Blogs: Paul Pillar

1914 and Aleppo

Political Instability and the Supreme Court Vacancy

Whack-a-Terrorist in Libya

Work with the Russians on Syria

Paul Pillar

Fourth, the interests of Assad and his regime are not the same as Russian interests. The regime may not have an interest in negotiating its own demise, but Russia does not have an interest in indefinitely expending resources to prevent that demise. With this in mind, a sound strategy is outlined by Samuel Charap and Jeremy Shapiro, who argue that the chances for a peace settlement are enhanced by getting the United States and Russia on the same page, which will be a different page from the one Assad can be expected to be on. Charap and Shapiro write, “The United States should refocus the next round of talks on creating a unity government that Russia will accept, the first task of which would be to arrange a general cease-fire and an end to the violence. The details of the deal are of secondary importance, because Assad will reject it. Russia will then lose its patience with the regime. At that point, the United States and Russia would have a chance at finding a common position on ending the war.”

It does neither Syrians nor anyone else any good to respond to the Russian intervention by getting into a Cold War-style dither and pretending that U.S. interests are the opposite of whatever Russia is doing. Increased Russian leverage from the intervention, especially over the Assad regime, can itself be leveraged by the United States to advance its own interests.

Those interests have much more to do with tamping down the conflict than with shaping a particular political future for Damascus. A specific timetable for Assad's departure matters little to U.S. interests. What matters more is curbing the warfare that already has given ISIS a big opportunity for growth, that continues to breed extremism, and that risks destabilizing effects in nearby parts of the region. This is a page that both Washington and Moscow can be on.

Paul R. Pillar is a contributing editor to the National Interest. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a nonresident senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies.

Image: Flickr/U.S. State Department.

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The Clinton Emails: What Is and Is Not Damaging

Paul Pillar

Fourth, the interests of Assad and his regime are not the same as Russian interests. The regime may not have an interest in negotiating its own demise, but Russia does not have an interest in indefinitely expending resources to prevent that demise. With this in mind, a sound strategy is outlined by Samuel Charap and Jeremy Shapiro, who argue that the chances for a peace settlement are enhanced by getting the United States and Russia on the same page, which will be a different page from the one Assad can be expected to be on. Charap and Shapiro write, “The United States should refocus the next round of talks on creating a unity government that Russia will accept, the first task of which would be to arrange a general cease-fire and an end to the violence. The details of the deal are of secondary importance, because Assad will reject it. Russia will then lose its patience with the regime. At that point, the United States and Russia would have a chance at finding a common position on ending the war.”

It does neither Syrians nor anyone else any good to respond to the Russian intervention by getting into a Cold War-style dither and pretending that U.S. interests are the opposite of whatever Russia is doing. Increased Russian leverage from the intervention, especially over the Assad regime, can itself be leveraged by the United States to advance its own interests.

Those interests have much more to do with tamping down the conflict than with shaping a particular political future for Damascus. A specific timetable for Assad's departure matters little to U.S. interests. What matters more is curbing the warfare that already has given ISIS a big opportunity for growth, that continues to breed extremism, and that risks destabilizing effects in nearby parts of the region. This is a page that both Washington and Moscow can be on.

Paul R. Pillar is a contributing editor to the National Interest. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a nonresident senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies.

Image: Flickr/U.S. State Department.

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