Russia forms legion of influence in Syria

Approximately 50,000 Syrian Christians have asked for the Russian citizenship. These people do not want to move to Russia, but want to protect their lives and Christian monuments. Chances that their requests will be satisfied are minimal, as it is contrary to the Russian legislation. Should Russia change the law? After all, this is a great chance to consolidate influence in the Middle East.

"We, Christians of Kalamun province residing in settlements of Sednaya, Mara Sednaya, Maalula and Maaruna for the first time since the birth of Christ are under the threat of expulsion from our land," stated the letter published on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry.  

"We see Russia as a powerful factor of peace and stability throughout the world. Russia holds a hard line in defense of Syria, its people and territorial integrity. We always feel the support of the Russian Orthodox Church. For centuries, Christians of the East have known that no one cares about their interests as much as Russia does. In difficult times Russia has always been with us politically, economically, in humanitarian and other aspects.

The Syrian law allows dual citizenship, and we chose to apply for citizenship of the Russian Federation, if possible. This would be an honor for every Syrian Christian who wishes to obtain it. We will be under Russia's protection if we receive threats of physical destruction from terrorists. Of about fifty thousand people - doctors, engineers, lawyers, entrepreneurs who are ready to sign this appeal, no one wants to leave their homes. We have everything we need, we are not asking for money.

Our appeal does not mean that we doubt the Syrian army and the government. However, we are scared of Western conspiracy and hate speech fanatics who lead a brutal war against our country. The events in Maaloula were a lesson for us.

With deep respect for Russia and its leadership, the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Christian areas Sednaya, Mara Sednaya , Maalula and Maaruna. October 3, 2013."

After reading the letter, several questions arise. The first is contained in the text itself: is it possible? The second follows from the first one: what is the position of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church? The precedent is already there. Two years ago Kosovo Serbs (21,000 signatures) addressed the Russian Federation with a similar request. They hoped that Russia would protect them from the Albanians and put a barrier to the aggressive policy of ousting the Serbs from their lands. At the time, it was not about relocation; it was a moral aspect of support that was important. But the presidential order to "deal with the request" has resulted in a clarification that "such a request cannot be met under the Russian legislation." In the end, the Serbs of Kosovo were sent a convoy with dry rations and blankets, and a heated debate in the media ended with a feeling of helplessness and defeat of Russia.

"I think that this time the answer will be the same as it was for the Kosovo Serbs," Sergei Demidenko, an expert of the Institute of Strategic Studies and Analysis told "How would we protect them there? Russia has no control levers in Syria even if we hypothetically grant them citizenship, we are not there; we do not have influential groups and cannot affect the opposition," Demidenko said. According to him, in Soviet times, the Communist Party was such leverage, and now this concept includes businessmen, politicians who are focused on Russia and work with Russian diplomats, intelligence agencies, and the government.

"We have neither such groups no interests out there. Syria is of interest to us only in terms of stabilizing the situation in the North Caucasus and geopolitical influence. Neither the military base nor trade with Syria appear in the foreign policy priorities of Russia," said the expert.

I would like to argue. Why don't we start creating this influence in the face of the 50,000 Syrians? There is no doubt that some of them are businessmen and politicians, and they are certainly people focused on Russia.

On the other hand, no one in the Russian diplomacy thinks strategically and offensively. Then there is a question for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: why tread water again? Just to hear the comment again: "Well, have your Russians helped you?" or "There is nothing surprising here, how many times have the Russians abandoned us in difficult times?" Would it be better if Russian diplomatic agencies explained to the Syrians that their request cannot be met and not publish the letter? Or should we go a little further and take the initiative in the Duma to reconsider this very legislation? After all, civil law is not the Constitution; it is reviewed in due course in the Parliament.

No, the desire for cheap populism, the desire to show the world that Russia's protection is sought has prevailed. In fact, it is obvious that the Russian leadership has neither the political will nor the money to grant citizenship to people residing in disadvantaged regions. If we talk about the Ossetians and Abkhazians, they were entitled to Russian passports because they did not give up after the collapse of the Soviet Union and received it by right of inheritance.

What does the Russian Orthodox Church think about this? "I believe that it would be appropriate for the highest ecclesiastical authority to intervene with some support or request on their behalf," Andrei Kuraev, a deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy told Pravda.Ru. "It has  always been the case in the Russian Empire, for example, in the history of the Gagauz people, when in the early part of the 19th   century the Turks became Orthodox and asked to take them to the Russian Empire. There were other examples. Such support has always been part of our church and public policy. And in this case there is an urgent need to make a decision prior to the adoption of legislative initiative," said Kuraev.

It is interesting that both Andrei Kuraev and Sergei Demidenko speculated about the possible relocation of new citizens to Russia. But if Demidenko believes it to be one of the obstacles in meeting the requests for citizenship because of budgetary expenditure, Kuraev sees only one obstacle - the need to do so in a way that would avoid "spreading out" those willing to move and allow them to keep their own identity, settling them close to each other.
Lyuba Lulko


Read the original in Russian

Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov