Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Can and Must Exploit US-Led Fight against ISIS, Silantyev Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 16 – The US campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria gives Russia new opportunities to advance its interests in the Middle East, according to Roman Silantyev, an influential Russian specialist on Islam who has gained notoriety but also much support for his criticism of Muslims both inside the Russian Federation and abroad.


            In a statement to Interfax today, Silantyev says that Russia should extract as much profit as possible from the American campaign against the Islamic State, something he said would be easy for Moscow to do as long as it focuses on its own interests rather than on saving “US allies” (interfax-religion.ru/islam/?act=news&div=56472).


            Up to now, he continues, ISIS “is not a serious threat” to Russia. Indeed, it may even have helped Russia because some Islamist radicals who have been working inside the Russian Federation have left to fight for it and the struggle against ISIS has led some Persian Gulf monarchies to reduce their support of Islamists inside Russia as well.


            If Russian units do take part in the campaign, they will gain experience “in a real war in the desert,” but Silantyev says, the most important “plus” for Moscow will be the chance to “legally sell to Iran and Syria the latest [Russian] air defense complexes” as well as other weapons systems.


            Moreover, he says, “unlike the Americans,” Russian fighters will not have to carefully distinguish among the rebels but instead will be able to attack all of them, something that “will help Bashar Asad restore full control over this country,” not only creating “a more effective defense against the Islamic State” but reinforcing his ties with Moscow.


            This could open the way for the opening of new Russian bases there and elsewhere in the Middle East, Silantyev suggests, a move which “would make much more difficult the forcible export of democracy [by the West] into countries which are friendly to us.”


            “On the whole,” he concludes, “the collapse of American policy in the Middle East is extremely advantageous for Russia, and it is necessary to use this advantage to the maximum extent possible.”


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