Syria math doesn’t add up without Arab Spring

A crowd gathers in Tahrir Square, Cairo during the anti-regime protests in 2011.
Photo by Jonathan Rashad.

Nuri Çolakoğlu

I’ve been watching the news and debates on TV, reading reports and comments on the internet for weeks. Of course, the agenda is invariably Idlib. But when I try to understand the issue and solve the equation, I see that the most crucial point is overlooked: an undying longing of 200 years.

I’ll try to elaborate. Russia grew from the small Eastern European Duchy of Moscow. Its dream for 200 years has been reaching “warm water ports” and setting sail to the world through there. Perhaps because the North and East were covered by ice, or maybe because the territory was surrounded by seas that were far away from almost everywhere, this dream remained out of reach. Neither in the period of Tsardom nor the Stalin era, when the U.S.S.R. was considered among the world’s great powers, Russia managed to reach such a goal. The first ten years of the Cold War saw no improvements either.

But after the 1950s, the awakening in the Arab world as the colonialist period came to an end, paved the way for Russia and granted it the ways of achieving its dreams.

As winds of revolution began to blow, the Arab countries that had just gained their independence found a strong ally in Moscow. Through this relation, Russia gained access to so many military bases, especially in the Mediterranean, that it couldn’t have seen it in its wildest dreams.

The first blow to this lovely story came when Russia lost its way during the Perestroika and Glasnost periods. It ended with the Arab Spring. It was burden on Russia when Algeria, Libya, and Egypt got out of control and Syria took a separate road. So Russia made one last move and came out on the field in Syria. The fight started little by little at the peripheries, then it was all out: Russia fully joined the game. And in the meantime, on top of the naval base in Syria, they got hold of the air bases and other military positions too.

As the U.S.’s Great Middle Eastern Dream came crashing down, Russia took the center stage in the region.

Turkey wants Russia to stop supporting the Assad regime. But this would actually mean Russia leaving the last position it has in the region and waving goodbye to the warm water ports.

Any assessment made without understanding this and without coming up with a formula that enables Russia to somehow retain its gains is bound to hit a wall.


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