As if the Middle East wasn’t already enough of a powder keg: The Russians are showing up in force:
While military direct intervention by US, Turkish, and Gulf forces over Syrian soil escalates with every passing day, even as Islamic State forces capture increasingly more sovereign territory, in the central part of the country, the Nusra Front dominant in the northwestern region province of Idlib and the official “rebel” forces in close proximity to Damascus, the biggest question on everyone’s lips has been one: would Putin abandon his protege, Syria’s president Assad, to western “liberators” in the process ceding control over Syrian territory which for years had been a Russian national interest as it prevented the passage of regional pipelines from Qatar and Saudi Arabia into Europe, in the process eliminating Gazprom’s – and Russia’s – influence over the continent.
As recently as a month ago, the surprising answer appeared to be an unexpected “yes”, as we described in detail in “The End Draws Near For Syria’s Assad As Putin’s Patience “Wears Thin.” Which would make no sense: why would Putin abdicate a carefully cultivated relationship, one which served both sides (Russia exported weapons, provides military support, and in exchange got a right of first and only refusal on any traversing pipelines through Syria) for years, just to take a gamble on an unknown future when the only aggressor was a jihadist spinoff which had been created as byproduct of US intervention in the region with the specific intention of achieving precisely this outcome: overthrowing Assad (see “Secret Pentagon Report Reveals US “Created” ISIS As A “Tool” To Overthrow Syria’s President Assad”).
As it turns out, it may all have been just a ruse. Because as Ynet reports, not only has Putin not turned his back on Assad, or Syria, but the Russian reinforcements are well on their way. Reinforcements for what? Why to fight the evil Islamic jihadists from ISIS of course, the same artificially created group of bogeyman that the US, Turkey, and Saudis are all all fighting. In fact, this may be the first world war in which everyone is “fighting” an opponent that everyone knows is a proxy for something else.
According to Ynet, Russian fighter pilots are expected to begin arriving in Syria in the coming days, and will fly their Russian air force fighter jets and attack helicopters against ISIS and rebel-aligned targets within the failing state.
And just like the US and Turkish air forces are supposedly in the region to “eradicate the ISIS threat”, there can’t be any possible complaints that Russia has also decided to take its fight to the jihadists – even if it is doing so from the territory of what the real goal of US and Turkish intervention is – Syria. After all, it is a free for all against ISIS, right?
According to Western diplomats, a Russian expeditionary force has already arrived in Syria and set up camp in an Assad-controlled airbase. The base is said to be in area surrounding Damascus, and will serve, for all intents and purposes, as a Russian forward operating base.
In the coming weeks thousands of Russian military personnel are set to touch down in Syria, including advisors, instructors, logistics personnel, technical personnel, members of the aerial protection division, and the pilots who will operate the aircraft.
The Israeli outlet needless adds that while the current makeup of the Russian expeditionary force is still unknown, “there is no doubt that Russian pilots flying combat missions in Syrian skies will definitely change the existing dynamics in the Middle East.”
Why certainly: because in one move Putin, who until this moment had been curiously non-commital over Syria’s various internal and exteranl wars, just made the one move the puts everyone else in check: with Russian forces in Damascus implicitly supporting and guarding Assad, the western plan instantly falls apart.
I think this demonstrates why the US coup in Ukraine was a grand strategic disaster. Putin now knows beyond any shadow of a doubt that the USA isn’t afraid to go after his backyard, which means that sitting tight is riskier for Russia than taking aggressive action. So, he’s not going to shy away from destabilizing actions, and he can do considerably more than interfere with the West’s plan to overthrow Syria under the guise of fighting ISIS.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Putin started sending serious arms to the Mexican drug cartels and relaunching the Soviet Union’s policy of funding revolutionary movements around the world. Thanks to the EU’s insane immigration policies, he could even turn the USA’s mujahideen strategy on its head and sow chaos throughout Western Europe if he wanted.