Vladimir Putin is reshaping the Middle East to fit Russia’s interests by adhering to fundamentals of international affairs that America’s foreign policy establishment sets aside in favor of what they deem sophistication. Unlike our “realists,” who start out compromising our interests with those of local allies, Putin is bending theirs to Russia’s. Unlike our liberal internationalists, who try to lead by giving power to local allies, Putin directs them in operations of his choice. Unlike our neoconservatives, who endlessly deploy force piecemeal, Putin uses it decisively.
The Wall Street Journal recently fretted that Putin’s tank, plane, and artillery expeditionary force is empowering Iran as well as Syria’s Assad: “Russian planes can target anyone Assad deems an enemy.” No. They are targeting anyone who stands in the way of Russia’s objectives. That’s a big, big difference. Neither Assad, nor Iran, nor Iran’s Shia allies in what used to be Iraq have any reason to delude themselves that Putin’s assistance will take them any farther toward their own objectives than is absolutely necessary for Putin to achieve his own……….
Russia’s military orthodoxy is the decisive difference between its expedition in former Syria and Iraq and America’s recent ventures. Russian forces seem to be prioritizing objectives, weakening the rear with strategic air strikes, then moving the front forward with coordinated combined arms and little if any concern for collateral damage. Historically, this sort of behavior tends to engender respect rather than additional enmity.