Sunday, December 20, 2015

Russia wins round two

That is The Saker's take on the 11th week of the Syrian-war-by-proxy being fought between Russia and the USA after the US pulls out 12 of its F-15s out of Turkey:
First, the downing of the Russian SU-24 is becoming a major liability. The Russians have immediately claimed that this was a carefully planned and cowardly ambush, but now top western experts agree. This is very embarrassing, and it could get much worse with the deciphering of the flight recorders of the SU-24 (which the Russians have found and brought to Moscow). The picture which emerges is this: not only was this a deliberate provocation, an ambush, but there is overwhelming evidence that the Turks used the information the Russians have provided to the USA about their planned sorties. The fact that the Americans gave that information to the Turks is bad enough, but the fact that the Turks then used that information to shoot down a Russian aircraft makes the US directly responsible. The USA is also responsible by the simple fact that there is no way the Turks could have set up this complex ambush without the USA knowing about it. Now, it is possible that some in the US military machine knew about it while others didn’t. This entire operation sounds to me like exactly the kind of goofball plan the CIA is famous for, so maybe Kerry at State or even Obama did not really “know” about it. Or they did and are now pretending like they did not. Whatever may be the case, the US is now obviously trying to “off-load” this latest screwup on Erdogan who himself is trying to off-load it on his Air Force chief. What is certain is that the plan failed, the Russians did not take the bait and did not retaliate militarily, and that now the political consequences of this disaster are starting to pile up. As for Erdogan, he wanted to come out of this as the Big Pasha, the tough man of the region, but he now looks like an irresponsible coward (Putin ridiculed how the Turks ran to NATO as soon as the Russian SU-24 was shot down when he said: ”they immediately ran to Brussels, shouting: “Help, we have been hurt.” Who is hurting you? Did we touch anybody there? No. They started covering themselves with NATO.”). Even the US and Europe are, reportedly, fed up and angry with him. As for the Russians, they seem to believe that he is a “Saakashvili v2” – a guy with whom there is nothing to discuss and whom the Kremlin considers as politically dead.

Second, look at Syria. Even under maximal pressure, the Russians did not yield or show signs of hesitation but did the exact opposite: they more than doubled their presence, brought in heavy artillery systems and even floated the idea of opening a 2nd major airport in Syria (this intention was later denied by Russian officials). For the Americans this meant something very simple: while the Russians are much weaker in Syria than the USA, they were clearly undeterred and were not only holding their ground, but digging in. In other words, they were ready for war.
This is a good sign for those of us who would prefer to see the war remain warm and by-proxy rather than hot and direct. Remember, unlike the Cold War, the role of the aggressor has now flipped, so whereas each US victory will tend to lead to more aggression, each setback will tend to lead to less.