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Russia Strikes in Syria September 30, 2015

Posted 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

Blessing Russian jets headed to Syria

Blessing Russian jets headed to Syria

leadership occasionally.

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?

A little bit more:

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?


1. Anonymous - September 30, 2015

What are the chances, do you suppose, that Putin actually wants to get as close as possible to our air operations to get as good a look as possible? Is there any valuable intel to be gathered in doing so that the Russians have not already had an opportunity to gather so openly?

This also pits Russia directly against the U.S. in terms of resolve and initiative. We used to be blamed for being the “world’s policemen”, but now Putin is taking the lead, in contrast to our new posture. It gives Putin the opportunity to move Russia into place as the up-and-coming new world superpower.

Tantumblogo - September 30, 2015

RE: the latter half of your comment, that appears to be exactly Obama’s intent. He doesn’t like an activist US foreign policy and some high officials in his administration have said they are happy to see Putin take on this mess. Even if that results in Russia having a much larger influence in the Mideast than they have for years, something previous administrations saw as something to be assiduously avoided. It’s a 180 change in viewpoint.

As to gathering intel…….it’s a little known secret that even under Putin, who has reconstituted Sov-, er, Russian capabilities quite a bit, they still have gaping holes, especially in the area of ISR. For instance, they only recently reconstituted their strategic ISR assets enough to have 24 hour a day, 360 degree coverage of incoming ICBMs! For a number of years, they had huge gaps in their early warning network. As far as things like, say, satellite based ELINT/SIGINT, they still have quite a ways to go. So the answer to your question is, yes, they could learn some things by observing us operating close up. I don’t know if that’s a driving motivation for this involvement, but it’s a side benefit I’m sure they’ll take advantage of to the maximum extent they can

2. MFG - September 30, 2015

The Russian entry into Syria is intriguing. ISIS (and its predecessors) typically directs its propaganda and attacks against the “Christian” west, especially the U.S. — which actually isn’t Christian nor does it have strong leaders (its leadership has been effeminate).

Yet the Russians thru Putin is masculine in leadership i.e. strong; anti-American; and with the Holy War declaration by the Russian Orthodox Church is now Christian (at least superficially).

So how will ISIS respond to the Russians who were brutally successful against Muslims in their territories?

3. Don - September 30, 2015

It appears that Russian attacks were not on ISIL but on anti Assad forces supported by the U.S. Somewhere Jimmy Carter smiles.

Tantumblogo - September 30, 2015

True. I did fail to mention that. Yes they are saying they are attacking ISIS but the evidence is that they are attacking other, less radical anti-Assad forces in northern Syria, areas where ISIS doesn’t have much presence. I think what is going on is that the Russians are going to try to create a defensible region containing most of the major population centers that Assad can control. This would form the basis for his continuing claim to rule. Western Syria is of much more import than the mostly barren wastes of the east where ISIS is predominate.

4. c matt - September 30, 2015

I guess I am a bit conflicted on this. I was not much of a fan of the US getting involved in Syria to begin with, and of all the bad choices, Assad seemed the least worse. Syrian Christian friends of mine have said they would prefer Assad to other alternatives for obvious reasons. On this score, I can’t really blame the O much for letting Russia play with the tar baby of the middle east if they want to. As long as we stay relatively out of the way, we might actually come out better for it.

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[…] Christians willing to call a spade a spade today. First it was the Russian Orthodox Church calling the war against ISIS a holy war, and now the President of the Ghanian Catholic Bishop’s Conference says that practicing, […]

6. Joseph D'Hippolito - October 1, 2015

I wouldn’t put much moral stock in the Russian Orthodox Church’s proclamations of “holy war.” The ROC was in the tank for the Tsars before the Bolshevik Revolution, and is in the tank for Putin, now. Putin knows about the ROC’s political history and tries to co-opt it to reinforce his legitimacy.

Tantumblogo - October 1, 2015

Agreed! As I said, it demonstrates the hideous nationalism that has penetrated the Orthodox churches.

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