The U.S. announced today that it will be providing close air support to the rebels in northern Syria. This is coming on the heels of a recent NATO emergency meeting called by Turkey on the growing violence on its southern border. Could a deal have been struck in that meeting between the U.S. and Turkey, such that Turkey ‘promises’ not to advance on Damascus, and explode the region, and the quid pro quo is that the U.S. starts serious attacks against the Syrian rebels’ enemy? Or is it plural, i.e. enemies. Because now we’re in the realm of coming down strongly on the side of the Syrian rebels, who are not just fighting ISIS, but are primarily focused on the Assad government forces. In the ensuing days and weeks there will be such a crazy melee of movements of insurgents and troops on the ground, and strikes and counterstrikes, that all the parties with a stake in the outcome will have to up the ante themselves, to preserve their interests.
And that means Russia and Putin. Up to this point Putin has been very careful not to get directly involved, hoping to minimize the risks to Russia. But now that a nuclear deal with Iran that is favorable to his interests, which is selling arms to Iran, has been concluded, for all practical purposes, and simultaneously the Russian interest in preserving the Assad regime will be increasingly under threat, don’t be surprised that very soon Russian warplanes will be deploying to Assad’s remaining airbases in a show of strength and escalating support for Assad. (Read my best post ever on this subject from a week ago.)
So now the die will be cast. U.S. warplanes and Russian warplanes will be finding themselves flying in close proximity with completely opposite purposes…America supporting the rebels and Russia supporting the Assad regime, in a very confused environment, with ISIS on the ground too, and the Kurds, and the remaining Assad forces, including some planes, maybe SCUD missiles, who knows, and the Turks maybe breaking their pledge and sneaking in after all. Does all this spell potential disaster to you?
You see, Putin, the clever KGB bastard, has always wanted a special deal, or understanding, with the U.S. starting from years back. He didn’t want any NATO countries on Russia’s borders and what he got was Estonia and possibly Georgia. And from Russia’s perspective, i.e. Putin’s and the entire national security establishment’s, the Ukrainian Maidan Square revolution was, if not engineered, then at least politically supported by the U.S. and the West. And Russia could not, under those circumstances, have allowed the new pro-Western Ukrainian government to retain control of the Crimea which is the home base for Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Because, Russia had to consider what if, in a few years, an emboldened Ukraine, drawing closer to NATO, decided, perhaps in a time of East-West crisis, to begin impeding deliveries of supplies, for example, to the Black Sea fleet base at Sevastopol, or threatening its security in different ways, with the help of the West. You see, as despicable as authoritarian Russia is under Putin, they actually do have legitimate national security concerns that we here never consider. And that makes Putin mad.
He’s boiling mad because what he wanted, and never got, was a secret agreement with America, sort of peer-to-peer, a deal between equals, along the lines of the ‘naughty document’ that Churchill drew up on a napkin with Stalin, when Churchill visited Moscow during World War II, in which Britain and the Soviet Union agreed on the rough outlines of the post-war settlement, that is their respective spheres of influence, where Stalin would get 90% influence in Romania to Britain’s 10%, and Britain would get 90% influence or control in Greece to Russia’s 10%, and in Yugoslavia the split would be 50/50 etc. Churchill called it the ‘naughty document’ because it was redolent of Big Power domination of the smaller countries and was reminiscent of the bad old days of colonialism. And when Roosevelt found out about it he was incensed, because at that time America was idealistic and didn’t go in for that kind of colonialistic thinking. How times have changed. Today the U.S. has many spheres of influence but doesn’t permit Russia to have any. And that makes Putin, well, you know what.
Putin reasons that, in the case of today’s Ukraine, if the roles were reversed, and Russia had promoted a pro-Russian government in Canada, say, and that new Canadian government began threatening America’s Great Lakes ports, say, then the U.S., under the Monroe doctrine, would act in its own self-interest, to reverse that process…which is exactly what Putin did in the Crimea. Russia looks upon the U.S. as hypocritical, using military force where it suits its interests, as in Iraq, and Libya (the removal of Gaddafi really made Putin mad) but when Russia attempts to do the same, pursuing its interests, it gets lectured by the U.S., as when Obama lectured Putin that it was no longer legitimate for strong powers, like Russia, to think in terms of ‘spheres of influence’, when Russia was arming the pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels and stirring up trouble in eastern Ukraine for example.
America justifies killing over 100,000 Iraqis, many of them civilians, in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, as regrettable but excusable since it was all done in pursuit of a ‘good cause’, i.e. the removal of the Saddam regime, but, when Russia shoots down a Malaysian jetliner by accident in pursuit of its own ‘good cause’, exercising Russian power against Ukraine to enhance its security, and regional influence, etc., Russia gets sanctioned by the West, but since Russia is smaller and weaker than the U.S. and doesn’t lead as large an alliance then Russia can never turn the tables on the U.S. and sanction America when Russia disapproves of America’s actions. And that makes Putin very, very mad.
So, for all these reasons, get ready for Russia to finally act and directly challenge American goals in the Middle East now that the U.S. is getting more involved in Syria. As I said in my previous post, Russia NEEDS those Syrian ports much more than America needs anything from Syria (taking down ISIS is not as important to the U.S. as keeping access to those Mediterranean ports is to Russia, at least in Russian eyes), and any turmoil generated in Syria/Iraq now as a result of mutual escalation there by the U.S. and Russia can only redound to Russia’s interest, if the price of oil skyrockets, and simultaneously redound to America’s detriment. Which is peachy keen to Putin and his generals/admirals, etc.,…because they are very, very mad.