Russia Strikes in Syria September 30, 2015Posted by Tantumblogo in Christendom, Ecumenism, General Catholic, persecution, Society, technology, the enemy.
The Russian Parliament today gave President Vladimir Putin approval to begin military operations in Syria. Operations began almost immediately thereafter. Operations appear limited to airstrikes at present, with a strong ground presence around the airbases housing several types of Russian fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. Russian forces gave any US forces that might be in their area of operations 1 hour notice to clear out before attacks began. Since the US and other nations have been engaged in a very low-intensity air campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, it remains to be seen how operations with Russian forces can be coordinated, or whether they will, at all (big potential for problems, there, but I imagine Obama will just surrender, again, and force ROE on US forces that keep them hundreds of miles from anywhere Russians might be operating).
Note this – Russian bombing will not be the extremely precise, minimum collateral damage that the US and its “coalition partners” have been practicing. Many of these attacks have amounted to pinpricks with many high-value targets excluded due to ostensible fear of causing “civilian” casualties (or perhaps because Obama really doesn’t want to fight his co-religionists very hard). Russia won’t do that, for one thing, they have very few and very poor precision guided munitions, secondly, their aircraft don’t carry advanced sensors to aim precisely, and thirdly, they rarely care about civilian casualties. In the Chechnyan War, in Georgia, they frequently made use of carpet bombing by Tu-22M3 bombers. None are deployed to Syria, but they don’t need to be – they can easily reach Syria from Crimean bases recently annexed, involuntarily, from the Ukraine.
In an interesting development, the Russian Orthodox Church has decreed the Russian intervention in Syria a “holy war” and indicated its full support. Nah, not a bit of nationalism in Orthodoxy! Nevertheless, it’s nice to see that some Christians understand the existential nature of the fight against islam and use a bit of militant terminology:
The Russian Orthodox Church has backed the country’s parliamentary decision to give President Vladimir Putin permission to use military force in Syria, saying the fight against terrorism is a “holy war”.
The head of Synodal department for church and society, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, told journalists on 30 September that the decision from the upper chamber of parliament, the Federation Council, to authorise air strikes in Syria was “consistent with international law, the mentality of our people and the role that our country has always played in the Middle East”, according to Interfax news agency.
He added that Russia cannot be indifferent while Christians and other minority groups are being destroyed in the region. [Well, they’ve been being wiped out for years, so don’t paint yourself as too much the hero] The interreligious council of Russia released a statement in support of military operations against terrorism in the Middle East. “The fight against terrorism is a holy struggle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world to combat terrorism,” the priest said.
None of the preening moralism of “interreligious dialogue” from the Russian Orthodox. It’d be nice to see such a muscular faith from our own
It should be noted that Syrian President Assad – who controls perhaps 1/4 of the main populated areas of his country now – requested this intervention. He has been gradually losing this war for years, especially since ISIS became involved. This is really a last ditch effort to keep his regime alive – which is something I hope happens because if ISIS takes over, it will be curtains for Christians in a land where millions have lived for thousands of years.
While Russia may be covering their actions in a cloak of high morality, there are also of course geo-political reasons for the intervention. Syria is Russia’s last client state in the western Mideast. Aside from Iran, which is very much an independent actor, they are their only remaining client. Naval bases in northern Syria are their only access point in the entire Mediterranean now, since Qaddafi fell. So they have strong reasons to see the regime survive.
But I don’t think airstrikes alone are going to do it. Assad has lost so much territory and support they’re going to have to intervene on the ground and in large numbers in order to make a substantial difference. Not initially, but the inevitable logic of this kind of open-ended commitment is to gradually get sucked in more and more. If Russian bases fall under mortar or rocket attack, for instance, there will be a great temptation to expand their security perimeter by several miles. That will mean contact with the enemy, which will in turn create pressure for even more ground forces and even further contact. The generals will be screaming for more intervention if all this comes about. And that will mean large losses, and the potential exposure of Russian kit as being well below Western standard yet again (which really kills Russian arm sales overseas, one of their prime means of funding procurement for their own armed forces at home – it’s the same model the French use). It will take enormous strength on Putin’s part not to get gradually sucked in – unless, of course, he’s planned that all along. But counter-insurgencies are a nightmare to fight, as both Russia and the US have found out repeatedly over the years, take a long commitment and a willingness to take high losses. Is that commitment there?
Are the Russian people in favor of this intervention? Western media say no, pointing to some polling data that ostensibly shows broad Russian opposition to involvement in Syria. Russian people have generally been supportive of Putin’s various escapades in Chechnya, Georgia, and the Ukraine. But further afield?
Fox News has published more details on its claim that Russia has demanded that American warplanes exit Syrian airspace immediately.
Citing a senior U.S. official, the network reports that Russian diplomats “sent an official demarche ordering US planes out of Syria, adding that Russian fighter jets were now flying over Syrian territory”
US military sources told Fox News that US planes would not comply with the Russian demand:
There is nothing to indicate that we are changing operations over Syria
We have had every indication in recent weeks that [the Russians] were going to do something given the build-up
Airspace de-confliction in a combat area can be a b—h. Generally it requires positive radar coverage of the area (which AWACS can provide, but do we have enough, and are they flying over Syria?). The Russians will probably get positive radar control from the remaining Syrian government ground stations. But without an overall plan and coordination, unfortunate accidents could certainly happen.
And what would it be like if armed US and Russian warplanes happen upon each other? Will we finally get to see how much better the F-22 is than the Su-30MK?
One final thought – is ramping up the scale of the Mideast conflagration an attempt by Putin to drive oil prices, upon which the Russian economy is utterly dependent, up, and a great deal?