Russia and Global Security Risks
Syria: More Peace, but the Problems Give No Chance
Online Discussion
List of speakers

On September 30, the Valdai Club held a discussion timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the start of the Russian military operation in Syria.

In his opening remarks, Ivan Timofeev, Programme director of the Valdai Discussion Club, said that five years is a long period of time; it has allowed observers to draw some preliminary conclusions about the results of the operation and cooperation with the government of Bashar al-Assad. “There is a little more peace in the country than before, but the problems have not gone away: the war continues, the political transition has not advanced, the political problems that led to the conflict have not been resolved.” He added that “a separate issue is the humanitarian situation in Syria,” stressing that this has two aspects, the consequences of the war and the consequences of sanctions.

Alexander Aksenyonok, Vice-President of the Russian International Affairs Council, in his speech analysed the situation in and around Syria and presented possible scenarios for the development of events. According to him, now the conflict has entered a latent phase, but has not stopped. It is still far from a stable state. As for Russia, it has generally achieved its initial strategic goals, including the preservation of Syrian statehood, although with certain reservations. Aksenyonok also pointed out that the main challenges for Syria are related to the economic sphere; however, the way out of the economic crisis for the country largely depends on political factors and international cooperation.

The humanitarian situation in Syria was described by Moutaz Adham, Head of the Oxfam Mission in Syria. In most of the country, fighting has stopped, and now people need to meet basic needs, the opportunity to earn money and access to public services, he explained. Millions of people in the country face the threat of hunger and water shortages. The position of women is especially difficult.

The topic was further developed by Anna Cervi, Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Syria, who spoke about the practice of humanitarian organisations in Syria. She paid special attention to the problem of access to people in need of help. She separately stressed the importance of the neutrality of humanitarian organisations.

Ruslan Mamedov, Project Manager (MENA) at the Russian International Affairs Council, dedicated his remarks to the results of the Russian operation in Syria and the challenges that threaten the country going forward. He named several key outcomes, including victory over terrorist groups and the preservation of Syrian statehood, as well as Russia's demonstration of its role as guarantor of the balance of forces and the Russian military’s opportunity to acquire a unique experience. The challenges, in his opinion, are primarily related to economic security, and the important role is played by the problem of American sanctions, which reduce the likelihood of the participation of foreign donors in Syria’s reconstruction. The economic problems prevent refugees from returning to the country and solving the problem of internally displaced persons, which in turn affect the economies of neighbouring countries and the region as a whole.