Russia – Rise of the Phoenix: Noorjahan Momin

noorjahan-mominRecently concluded American Presidential elections have surprised us not just in terms of its results but also through the prominence it has given to Russia while dealing with questions of domestic as well as international significance. In the post-disintegration obituaries to the Soviet Union, the end of bipolar world order was a recurring theme. It was assumed that Russia that had lost substantial portion of its territory and most of its pride during the dissolution would never be able to rise from the ashes of its failure and reclaim the stature of its predecessor internationally. An alternative to previously tense bipolar world order was seen in the form of simultaneous rise of various power centres, mostly economic, across the globe.

It must be remembered here that this time was also characterised by the advent of globalisation and liberalisation where economic determinants gained prominence over the national identity. Newly emergent regional forums were seen as effective substitutes for the confrontations and military and economic alliances of the pre-globalisation era. The United States of America was seen as the natural leader of this new global order. The way in which Russia had limited its scope to dealing with problems within its borders and emerging as a leader of its near abroad, further strengthened this notion.

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However, in the past few years the situation has dramatically changed. With his second stint at presidency, Vladimir Putin has emerged as an aggressive leader who is willing to take chances to preserve the interest of both Russia and its allies. The manner in which Russia has been proactively involved in Syria’s fight against terrorist groups that have consolidated themselves under the flag of Islamic State, further illustrates this re-emergence of Russia in global politics.


Courtesy: Express UK

Russian support of the Assad regime at the international forum was viewed suspiciously by the West. Russia was even accused by the west of providing arms and chemical weapons to the Assad regime. However, the recent spate of terror attacks across globe has compelled the West to reassess their claims and has forced it to reconcile with the inevitability of Russian involvement in the region. America’s support for the rebels who are an offshoot of Islamic State and are said to be involved in actions pertaining to war crimes against Syrian civilians in the area controlled by the Syrian forces has further undermined the reputation of the United States of America. The recent revelations by John Nixon who interrogated the dispossessed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein about the hollowness of American allegation of WMD by the Iraqi dictator, has further undermined the credibility of the American government. While Russia is cementing its image as a world leader that is willing to deal with the tougher issues that are plaguing the world, the US’s sphere of influence is shrinking with the shift of its traditional allies towards Russia.


After the collapse of the Soviet Union, international politics had become unipolar with the dominance of the United States. While other states either aligned with it or were in confrontation with it, the centre-stage was entirely controlled by the US. However, the situation has drastically changed with Russia playing a pivotal role in the Syrian conflict. This resurgence of the Russian state in the war on terror becomes all the more significant if seen in the context of Russia’s emergence as a global power. For almost quarter of a century the United States has dominated the world politics. Following the financial meltdown of 2008, it was anticipated that China would emerge as a counter-weight to the US dominance in the international politics. However, as it has been seen in the last few years, it is Russia and not China that is rising as a phoenix of world economic and political order.


Source: worldbulletin


After Russia vetoed resolutions against the Syrian government, the tide has turned towards the emergence of a bipolar form of power politics. While the West, led by the US has been criticising Russia for its proactive support for the Assad regime; in the present context ignoring Russian presence as a key player has become impossible for the NATO members.  Utilising the UN General Assembly platform in October this year, the Russian President Vladimir Putin reminded the world of the crucial role played by the Soviet Union in fighting the fascist forces during the two World Wars. This could also be seen as Russia’s efforts at effectively reclaiming the position its predecessor once occupied. In fact Putin has gone ahead and blamed the United State for creating and strengthening the rogue elements in the Middle-East.

In addition to these, the recent terror strikes in various cities, particularly in the city of Paris have once again vindicated Putin’s righteousness in attacking the IS. The fear-psychosis that the attacks on the streets of a metropolitan city like Paris and the apparent renewal of the ghastly memories of 9/11 and 26/11 have brought all the other nations, who so far has been demonising Russia for supporting an authoritarian regime, to conclude that the terrorist networks such as IS are much bigger concern right now. In addition to these, the allegation of malicious intent of some of top officials of the Obama administration in dislodging Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi to cater to the economic interests of certain businesses further dents America’s reputation as the saviour of democracy.

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Another significant point worth mentioning here is the way American President-elect Donald Trump has glorified Vladimir Putin as a strong leader whom he wishes to emulate in contrast to an allegedly weaker presidency of Barack Obama. Immediately after the election results were declared, Trump has categorically asserted upon his willingness to cooperate with Russia. It is for the first time since the end of the second world war, that a Russian leader who has been appreciated in the west as a worthy ally to deal with the scourge of terrorism and mindless violence.

However, Russia’s emergence on the international arena as a significant player remains insufficient due to its lack of active contribution in terms of humanitarian assistance in solving the crisis. So far Moscow has shown no commitment towards helping with the refugees escaping from the war-torn Syria. Even though its efforts countering the IS could not be undermined, any confrontational methodology in the contemporary times becomes an incomplete exercise, as long as it is not aided with measures that ensure a safe and dignified life for those who are affected by the turmoil. Russia must remember that its predecessor Soviet Union did not become a global leader after the end of the Second World War merely on its military prowess. The Soviet State became the world leader by effectively rebuilding itself as well as other countries that were either reeling under the aftermath of the devastating war or emerging from long period of colonial exploitation.


Source: euromaidanpress


The world has already witnessed repercussions of confrontational tactics during the two World Wars as well as the cold war era. In the contemporary times any major war – due to the availability of highly developed armament – could be detrimental for the existence of human race. In such circumstances, the need to search for non-confrontational measures of problem-solving is paramount. Even though the IS is a non-state element, there are other countries – say for example, Turkey – who can very easily turn this conflict into a full-blown war. The human cost of the fight between the governmental forces and the Islamic state in Syria is anyways very high. Any more direct confrontation between Russia and friends of IS could unleash endemic violence over the innocent citizens. The news of civilian deaths during the Russian airstrikes over the IS controlled territories are already ringing alarm bells in the minds of people across the globe. If the figures escalate, Russia may lose its moral justification for its actions.

In the past few years Russia has converted its shortcomings into newer opportunities by expanding the horizon of its engagement to the non-western states. With financial difficulties and terrorist extremism remaining no-more exclusive Russian problems Russia has further opportunity to realign itself in this new global arena and it looks like has been effectively doing so. With the advent of a new administration in its arch-rival USA, Russia has a historic opportunity to push for this reset of its relationship with the west and focus on further consolidating its gains. After the demise of the Soviet Union it was assumed by certain sections of the academia and policymakers that there are zero chances of Russia once again finding its feet. However, proving its naysayers wrong, Russia has raised from its ashes like a phoenix that is raring to reclaim its lost glory.




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