By and large, world leaders have gone from being taken aback about Donald Trump’s unexpected victory to being outright alarmed. The exceptions to this rule are Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad, both of whom expect Trump to be far better to deal with than Secretary Clinton. However, while it still is not remotely clear what a Trump doctrine will strategically comprise, his upcoming moves in Syria do not bode well.
Russia and the Syrian regime look to be the chief beneficiaries of the coming shifts in U.S. policy toward the 5-year old conflict that has weaponized half the country as refugees, that has killed half a million people, and that continues to mete out suffering en masse in Aleppo and elsewhere.
Trump has said—erroneously—that Aleppo has already fallen, and he has described the opposition forces “as worse than Assad.” Trump will immediately remove support for the moderate opposition forces fighting Syrian/Russian/Iranian/Hezbollah forces, both overt and covert.
The UN’s efforts to broker peace will be thoroughly undermined. At one point early in the campaign, Trump spoke favorably of a safe/no-fly zone, but that is not in the cards at this point. He will avoid acting contrary to Russian interests.
The upshot of the coming Trump administration’s moves in this space will be to strengthen the Russian hand and give it free rein in and around Syria. As such, Putin is unlikely to test Trump in the manner in which some have speculated. Effectively, he has no need to see how far he can go down the road of harming U.S. national security interests when his partner in this potentially dangerous diplomatic dalliance is doing the work for him.
Trump is further expected to curb U.S. sanctions on Russia over Ukraine and simply accede to a permanent Russian annexation of Crimea, which means the Minsk II diplomat efforts on behalf of occupied Ukraine will be undercut in the process. Just as