Is Russia's Syria Proposal a Game Changer?

LUKYANOV: RUSSIA'S PROPOSAL TO PLACE SYRIA'S CHEMICAL WEAPONS UNDER COMPLETE CONTROL OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY STAVES OFF POTENTIAL MILITARY STRIKE, ALLOWS EVERYONE TO SAVE FACE

TAKEN AT HIS WORD. (By Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of the presidium of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy. Rossiiskaya gazeta, Sept. 11, 2013, p. 8. Condensed text:) The Syrian saga has taken an unexpected turn. Russia has proposed that Damascus place its chemical weapons under international control, and Syrian authorities have welcomed the idea. The pretext for the strike America is planning [see Current Digest, Vol. 65, No. 36, pp. 3-5] centers on toxic substances: [Syrian President Bashar] Assad is to be punished for [allegedly using] weapons of mass destruction.

International control is a very good approach. First, it steers the discussion away from a clearly unproductive dispute about who used chemical weapons, seeing that those holding opposing viewpoints put no stock whatsoever in the arguments of their opponents. Second, it provides a response to criticism that Moscow rejects all of the West's measures without proposing anything in return. Third, it outlines a solution that can't be argued against. Syria is one of the few countries that have not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, and implementation of such a plan would preclude even theoretical use of the dangerous arsenal. Fourth, the proposal can only be implemented cooperatively: Russia, the US, the UN, certain nations respected for their neutrality (Sweden or Switzerland come to mind) and the Syrian government would need to work in a coordinated fashion. Finally, for Moscow and Washington, this represents an opportunity to break the stifling web of mutual estrangement that has been entangling relations between the two powers.

Russia and America have a solid track record of cooperating to block WMD programs in third countries. Even during the cold war, Soviet intelligence - in spite of opposition - informed American counterparts of South Africa's nuclear program, and ...

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