Rajan Menon, the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Chair in Political Science, and the author of new book, The Conceit of Humanitiarian Intervention, recently spoke with Carnegie Corporation’s Eugene Scherbakov about recent Russian actions in Syria, the state of U.S.-Russia relations and the way forward in Ukraine. What are Russia’s strategic intentions in Syria?
Putin intervened because he concluded—as did Iraq and Iran, which together with Hezbollah allies were already helping Syria’s army—that Assad’s state was on the verge of collapse. By the fall of 2015, the Islamist resistance—which is the strongest component of the opposition, not moderates and secularists—had made major inroads into Aleppo and Idlib province and had also begun to move into the coastal zone, the homeland of the ruling Alawite minority. Had Assad fallen, Syria, as Putin saw it, would have eventually been ruled by Islamists bent on creating a caliphate. This he was not prepared to let happen. The Syrian war has already attracted thousands of fighters from Russia’s war-torn North Caucasus, so the possibility of a caliphate in Syria had internal ramifications as well for Russia.
For the full interview, please visit: Carnegie Corporation: Five Questions