Is Russia moving forces into Syria?
The end of summer. It means back-to-school shopping, tearfully ended beach-borne romances, Labor Day barbecues—and, it would seem, the increased likelihood of new Russian adventurism. As if Moscow weren’t satisfied with the game in Ukraine, the last month has seen a flurry of reports about its ever-expanding military involvement in Syria.
I've noted indications of this possibility.
And if Russia sent Mig-31s to Syria, I assume Russian pilots could be in the cockpits.
(Although could those Mig-31s be heading to Iran? )
But affording this effort would be difficult for Putin when you consider the price of oil and sanctions and other uncertainties caused by Russia's aggression against Ukraine since last year.
An infusion of money for Syria's patron, Iran, via the nuclear deal would be very convenient, no? Is it hard to imagine Iran's mullahs setting aside some of all that money earmarked for Iran's domestic stimulus program to Russia to prop up their common ally?
And don't forget that the Iran deal is the perfect vehicle to argue we don't need missile defenses in Europe.
Although in a perfect world Putin would want his troops in Syria only if he has a solid basis to make it a noncombat mission.
UPDATE: I see there is news that Russians are actually fighting to support to Assad now.
Russian troops are fighting alongside pro-Assad forces in Syria, state television in Damascus and several reports have claimed.
The video footage claimed to show troops and a Russian armoured vehicle fighting Syrian rebels alongside President Bashar al-Assad's troops in Latakia.
It is reportedly possible to hear Russian being spoken by the troops in the footage.
As the article notes, these could be contractor soldiers rather than official Russian soldiers.
This would be fairly amazing if actual Russian units are sent. Would Putin really open a new front when his armed forces are barely capable of taking on Ukraine? When Strategypage seems to think revelations that Russia has lost a couple thousand troops in Ukraine already are credible?
I continue to think the presence of Russian troops makes the most sense in the context of an anti-ISIL Russian-Turkish deal (perhaps with Saudi Arabia brought on board) to create a DMZ across northern Syria with Turkish-supported non-ISIL rebels (and maybe Turkish troops) holding the line to the north and Russian troops holding the southern side to free up increasingly shaky Syrian troops and rebel forces for other fronts.
The Russians might also put a naval infantry garrison into their Tartus naval facility.
UPDATE: Remember, Russia threatens the peace in Europe by invading Ukraine, rattling nuclear sabres against NATO, questioning whether the Baltic states are legitimate countries, working with China which threatens our allies and the peace in Asia, interfering with Western efforts to resolve chaos in Libya, and supporting Assad.
Yet we're to believe Russia helped us by facilitating the Iran nuclear deal.
UPDATE: I see we are deluded enough to think that Hillary "reset" button is stuck in the down position:
"[Secretary of State] made clear [to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov] that if such reports [about Russian troops fighting for Assad] were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL coalition operating in Syria," the department said, using an acronym for Islamic State.
Lavrov surely indicated that he will give it all due consideration and file Kerry's concerns.