October 28, 2016

Has ISIS shot themselves in the foot? Jihadis have ‘brought Russia and West CLOSER’

DEPRAVED Islamic State (ISIS) militants have brought Russia and the West CLOSER together as the string of terror attacks across the globe have reminded both nations who the real enemy is, according to a former British ambassador.

Both Russia and Britain have been pounding the twisted jihadi group, also known as Daesh, with frequent air strikes in Syria as the nations collaborate in the fight against terror.

Russia claims to have wiped out hundreds of terrorists in the war-torn country since starting their bombing campaign at the end of September.

Britain then answered a rallying cry from world leaders after MPs voted in favour at the House of Commons this month of extending air strikes from Iraq into Syria.

Just a week after the historic vote, Prime Minster David Cameron spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the political pair pledged to work together to finally obliterate the terror group.

But Sir Tony Brenton, former British ambassador to Russia, said this could be one of the first signs of tensions between the two countries finally beginning to thaw.

However, he maintained that there are “still a few problems” preventing friendship from being permanently cemented as the West looks set to extend sanctions against Russia and the unrest in Ukraine rages on.

Sir Tony, who spent four years as an ambassador and met President Putin on several occasions, said the attacks in Paris last month forced the world to turn their attention to defeating Daesh.

Speaking of tensions between Russia and the West, he told Express.co.uk: “They have been really very chilly since Ukraine and Syria, if anything, initially made things worse.

“But then, partly because of what happened in Paris last month, we were all very forcibly reminded that the main enemy is ISIS, and we all agreed to deal with ISIS…

“Gradually the freeze is beginning to thaw. I would expect that to continue, although on the other hand, sanctions are going to stay on, at least for the next few months, and unhappiness with the situation in Ukraine remains raw.”

He explained that the Russian air strike campaign in Syria is “moving in the direction they want it to move in” and that President Putin will be pleased his country is doing “serious business with the West again”.

Sir Tony continued: “Things on the whole have gone their way, although they have suffered some grievous losses along the way. Of course they lost that aircraft over Sinai in early October and they had the plane shot down by the Turks a month ago.

“Putin is pretty angry about that, so they are hurting a bit. But on the other hand, the West’s political position on Syria has moved in their direction.

“Our position was originally ‘Asaad must go and then we’ll talk’ but now it is ‘we’ll talk, but Asaad must go eventually’.

“Having been isolated and, as they view it, humiliated by the West over the last couple of years, suddenly they are doing serious business with the West again. They will hope that process continues.”

But while the air strikes may be going as planned so far, President Putin could risk sparking uproar in his nation if his country suffers any more tragedy, Sir Tony said.

Tensions between Turkey and Russia reached boiling point last month when the former downed a Russian plane over the Syrian/Turkish border.

A pilot and airmen were both killed Russian Su-24 bomber was struck.

Turkey had insisted the warplane was told to change its route, but the surviving pilot retaliated to their claim by declaring no warnings were made.

Russia also claimed their plane was not over Turkish airspace when the jet was shot down, an allegation denied by Turkey as the country also insisted it did not know the jet was Russian.

Then in October, ISIS claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian plane over Egypt.

The jet was flying from the popular holiday resort of Sharm El-Sheikh to St Petersburg when it crashed in the Sinai desert, killing all 224 people on board.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the crash.

Sir Tony predicted that any more loss of Russian life could spark tension within the country and even turn the public against air strikes in Syria.

He said: “They are taking lots of risks in Syria. If they lose a few planes, that could turn the Russian public against it. There could easily be an accident, or an incident in Syria which alienates them from the Americans or the rest of the West.”

This Friday saw the European Union (EU) extend sanctions against Russia by six months.

The sanctions involve restricting financing for major Russian banks, banning the export of certain energy-exploration equipment and curbing the sale of some weapons.

It resulted in Russia being pushed into a recession for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis.

The Russia restrictions were originally set last year and due to expire last month, but the EU later agreed to extend the sanctions until January.

In reaction to the bans, Russia imposed their own sanctions which involved imposing restrictions of food imports from the West.

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