Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

The provocation of the EU and Russia's position

Andrei Akulov, Strategic Culture

The Foreign Minister of the European Union (EU), Catherine Ashton, confirmed yesterday that henceforth any EU member state has the right to decide how to best in their opinion act on arms exports to Syria. She clearly said that any weapon sent to Syria should "aim to ensure the protection of civilians." And that EU governments should review the position on sanctions against Syria, before the 1st of August. It is a movement that can aggravate the Syrian tragedy.

The EU seems keen to meddle in that civil war. Perhaps there are also plans for immediate shipment of weapons to the 'rebels', but the European Union has sent a clear signal to the world that it is yaking a unilateral step, first, in the direction of intensifying efforts to disappoint the only measure in that all hopes are deposited: the peace conference proposed by Russia and supported by the U.S..

"It was a tough decision for some countries, but necessary and proper to strengthen the international commitment in order to achieve a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria" - said William Hague, the British Minister of Foreign Affairs, in a written statement. "It was important for Europe to send a clear signal to the Assad government, that it will have to negotiate seriously, and that all options remain on the table if they do not."

Complete nonsense. There is only one way to interpret all this: they gave an ultimatum to Syria, just before the conference. comply with the European Union, or ...else.

It seems, rather, that they stuck a bull in a china shop. This is not an example of salvageable diplomacy .

Actually, it was a difficult discussion, for the EU, the issue of arming or not arming the 'rebels' in Syria. Britain and France led the effort to lift the arms embargo to Syria. The two countries have suggested a union with Qatar, to provide weapons to the 'rebels', aiming to strengthen the moderate groups and allow them to keep away from the already very heavily armed extremists who are among the 'rebels'. And there were voices, that the EU leadership ignored, which recommended caution, because the weapons could end up in 'wrong hands'. Anyway, only Britain and France supported the delivery of weapons to the 'rebels'.

Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Washington is reconsidering the policy of not supplying weapons to the 'rebels'. The Foreign Policy Committee of the U.S. Senate has just passed a bill authorizing the Executive to deliver weapons to the forces of opposition to the Syrian government. Senator John McCain entered Syria through the border of Turkey on the 27th of May, which made him the highest-ranking official of the U.S. government that visited the country during the war. There the Arizona Republican met with 18 of the Free Syrian Army commanders in the region near the northern border.

Apparently, any U.S. senator can do that, without presenting to themselves to the legitimate governments of the countries visited (or invaded?) And without permission to cross national borders.

In Damascus, Essam Khalil, Syrian deputy, criticized the EU's decision, saying that efforts to arm the 'rebels' induce the opposition to believe that it is not necessary to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict. So far, this is the first public comment made by a member of the Baath Party in the Syrian Parliament.

Russia and the delivery of S-300

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, on May 28th, the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Ryabkov, said the failure of the European Union, which could not maintain the embargo on weapons sales to Syria, can directly affect the outcome of the next international conference on Syria. According to him, "we see here a reflection of dubious positions and vacillating, and an attempt to direct a blow against the international conference on Syria proposed by Minister Lavrov and Secretary John Kerry, May 7th."

Commenting on the issue of the end of the EU arms embargo announced on May 27th, the Russian diplomat blamed European leaders for being "blowing to increase the flames of conflict." He recalled that the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles cannot, of course, be used against 'rebel' forces - because the 'rebels' have no air force.

Ryabkov said Russia has the aim of obtaining a political solution to the Syrian crisis and that a peace conference and a ceasefire are the first two essential steps to end the bloodshed. He emphasized that the Russian S-300 missile systems, which are surface-to-air, can help to defend Damascus against any possible intervention by external forces to the conflict.

The S-300 missile systems are a series of Russian long range missiles for air defense, designed to intercept ballistic missiles, considered the most powerful in its class. The missiles have a range to intercept air targets at a distance of 200km, depending on the version used. As soon as the Russian anti-aircraft missiles are delivered, Syria will take more effective control of its airspace. The S-300 missiles are widely recognized among defense analysts as one of the most advanced models of the arsenal of anti-aircraft weapons.

Ryabkov said that no one can accuse Russia of supplying weapons to insurgent groups or 'rebels'. Russia is delivering weapons to the Syrian state, the  legitimate Syrian authorities:

"The Russian Federation, in the first place, is delivering arms to the legitimate authorities that govern the legitimate Syrian state. This argument is not hollow or abstract: it is very real, legal and legitimate. They are not supplying weapons to one or another group of mercenaries or terrorists. States can legitimately provide and receive weapons."  He added:  "By definition, these systems cannot be delivered to militant groups rebelling against the legitimate and legal government. The Russian Federation believes that these missiles are an equilizing and stabilizing factor. We believe that such strategic moves in large measure, prevent either 'hot heads' from enlarging the Syrian conflict, convert it to an international scale, which is what will happen if external actors engage."

Alexander Grushko, Russian envoy to NATO, said he expects the West to find ways not to send arms to the 'rebels' in Syria. "Hopefully they do not, because the most important message today is to convince all sides that there is no option, in addition to political dialogue, in that specific situation."

Prospects for the Geneva Conference

At a conference with reporters after the meeting in Paris, with Kerry, the Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergei Lavrov, said the conference to end the civil war in Syria is in "high need." But said that, yes, we still see some light at the end of the tunnel:

"It is not easy. It is high need. But I understand that when the U.S. and Russia take this kind of initiative, there is a good chance of success. "

Speaking about the international conference on Syria, in an interview for the radio "Voice of Russia", Minister Lavrov said Russia and the U.S. have different views on some aspects of the conference planned to facilitate a solution to the Syrian crisis through political dialogue.

To Lavrov, the U.S. still did not understand that the 'rebels' in Syria must form and send a single delegation to the conference which by definition should represent all opposition forces there in Syria.

Another point under discussion is that the U.S. is reluctant to invite Iran. Ryabkov said "the first-named Geneva conference, which was held on the day 1/6/2012, was a success, but the next step cannot be taken without the presence of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt, at the next conference "- he said. - "Unfortunately, our partners are in an inflexible position, unwilling to allow Iran to the conference. It's the wrong position, because we all know the great influence of Tehran in Syria and throughout the region."

Any analysis that is done is to draw the obvious lessons to be learned from the recent history of armed conflict, shows that, from the moment military aid begins to be supplied, including the supply of weapons to a country or party or group involved in the conflict, the vendor completely loses any ability to control the final destination of the weapons.

The situation in Mali is good example of uncontrolled distribution of weapons, that arrived smuggled from Libya. The infallible rule is that weapons always end up in the wrong hands. The leaders of the European Union have never said anything about how they plan to control the fate of the weapons that they are willing to provide the 'rebels', after entering Syria.

Indeed, the EU's decision relates only to encouraging military intervention in Syria, trying to sabotage, if you can, any attempt at a peace conference ...

Delivery of weapons to governments internationally recognized as a UN member country, which remain fully in control of the state and can be judged by their actions is very different from delivering weapons to gangs without organization or common banner, without leadership, without compromise, without possibler epresentatives, because each of those gangs is at war also against other gangs, when not at war too, generally, against 'the West'.

There seems to be no possible doubt that the right attitude is to improve the conditions for self-preservation of the Syrian government, providing it weapons of defense. Especially now, after the EU decision is that, first of all, a movement of provocation, who want, not the end of the war, but that the war continues.

Translated from the Portuguese version by:

Lisa Karpova