- - Monday, November 23, 2015

Eastern European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance are nervous about the French getting in bed with Russia over the anti-ISIS campaign. These countries have long memories and they fear Western Europe may trade pressure on Russia due to its behavior in Ukraine for Russian help in destroying ISIS.

“These are different crises and we must not link them, we must assess them separately,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told AFP. “It is unacceptable to talk about some kind of trade, concessions or spheres of influence.”

And on Friday, President Dalia Grybauskaite said “Lithuania will not take part in any new coalition in which Russia will participate or would like to participate. To this day Russia is occupying the territory of one country and committing acts of war in two countries, Ukraine and Georgia.”

The Latvia Foreign Ministry added, “The fight against terrorists and resolving the conflict in Syria should not be at the expense of Ukraine.”

France has called for Russia to join an international coalition to fight the Islamic State. Russia has said it will do so if the West stops calling for the Assad regime to step down from power in Syria.

“Even if it’s not officially on the table, Moscow hopes that if the anti-IS coalition sees the light of day, pressure in the case of Ukraine will lessen and a certain number of countries will say, since we’re fighting together, the sanctions shouldn’t be renewed,” Polish analyst Wojciech Lorenz told AFP. “That’s what we have to fear.”

Ad there is this: “To abandon support for Ukraine because of the situation in Syria would be a strategic error on the part of the West,” said Ukraine’s ambassador-at-large Dmytro Kuleba. “But the West won’t do that, even if somewhat warmer ties (with Moscow) are of course to be expected.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long sought to weaken the NATO alliance. He has made closer ties with certain countries such as Greece, Hungary, and now France a priority as this weakens the overall support for sanctions against Russia over Crimea and East Ukraine. Russia’s military efforts in Syria could be said to have a three pronged agenda: to weaken NATO, to prop-up Assad, and to prevent the Islamic State from migrating into Russia via the Caucasus.

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