The head of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Valery Gerasimov asked his closest American counterpart Joseph Dunford to assist his country in jointly stabilizing Syria.
Gen. Joe Dunford (left) and Gen. Valery Gerasimov (right), Helsinki, Finland, June 8, 2018
Reuters reported that the proposal to cooperate on the repatriation of refugees and reconstruction projects in the Arab Republic was met with an “icy reception” by US decision makers, though this could have been expected considering that Washington had previously said that any assistance that it might provide to the government-controlled areas of Syria would be tied to the implementation of UNSC 2254’s constitutional reform and new elections.
Furthermore, President Assad declared in late June that his government wouldn’t accept reconstruction funds from the same countries that contributed to destroying his own, though if the leaked details of Gerasimov’s message to Dunford are to be believed, then Russia’s assessment is that Damascus “lacks the equipment, fuel, other material, and funding needed to rebuild the country in order to accept refugee returns”, hence the reason for reaching out to the US.
While there were high hopes that Presidents Putin and Trump might have reached an understanding on Syria during last month’s Helsinki Summit, it appears as though expectations might be dashed after this latest setback.
The US veritably has an interest in focusing its reconstruction efforts and post-war development projects on the Kurdish-controlled proxy state in the northeastern agriculturally and energy-rich corner of the country that it’s already deployed roughly two thousand troops to, so there’s a certain logic to rebuffing the latest Russian offer. Even though the Kurds and Damascus have reportedly entered into talks with one another, this is unlikely to lead to the dissolution of the US’ protectorate and will probably find a way to “formalize” it through mutually acceptable “compromises” that figure into the ongoing constitutional reform process.
Although the leaking of Gerasimov’s proposal to Dunford was probably done by Trump’s “deep state” enemies in a desperate attempt to undermine what they may have feared was the President’s “secret deal” with Putin, it inadvertently harms the US’ soft power standing because it confirms that America doesn’t really care about the welfare of the Syrian people or the return of refugees from the region and beyond in spite of its repeated statements to the contrary over the years.
Making humanitarian and developmental assistance conditional on political factors is Machiavellian to the core but unsurprising to those who have a solid understanding of the cynicism behind American strategic planning. It’s also proof that the US is indirectly weaponizing refugees and developmental assistance in order to advance its objectives, something that its supporters have always denied but which is now undebatable.