US and Russia have been closely working in Syria since the agreement to remove chemical weapons in the country. Last month tensions began to run high and relations got tense. We got an angry Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Syria and calling Russia's Syria air campaign "barbaric." Eventually the U.S. suspended its bilateral agreements with Russia over the Syrian settlement and cease-fire deal.
The general consensus in Washington was, for the first time, that the U.S. was about to move against Assad and Russia's bombardment of civilians and hospitals in Aleppo. The Obama administration was too frustrated with Russian President Vladimir Putin, they thought. Some reports suggested that U.S. officials were planning to distribute manpads to Syrian opposition groups in order to develop some sort of leverage over Syria's Bashar Assad and his accomplices. Reports quickly showed that the White House is not inclining to give game-changer military aid to the opposition forces, at least not immediately.
But what the hell happened? Was the White House really angry with Putin over Syria, or was it something else?
Remember, When Turkey shot down the Russian plane last year, U.S. officials were encouraging Turkey to settle the question immediately. Since the U.S. was heavily dependent on Russia in its Syria strategy back then, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's best friend was Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Eventually Turkey signed a deal with Moscow and senior U.S. officials acknowledged to American media that they were content with the deal. They considered Turkey's rapprochement as a move to stabilize Turkish foreign policy along the lines of U.S. positioning in the Middle East.
The U.S. has been very soft on Russia from the beginning and I believe Russia's butchering of Syrian civilians in Aleppo was not a huge pressure point for U.S: President Barack Obama. Refreshing our memories might help: The Obama administration did not do much when Russia annexed Crimea and invaded Eastern Ukraine in 2014. This happened in Europe and the U.S. did not do anything other than impose some sanctions on Russia.
As Russians deployed troops and aircraft to Syria in September 2015, the White Houses's talking point was conflict deescalation, Russia would get destroyed in the Syrian quagmire et cetera. Then American officials begun to normalize Russian presence in Syria by citing some historical facts, such as Russia's military bases having been in the country since the Cold War.
What changed? One can say everything. I believe the U.S.'s fierce rebuke of Russia over Aleppo was mainly about Russia's meddling in U.S. domestic politics, especially the election campaigns. Because that was the biggest change in the game.
First we have seen the Republican Party's presidential hopeful Donald Trump's sympathetic comments toward Russia, and in return he received the Russian propaganda machine's complete support. Following that, U.S. intel agencies accused Russia of hacking the Democratic National Committee just prior to the party convention, which caused the resignation of the party chairwoman. It did not end. The New York Times reported last August that Trump's then-campaign manager Paul Manafort was representing pro-Russian interests in Ukraine - basically his salary was paid by Putin for a period of time. Of course, he resigned.
Now Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is facing another threat, the hacking of her campaign manager John Podesta's email account. Although the perpetrators still remain unknown, Podesta believes it was Russia who ordered the hack in order to sway the elections in Trump's favor. The email caches have enough material to hurt Clinton in the public's eye.
This is why a sitting Democratic president, Obama, was more interested in Russia's interference in the U.S. presidential elections than the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. And this is why we saw a defiant American response, at least for a while.
As of last week, multiple commentaries said, at this point, the U.S. has no option other than working with Russia to resolve the Syrian crisis. Kerry had multiple phone calls with his Russian counterpart Lavrov following the suspension of Syria talks. A meeting on Syria is due this weekend. Now the Syrian opposition's friends can wake up from their dream.