The bombing of the Syrian airfield by cruise missiles, carried out by the US Navy on the night of April 7 of this year, at first glance, strangely coincided with the meeting of Chinese leader Xi Jinping with the new American president, Donald Trump. Moreover, The New York Times noted that this action “overshadowed” the US-China summit.
This episode of the war, which came as a complete surprise to one of the participants in the meeting, and which took place thousands of kilometers from his territory, became the main element of the backdrop that always and as if of its own accord forms long before such meetings.
Note that the preparation for those meetings usually takes place in more or less stable political circumstances, which can be carefully assessed in advance. The abrupt change at the moment of barely-initiated negotiations between the two statesmen can seriously affect their course. This cannot fail to be understood by the initiator of such changes, which in this case was one of the two participants in the talks. Who, therefore, while preparing to sharply change the political environment during the very negotiation process, set the goal to make the “desired” impression on his interlocutor.
As for other goals, the expert community has already considered them in sufficient detail. Among them, undoubtedly, are those of an internal political character.
Among them is the need to graphically demonstrate that “big brother” does not abandon his allies in Europe and Asia, who already have almost been feeling as much, when the executor of the alarming pre-election stunt suddenly took the post of president of the country, the “big brother”.
Since in recent years the US main European allies have been primarily concerned with the situation in the Greater Middle East and North Africa region, the demonstration of American loyalty to allied commitments had to occur in the most troubled part of the region.
Apparently, all the ‘Tomahawks’ arrived at their set destinations (including empty space near the runway of the airfield), since the main goal of the whole operation was not military-based destruction, but to make a political point. It boiled down to a “message” to, I repeat, allies, as well as “opponents.”
Another goal concerns, first of all, Russia and of course China. Naturally, everyone is free to interpret this “message” in their own way. As it relates to Russia, my personal opinion is that it says, “We had to do it, but we did our best to not hurt your reputation (too much). We are not giving up plans to establish relations with you. Let’s start talking seriously about this Syrian problem that everyone is sick of.”
As for China, this message included, via the same content, the specific issues in Northeast Asia, the aggravation of which in recent months has assumed a threatening character.
As it’s been noted earlier, the nature of the growing tension in Northeast Asia is by no means reduced to the DPRK’s nuclear missile program, though it undoubtedly makes a significant contribution to it. Most importantly, the US views it as a threat to its interests, while China, the US’s geopolitical opponent, is incidentally also annoyed by Pyongyang growing “self-assertion” in recent years.
For a long time, Beijing and Washington have been throwing each other the problem of the North Korean RNP like a hot potato. The former advises the latter to begin direct talks with Pyongyang, Washington refuses and, referring to the allegedly predominant influence of China on the DPRK, calls on Beijing “to exert the necessary pressure on Pyongyang.”
However, during Secretary of State R. Tillerson’s recent tour of the three countries of Northeast Asia, he spoke about the refusal of the new American administration to continue “Obama’s strategy of patience” in regard to the DPRK. The attack on the Syrian airfield is intended to confirm this statement and to show the seriousness of recent conversations about the ability of the American president to offer “various options” for solving the problem of the North Korean RNP.
Although it took center stage in the negotiations between the two world leaders at the American president’s ranch in Florida, during the recent meeting, the situation in other waters off the coast of China was also considered, in which the prospect of a direct US-China military confrontation looks quite possible. And in this respect, of course, the attack in Syria looked like a crude show of force (on the verge of insult) to the Chinese interlocutor in the negotiations.
Outwardly, both leaders demonstrated mutual respect and the desire to develop relations in various fields (primarily in the field of economy), but China will undoubtedly not forget this event.
In this regard, it is extremely important that Beijing understand the complete absence of Russia (for example, in the form of any agreement) in the US’s actions in Syria under discussion, for it is very possible to assume that the most important goal of this campaign was to smear Russia in the eyes of China.
Our message to the latter should be unequivocal: the recent American show of force in Syria is the “creation” of our (and your) overseas “partners.” Who should take all the consequences upon themselves.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”