Monday, January 6, 2014

Can 2014 belong to Russia?

2013 in global security matters truly belonged to Russia. While President Vladimir Putin almost lost face over the Syrian Civil War, he managed to thwart American plans for airstrikes by helping to broker a disarmament deal at the last second. This was such an unforeseen and overall better choice for global security that rumours were circulating that the controversial Russian strongman might be chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Instead the award went to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The indirect diplomatic signal this sends to Russia is one of encouragement, to incite the nation to go beyond UN vetoes and global grandstanding and propose concrete alternatives, as was the case with Syria.

Many perceived Putin to play a Machiavellian, or Metternich-like role for his own good, but he did indeed contribute to help global security while boosting his standing with the world community and refurbishing Russia’s image as a big power that can be counted on and which can shake up deadlocked situations.

Will lightning strike the same place twice in 2014? The answer is yes, if Vladimir Putin wills it. While the “gay propaganda” law, the tug-o-war with Europe over Ukraine and the recurring problems with terrorism certainly cast a shadow over Russia as it readies to host the Sochi Olympics, Russia will likely want to go beyond a two-week sports celebration to reassert itself with the world community after getting a taste of victory in 2013. And that is not a bad thing for most of us.

For the first time in years we are seeing positive developments on the Iranian front in the light of the Geneva interim agreement. While President Rouhani should ensure that belligerent rhetoric be kept to a minimum – or even better be eliminated altogether – chances are that there will be flare-ups and difficulties in communicating and agreeing on the various points of the road map. But here again, Russia can intervene and keep things together before another situation in the Middle East gets out of hand.

Everybody wins then, right?

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