Filed under: Foreign Policy, History, Intelligence, Middle East, National Security, Russia, The United States | Tags: Barack Obama, Bashar al Assad, Vladimir Putin
Once again the administration is being taken by surprise. Moscow has established a new airbase in Syria to go with its existing naval base. and they are determined to keep Bashar Assad’s regime in power. The U.S. no longer has any influence in Baghdad, and ever since the U.S. forces pulled out in 2011, Iran has become the dominant player in Iraq.
When Russia sent in flights to create a new Russian military base in Syria, our protests were ignored. President Obama’s failure to act on his red line in Syria has consequences. When he could not even act against Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people or Iran’s development of a nuclear program, it ‘s pretty clear that he’s not going to do anything.
Humiliated, Obama is now trying to pretend that Putin will “help”take care of ISIS, but he has been attacking the rebels fighting the Assad regime instead. This is a pure power play by the Russian President. Leon Aron, who is the director of Russian Studies at AEI, looks at why:
- To establish a sustained, open-ended Russian military presence in the Middle East for the first time since President Sadat sent Soviet personnel home in 1972, thus recovering a key Soviet geopolitical asset as postulated by the Putin Doctrine.
- To establish the Russia-Iran-Syria (and possibly Iraq) de facto alliance as the dominant military and thus political actor in the Middle East.
- To boost patriotic mobilization in Russia, which increasingly is the Putin regime’s sole claim to legitimacy. With the economy tanking fast, the ruble down 57% from this time last year, inflation at around 15%, and the seemingly stalemated war on Ukraine no longer generating enough heat to keep the patriotic fervor a-boil, Putin needs another “short, victorious war” (as the Minister of Internal Affairs Vyacheslav Plehve hailed the ultimately disastrous Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05).
The question becomes how far will Putin go? Both Aron and Ralph Peters suggest that we should be prepared for an “accidental” shoot down of a U.S. or British or French plane? That Putin delights in humiliating the United States is not a surprise. That the Obama administration seems regularly to be surprised is more worrying.
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