The US pulling out of both Syria and Open Skies Treaty would be the best birthday present for Vladimir Putin
- Russian President Vladimir Putin's birthday was on Monday, October 7. And he was potentially (and inadvertently) gifted two foreign policy wins from the United States.
- The Trump administration made two recent foreign policy decisions that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle worry will benefit Russia.
- President Donald Trump announced a decision to pull roughly 1,000 US troops from northeastern Syria, on Sunday night.
- It was also revealed via a letter from Chairman Eliot Engel of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that the Trump administration may pull the United States out of the Open Skies Treaty, an agreement that now has 34 participating countries including Russia.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin's birthday was on Monday, October 7. And he was potentially (and inadvertently) gifted two foreign policy wins from the United States.
The Trump administration made two recent foreign policy decisions that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle worry will benefit Russia.President Donald Trump announced a decision to pull roughly 1,000 US troops from northern Syria, on Sunday night, a move that would not only endanger the Kurds - US allies in the region in the fight against the Islamic State - but would also mark a victory for a group of adversarial countries, including Russia.
"A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a Republican from Kentucky said. "And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup."
It was also revealed via a letter from Chairman Eliot Engel of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that the Trump administration may pull the United States out of the Open Skies Treaty, an agreement that now has 34 participating countries including Russia.
Engel, a Democrat, in particular notes the treaty is "important as a check against further Russian aggression against Ukraine."
A US pullout from Syria, and Russia's investment in the region
In addition to being beneficial to Turkey, Iran, and the Islamic State, a US withdrawal of troops from northern Syria would benefit Russia, which has strategically supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad particularly with air support.
Russia's involvement in the conflict in Syria has mainly been self-serving, experts told the BBC, as a way to assert itself on the world stage and battle-test its military and new weapons.Andrew Parailiti, RAND director of the Center for Global Risk and Security, spoke to Business Insider in 2018 to explain Russia's interest in the conflict, and he broke it down into three main reasons. First, assisting an ally, second, joining the fight against terrorism, and three challenging the global role of the US.
Additionally, Russia maintains a naval base in Tartus, Syria- its only base outside of the former Soviet Union.
The US leaving would give Russia more control in the region and also give Russia global leverage with nations invested in ending the conflict in Syria.
"If you wanted to negotiate some end to the conflict, you couldn't disregard Russia's views on how that conflict should be settled," Margot Light, professor emeritus in international relations at the London School of Economics, told the BBC in 2017.
"It's part of this determination, by Putin mostly, to show that Russia is a strong power that has to be reckoned with," she continued.
Leaving the Open Skies Treaty undermines US allies with Russia.
On Monday, Rep. Engel wrote a letter to Robert O'Brien, Trump's national security advisor, saying he was deeply concerned with reports that the Trump administration was thinking of pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty.
As Business Insider's David Choi wrote, "countries that are part of the treaty must notify other nations 72 hours in advance of a mission to conduct an observational flight, to which the host country has one day to respond."
Russia and the US have been at odds over the treaty, with both countries claiming the other is restricting flights. Sen. Tom Cotton has even called to pull out of the treaty altogether citing Russia's restrictions over Kaliningrad, an increasingly militarized area in the Baltics.Engel notes this tension in his letter, but argues that "these implementation concerns do not rise to the level of material breach of the Treaty."
While the US may have sophisticated satellites to monitor Russia, the major concern is over what withdrawaling from the treaty would mean for US allies in Europe, particularly Ukraine, a country fighting Russian-backed separatists in their east; Ukraine relies on the treaty to monitor Russia's military.
Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, told Choi that he didn't see any value in pulling out of the treaty.
"It doesn't gain any capability that we are being denied, it doesn't deny the Russians information that they can't otherwise obtain through their own satellites," he said. "This is a confidence-building treaty that is particularly valuable to our European allies, and particularly in a time of increasing US-Russian tensions."
If the US pulled out it could further complicate dialogue with Russia and could undermine our European allies like Ukraine in their quest to keep Russia at bay.