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    Stephen Cohen: 'There is no Alternative' to Putin's Strategy in Syria

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    Vladimir Putin has been honest with regard to Russia's goals in Syria and the means to achieve them, American scholar Stephen Cohen said during the John Batchelor Show, adding that the US has failed to offer a viable alternative to solving the bloody Syrian crisis and should join the Moscow-led campaign.

    The US has found itself at the crossroads with regard to Russia's military engagement in Syria and it has three options, Cohen maintains. The first one is to do what American hawks, including Senator John McCain, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and some other Republicans are advocating. They essentially urge to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria and shoot down Russian planes if they violate it.

    The second option is to stand aside and see what Putin could accomplish with his allies. The third one, according to the Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, is to join Russia. Cohen sees the third option as the best choice for the Obama administration.

    The main reason to support Russia in its efforts to tackle extremist groups in Syria comes down to this: the US strategy of ending the Syrian civil war has failed, while Russia's approach seems to be working at the moment.

    City of Atshan liberated by Syrian army with support of Russian aviation
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    City of Atshan liberated by Syrian army with support of Russian aviation

    Moreover, the Russian leader has been "absolutely candid about what he's doing" in Syria and has remained true to his word, Cohen emphasized.

    "Putin says that Russia has a vital national security interest in stopping terrorism in the Middle East before it goes any farther in the form not only of [ISIL] but al-Qaeda and others. It is a direct threat to Russia. He now launched a military venture to do that with his coalition and he wants us to join him," the scholar asserted.

    Putin also sees the Damascus-led army as the only force capable of tackling radicals in Syria and this is why he is supporting Bashar al-Assad.

    For its part, the US tried to create two armies to fight both Assad and the Islamic State. These initiatives had no visible effect. Nevertheless, someone has to fight Islamic State and the like on the ground.

    "You need a real army to follow the bombardments and retake territory. [The US does not] have one. We are not going to send ground troops. What's the alternative to what Putin is proposing? There is none," Cohen emphasized.

    The scholar also believes that Europe is increasingly viewing Russia's approach as the right one and the majority of Europeans support what Putin is doing in Syria. 

    "Europe now tilts politically towards Russia because of the refugee crisis driven in large part by the Syrian civil war," he noted.

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