Name? President Vladimir Putin
Westphalian identity? Russian
Why is he in the news? The great and (seemingly) eternal President Putin has successfully brought forth a deal and subsequent ceasefire (coming into effect this morning) between himself and his best frenemy Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Idlib province of Syria.
Why do we care? The humanitarian crisis in Idlib and the whole of Syria is a tragedy in and of itself but it is also set to impact the EU in social, economic and political aspects if not effectively handled soon. Moreover, as Covid19 continues to spread in the Middle East, we have to consider the possibility of a deeply destabilized Syria facing further uncertainty and tragedy that comes with the coronavirus.
Why should you care? In the past four days, at least 30 civilians have been killed in Syria. Their deaths have been overshadowed by those of the coronavirus which are no less tragic but are much more preventable.
Who else cares? Acting Syrian President Bashar Assad is certainly interested as the deal could begin to give him more control over the Idlib province. As hinted at above, EU leaders also care as the stability of Syria ensures greater security of EU borders, specifically those in Greece.
Any further comments? The deal sets the basis for a security corridor along a key highway in the Idlib province that would hopefully bring an end to the fighting in the region, minimizing the suffering of the civilian population and containing a growing humanitarian crisis. That said, the deal was only struck between Erdogan and Putin, no Syrian leaders (from either the government nor opposition groups) were present in Moscow for the talks. History has shown that not including the pretty pivotal players at the negotiation table generally doesn’t result in long-lasting peace. While we’re hopeful the ceasefire will last and set a basis for further talks between the parties at hand, we aren’t naive to the fact that individuals, even at the presidential level, act on their own self-interests; even when that means choosing successful bilateral trade deals over the long term safety and stabilization of a people.