Russia continues to suffer from the embargo placed in 2014. President Vladimir Putin has had to deal with macroeconomic problems exacerbated by the embargo. The economic sanctions were placed by the United States, European Union and its allies. The sanctions came after their illegal annexation of Crimea and their involvement in Eastern Ukraine. As such, they are unable to access Western financial markets for three important sectors namely banking, energy and defense. They are also unable to export oil exploration technology including military products. This has caused Russia to respond with a ban on food imports affecting European markets.
The consequences of the events have led to a fall in oil prices with Russia entering into a recession period. It has also devalued the Rouble wherein the country is also experiencing capital flight.
Significantly, the actions only increased inflation in the country with the fall of the Rouble and rise of prices of imported goods and services. It is expected that Russia will have zero GDP growth in 2015 and 2016.
In recent times, Putin has increased military presence in Syria forcing United States to respond to his political game. Russia has placed fighter jets and other military equipment similar to their strategy in the Crimea. It is not sure whether their efforts are to help Syria or counter the Islamic State militant group or ISIS. Putin has already voiced that he wants the United States and its allies to have a coordinated campaign against ISIS. In the event this does not happen, Russia is prepared to launch airstrikes.
Russia has motives for its actions such as having interests in Syria. Furthermore, their involvement is meant to end their global isolation and have better relations with the Middle East. It may also be to force the hand of the United States to react similar to a chess game. In this manner, Russia and the United States have the same interests wherein the latter is willing to work with Russia. However, the United States still prioritizes the Ukraine issue over Syria but it is still unsure whether which political agenda will have the most dominance.
Their military involvement will also force a conversation with the European Union, which has had to face an influx of Syrian refugees. Russia’s involvement is a positive step for itself since it is protecting its Mediterranean naval base. Syria is also an ally of Russia wherein it has political interest in fighting ISIS.
Some say that the move also prevents Putin from facing talks about Ukraine wherein many view the move as strategic before his appearance in the United Nations. It has also been reported that Chechen fighters have also joined the fight against Assad, Syria’s leader. This could be the underlying reason as Chechen rebels could hit Russia as well. Furthermore, supporting Assad helps in improving Russia’s image which is against any regimes similar to the United States’ stand against Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
Significantly, Russia was responsible for disarming Syria’s chemical weapons, which enhanced its reputation on the world stage. This occurred in 2013 that positively affected Russia’s image. More importantly, Russia is asserting itself in terms of the world’s security issues as it continues to play a major role.
It is also important to note that the influence of the United States is not as it once was. The country has been viewed as a bully especially in the Middle East, which is why Russia’s involvement in Syria is welcomed. As Putin places more military weapons near Syria, their actions are welcomed as a possible end to the civil war. This has also decreased United States influence in the region as it has not sent troops to the area.
The Syrian ISIS crisis must be solved but it is a question of who should do it and why. In this manner, Russia is now an influencer in the region with its parliament approving the use of military force. They have now invested largely in Tarisis, Syria including rebuilding infrastructures such as airports. They also have fighter jets and other military personnel which show the military might of Russia. Their actions show they are ready to combat ISIS and save the embattled Syria. The country has been asking for help in their civil war but they have been diplomatically snubbed with the United States refusing to send troops. In this manner, Russia has positioned itself to outperform the United States in the war against ISIS. Their counterforce is doing what the United States has failed in, which is removing ISIS from the Middle East.
As Russia acts like a hero, this reveals their political interest in the region. First, is to help an ally and to further its influence in the Middle East. Second, it is also remove their problem of the Chechen rebels. Finally, it is also to improve their image in the world stage. The country in spite being economically down still has a strong military arm wherein it is willing to spend necessarily to help subdue the menacing and growing role of ISIS in the region.