“During the meeting, Lavrov confirmed Russia’s support for Iraq’s independence, territory integrity and sovereignty,” the ministry said. “Moscow is ready to continue supporting Iraq in its efforts in fighting the terrorist threat, and, first of all, the one from the Islamic State.”
As if the situation in Iraq/Syria with the U.S. and the West vs. the Islamic State couldn’t get more complex, Russia wants a piece of the action too. No, no, they don’t want to join the U.S. in helping Iraq, they want to do their own thing.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed Russia is ready to support Iraq in its efforts to fight the terrorist threat, first of all the one from the Islamic State (IS).
Lavrov had a meeting with Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.
This is interesting considering Russia’s tried to stay out of this for the most part. But don’t clap in a “more the merrier” kind of way. There’s complications here, however, that stem from Russia’s interests generally not being aligned with the U.S.’s or Europe’s.
1. Russia’s sort of in a war with Ukraine
Ever since the Ukrainians threw out their previous, Moscow-approved, President, Europe and the U.S. have basically been arming Ukraine’s new government to stave off perceived Russian aggression via ethnic Russian rebels. It’s a big deal because Russia provides heating gas to most of Europe and winters in Europe are cold. This conflict continues and it’s resulted in Russian isolation of sorts via U.S. and European financial sanctions of the Russian Bear. This doesn’t make for a natural environment for alliances.
2. Syria is Russia’s friend
When the Syrian civil war first began, Russia was all about protecting the Syrian regime and called those attacking the Syrian government terrorists while the U.S. tacitly approved of those fighting against the Syrian government. Well, it turns out that most of the people fighting against Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, were either terrorists or willing to become terrorists. A good portion of them now make up the Islamic State itself. So, in terms of protecting their ally, Syria, it’s natural that Russia would want to be involved in any conflict against the Islamic State. It also gives them a presence in the wider conflict in Syria where, it should always be remembered, they have warships that are big and capable.
Russia’s continually made it clear that they are interested in preserving Assad’s Presidency and the Islamic State is the culprit in both Syria and Iraq.
3. Russia would love to undermine the U.S.
Russia’s been battling back towards a place of global prominence for years now while nibbling at the edges of world events. All during the supposed Iran nuclear weapons crisis of a few years ago, it was the Russians that were contracted to build Iran’s planned nuclear reactor while the West fretted and worried. Now Russia would likely love to offer some things to the Iraqis if they can. This is important because, while the U.S. would love to see Syria’s President Assad go, Iraq likely recognizes that this would make the region more unstable than it already is. I would not be at all surprised to see Russia try and use any assistance it provides Iraq in combating the Islamic State (whatever form that might take) to also focus attention on how much worse they are than Assad is and preach stability over and over again. Real politik is Russia’s game.
Russia has been beating the “sovereignty” drum on behalf of Syria for two years now. Looking at the quote from their Foreign Minister at the top of this article, it’s a theme they’ll look to carry through in their approach to their interests in the region at large as well.