Stakes in Syria are higher than ever

"I believe that your visit came at a great time. It gives us much-needed opportunities, so that, just like our presidents agreed, we could frankly and honestly clarify the prospects for cooperation on all issues, primarily on the formation of a broad anti-terrorist front," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a meeting with his American counterpart Rex Tillerson in Moscow. The relations between Moscow and Washington worsened after Pentagon hit military air base of the Syrian government forces with cruise missile.

Head of the Disarmament and Conflict Settlement Department of the International Security Center of the IMEMO, Andrei Zagorsky, believes that considering current developments in Syria, Russia and the United States may find themselves in a situation where both deliberate and unintentional direct clashes, as well losses from both sides, are possible: "Current situation shows that stakes are higher than ever. They shouldn't be this high. We must restore military communication channels as soon as possible, because it without them, no measures that were supposed to help us to avoid clashes with the Americans are being taken. Since the stakes are this high, the danger of such clashes is also bigger than ever."

Zagorsky thinks that the need for such measures exists not only in Syria, but also in other regions: "Such measures are necessary in the Black Sea area, in the Baltic Sea area, in the Arctic. We must achieve de-escalation in order to avoid accidents, because a chain reaction can be dangerous for everyone."

Head of the Arab and Islamic Studies Center of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vasily Kuznetsov, believes that America's attack won't significantly affect the Syrian settlement process: "I don't think they are opening a new page in the Syrian conflict. A lot will depend on future actions. It's still unclear how much Washington thinks about further involvement of the US in Syria and in what form will this involvement manifest. It's also unclear what regional players hope for or what they fear after the US strikes, how will their behavior change. Turkey made harsh statements, but how much will their policy change will depend on what they expect from Washington. Finally, how will Assad react. Paradoxically, the US strikes may lead to strengthening of Assad's position or to the fact that he will become more flexible and ready for negotiations."

According to the expert, the thesis about the need for a political solution to the conflict remains relevant: "Negotiations are necessary for political solution. If negotiations are necessary, then someone have to be the leading side. No one but Assad can assume this role today. That means that the Geneva format, supported by the Astana format, remains the only option [of political settlement]. It's possible to continue negotiation process."

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