal" of a particular way of life (ours or the communists). And

c. Such concepts as "the end of history" (our such concepts or the communists).

Each of which, in its train, brings the potential for chaos on a massive scale and, indeed, the potential for -- as in the Old Cold War and again today -- global thermonuclear war?

Outlaw 09

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 9:03am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

THIS falls under the "you have got to be kidding me" rubric------

Russian station NTV on how the int'l press has recognized #Putin's global domination

How is the IS problem going to resolved when one has a bear floundering around in the sands of the ME thinking they are the world saviors for the Sunni Shia Conflict when they are a Russian Orthodox religion???

Outlaw 09

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 8:50am

This speech parallels Russian non linear warfare/political warfare goals--read and fully understand just what he is saying. BTW it did not via much from a similar speech given in 2008 which was anti American and anti western in tenor. 2008 was critical as it kicked off the long series of Russian interventionism in countries bordering Russia.

Putin’s new world order

By Paul R. Gregory

9/29/15, 7:59 AM CET
Updated 9/29/15, 10:32 AM CET

The president of Russia uses a Putin-speak in his speeches that we must parse word for word, in our own best interests. Only after translating them into normal speech do we learn what he has said and why. His speech Monday to the United Nations General Assembly made seven overlapping and interdependent points that are worth translating.

Unlike Barack Obama’s passionate address, Putin delivered his remarks in the measured and moderate tones of a world statesman. They were still words of warning: Join us in a broad coalition and leave nondemocratic regimes alone, or catastrophe will strike.

Following are the major points that Putin wished his audience to take back to their respective countries:

First, the United States and its Western allies are responsible for the sad state of world affairs owing to their foolhardy interventions on behalf of democratic revolutions. Democratic revolutions are the dreams of those who have unrealistic views of the world. The USSR learned that it could not export socialist revolution; the West must learn that it cannot export democratic revolution.

Second, the United Nations, not some agglomeration of prosperous Western powers, should guarantee peace and security for all, not just to a select few singled out for narrow benefit. Only the U.N. can form a broad coalition that can put an end to the terrorist threats of ISIL. The matter is urgent. If such a coalition is not formed soon, the migrant flow to Europe will reach into the millions, not tens of thousands, and no country will be safe from terrorist attack, says Putin.

Three, Russia’s status as a veto-welding member of the U.N. Security Council is not affected by Russia’s recent disagreements — namely, the United Nations’ condemnation of the Crimean annexation and Russia’s veto of a criminal tribunal to punish those responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines MH17. Such disagreements, even among the major Western powers, have disrupted the work of the Security Council since the U.N.’s founding. Putin tells his audience that the fact that Russia disagrees with certain U.N. resolutions is normal and does not affect its veto power.

Fourth, the West must understand that the choice between governmentalism (‘gosudarstvennost’) and chaos must be made in favor of the former. The Assad government may not be ideal, but it is the only institution of statehood that exists. Libya’s Gaddafi regime was tyrannical, but what came afterward has been worse. Well-intentioned actions that destroy a nation’s “governmentalism” leave vacuums that forces of evil, such as ISIL, fill. The ranks of ISIL, for example, were populated with the disaffected remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime. No such thing as a moderate opposition exists, as shown by America’s comedic efforts to train and arm anti-Assad forces.

Fifth, the West must suppress its appetite for supporting democratic opposition forces that challenge “governmentalism” in regimes whose human rights, press freedom, and election procedures fall short of Western ideals. (Not stated by Putin is that he includes Russia in this category; hands off Russia’s internal affairs.) The West’s meddling in Ukraine had the unanticipated consequence of what Putin calls a “spontaneous civil war,” with over 8,000 deaths.

Sixth, the world must return to normal trading patterns, “harmonized” by the World Trade Organization and the U.N. This new order cannot be a diktat of the strong but must be fair and even for all, perhaps including a common market between the European Union and Putin’s proposed Eurasian Union. Sanctions, which are imposed for political reasons and personal financial gains, would have no room in such a world order. The sanctions against Russia must be lifted immediately. The West knows they are not fulfilling the purposes for which they were levied.

Seventh, the Western world must respect the security concerns of Russia over NATO expansion. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, NATO enlargement can only be seen as encircling and threatening Russia’s sovereignty. If the world goes to a common market of common markets (European Union with Putin’s Eurasian Union), there is no reason to be concerned about the EU expanding to include Ukraine.

* * *

Putin’s U.N. speech did not deviate from previews he gave weeks earlier. His broad coalition will include the Assad government as a non-negotiable condition. Putin portrays himself as the knight on a white horse galloping in to save the day for the bumbling Obama. Putin is betting his new world order on the U.N., where less than half of its members are classified as free and where his “leave bad regimes alone” message resonates.

Putin cleverly weaves together points to which Western audiences would agree (we have indeed made a mess of the Middle East and Ukraine) with ideas that are wrong or inoperable. He does not explain how a broad coalition can be formed that includes warring Sunni and Shia factions. Nor does he tell us how his Eurasian Union can blend with the European Union, when both are founded on completely different economic and political principles. Are the Western countries supposed to lift sanctions if Putin’s armed forces fight only against anti-Assad forces? Is the West supposed to tolerate ruling regimes, no matter how terrible, just because they can promise a state that prevents vacuums from being formed?”

Putin was the center of attention in New York. This is what drives him. Instead of Putin the ostracized, he is now Putin the creator of a new world order.