Russia cannot allow Syria to become a failed state because the alternative would mean an Islamic State (IS) caliphate, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.
“We explained our position, we don’t have any attachments to anyone in the region, but we do have [a] very strong feeling that we cannot allow the state of Syria [to] fail, because the alternative is IS caliphate and we would forget about the Syria we know now,” Lavrov said in English during an interview with RT television in New York.
Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with the country’s government fighting against several opposition factions and numerous militant groups, including the Islamic State.
The IS has taken over large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq last year, and seeks to proclaim a caliphate on the territories under its control.
The United States, which does not recognize the current Syrian government, has been launching air strikes against the militants’ positions without approval from Damascus as part of an international anti-IS coalition, as well as training the so-called moderate Syrian opposition.
Russia is currently providing military and technical assistance to Damascus in its fight against the IS extremist organization, urging other countries, including the United States, to join its efforts.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama did not discuss creating coalitions, but did discuss possibilities of cooperating in some of the most acute issues, including in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister said.
“Well, they didn’t discuss coalitions in the classical sense of the word. What they did discuss was the possibilities for the United States and Russia to cooperate closely on the most burning issues of today. Syria, first of all and there we all agreed that our common goal is to defeat IS, not to allow IS to establish the Caliphate, which they are planning to have on huge territories,” Lavrov said.
The size of the Islamic State has expanded and the United States and Russia have agreed not to let them expand any further, he said.
“They already established themselves on big chunks of Iraqi and Syrian territory, introducing their inhuman rules and laws. And both Russia and the United States are absolutely determined not to allow them to succeed,” Lavrov added.
Russia has been supplying weapons to Syria and Iraq, who are actually fighting terrorism on the ground, and these actions should be coordinated by different forces, he said.
“We have long started supplying them with necessary weapons and equipment to increase their ability to fight terrorists. Both governments of Iraq and Syria received this assistance from us. We sent our military specialists to help use this equipment and we believe that all those who fight on the ground against the terrorists groups IS and others must be coordinated. Not necessarily under a single command. This is not realistic, we believe,” Lavrov said.
‘No full-scale intervention’
A Moscow Times report indicated that though Russia may be ready to provide Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with enough military support to survive, it is unlikely to launch a full-scale intervention to help him gain control over the whole territory.
“Such support may go beyond simple military equipment exports to Syria,” Topychkanov said. Though the Kremlin may be flexible on Assad’s fate, “the option of an Assad defeat seems to be unacceptable for Moscow,” he said.
General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, a military expert at the Moscow-based PIR Center think tank and a former member of the Russian military’s General Staff, said nothing would prompt a full-scale military intervention on Assad’s behalf — such an action was simply out of the question.
“I don’t believe there will be a Russian direct intervention into the Syria crisis, and by that I mean there won’t be anything on land,” Buzhinsky said. “[At] maximum, air strikes,” he added.