Syrian game-change

October 1, 2015

Russia’s launching of air strikes in Syria is a potential game-changer, not least because of the row over what it is actually striking. Western officials assert it is attacking not Islamic State but Syrian rebels that in some cases the U.S.-led coalition may be supporting. The mechanics of “deconfliction”, ie making sure Russian aircraft do not accidentally clash with Western warplanes, is a pressing issue, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying he now expects urgent discussions. A wider angle is how this transforms Russia’s role in geopolitics, and what indirect effect it might have on other knots of tensions between Moscow and the West, not least Ukraine. Is Vladimir Putin in the process of gradually turning himself from pariah to an awkward yet indispensable player?

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