“The Alliance of Rulers vs. Ruled”

As a Reuters report indicates that the war in Syria has entered a new phase, with hundreds of Iranian regulars reporting for service in Syria, Freedom House warns of a new alliance against all forms of resistance to tyranny.  Russia, which is serving as air force to the Iranian ground force efforts to win the war in Syria, is also at the forefront of this new alliance.  China and other autocratic powers are backing it.  This week at the United Nations, they put out a call for governments worldwide to join them in suppressing all threats to “stability” that arise from protests against government power.

Freedom house cited the speeches of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping at this week’s UN General Assembly debate.  Both expressed an immediate willingness to commit forces and money to kinetic efforts they described as ‘global security.’  Xi stated that China was making donations to the United Nations in order to help establish a “permanent peacekeeping police squad” — a new army at the behest of global governments — that would be accompanied by a “peacekeeping standby force” that would be thousands strong.

Putin pointed out that his government was even then deploying air support and military advisers to Syria in a clear commitment to the stability of Syria’s tyrannical government.  Both Xi and Putin described their efforts in terms of the anti-Nazi coalition from the Second World War, which they tied to the origin of the United Nations.  “Similar to the anti-Hitler coalition,” Putin said of his push to create a global effort against resistance to governments like Syria’s, “it could unite a broad range of forces that are willing to resist those who just like the Nazis sow evil and hatred of humankind.”

The intentions of this new alliance are important because, as Putin pointed out, the alliance is already on the march.  Russia began air strikes this week that targeted not only ISIS but the group trained by the American Central Intelligence Agency.  This underscores Freedom House’s warning about the intentions of this new alliance.

[Xi and Putin] used coded language to reject the universality of democratic principles and human rights, insisting instead on “diversity” and self-interested cooperation among incumbent powers….  They seem to suggest that if democracies would simply give up the “export of revolutions,” in Putin’s words, everyone could get along and promote global peace and prosperity.

In fact, they are asking democratic powers to abandon dissidents to their fate, to ignore or even abet brutal repression, and to blindly accept the threats to stability posed by the dictatorships themselves.

Russia engaged in bilateral talks this week with France in an attempt to smooth French resistance to Assad remaining in power after the war.  The French government is also conducting airstrikes in Syria.  The Pentagon likewise held a brief conversation about protecting its air crews with the Russians, but neither government is willing at this time to coordinate strikes with the Russian government.

However, there were different responses to the Russian effort to ensure Assad’s survival.  The French government remains resolute in its opposition to Assad following his use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs on civilian targets.  US Secretary of State John F. Kerry, on the other hand, offered an initial concession in terms of allowing Assad to remain during a “managed transition.”  As Russian dissident and chess master Garry Kasparov has noted, this Russian-backed position of keeping Assad in power ignores the fact that the massive refugee crisis being generated by the conflict is not primarily because of ISIS or other groups that Russia is striking.  “It’s important to remember that the waves of refugees reaching Europe are not running from ISIS,” Kasparov wrote.  “They are fleeing Mr. Assad—who counts on active support from Iran and now Russia.”