Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Sometimes You Just Have to Salute a Foe

Despite having a poor hand to play, Putin could be playing to an inside straight.

France is proposing new talks on Ukraine:

French President Francois Hollande on Monday offered to host talks on the situation in Ukraine with German, Russian and Ukrainian leaders as a February truce finally appeared to be holding.

I wondered why Putin would commit forces to Syria when he is tied down in eastern Ukraine. We've had a week of quiet in the Donbas region. If Putin accepts talks does this indicate he is giving up (for now) trying to pick apart Ukraine in order to focus on saving his client Assad?

You have to admit that this would be smart diplomacy. Putin takes land in Ukraine, intervenes in Syria, gets President Obama to finance the Syrian gambit, and by suspending aggression against Ukraine (but not giving anything back to Kiev) he might get the lifting of Western sanctions over that operation.

And we'll see if we have more influence with a NATO ally than Russia does:

Greece received a request from the United States to deny Russia the use of Greek airspace for aid flights to Syria, a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Athens said on Monday.

The spokesman said the request was being examined.

Heck, those Mistral amphibious warfare ships might end up in Russian hands before long, after all!

All that talk of having other buyers, so France doesn't need to cave to Russia to avoid a financial hit, is probably just part of the ploy to get them to Russia.

I'm impressed. If this wasn't being done to us, I'd applaud.

But I am impressed.

I know I just don't get this nuance thing, but I'm beginning to suspect that the Obama administration has less of a clue than I do despite their boasting.

This whole ballet of moves might actually qualify as Smart Diplomacy.*

*Smart Diplomacy is a registered trademark--but not of the Obama administration.

UPDATE: NATO ally Bulgaria agreed to block Russian flights to Syria:

Moscow on Tuesday demanded answers from Greece and Bulgaria after Sofia banned Russian supply flights to Syria from its airspace and Athens said it had been asked by Washington to do the same.

NATO ally Greece is still pondering the question. What the heck? Let Russian planes fly to Syria to stoke the civil war and let refugees from said war flow west to Germany. Win-win from Athens' point of view.

UPDATE: Not that Putin is telegraphing any retreat from his Ukraine conquests, as he stages new snap exercises:

The Defense Ministry said the maneuvers that began Monday will last for five days and involve forces of the Central Military District, a group of forces spreading from the Volga River all the way to eastern Siberia, along with air force and airborne units.

The airborne units represent the core of Russia's competent ground units.

UPDATE: I suppose the Russians could really be alerting paratroopers in order to send some to Syria.

UPDATE: The Russians may be setting up the welcome wagon in Syria to bring in more forces:

The Russians have installed modular housing units -- enough for "hundreds" of people -- at the airport, as well as portable air traffic control equipment, the official noted.

"All of this seems to be suggesting that Russia is planning to do some sort of forward air-operating hub out of this airfield," the official said.

And if this assistance to Assad sends more refugees to Europe as punishment for opposing Russian aggression in Ukraine? Well that's bonus material, eh?

UPDATE: Fair is fair. President Obama sacrificed a lot of Syrians to get his Iran nuclear deal:

Obama decided to steer clear of the Syrian conflict not just to avoid doing anything, but just as importantly, to avoid damaging Iranian interests in Syria. As Obama wrote Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, “the U.S.’s military operations inside Syria aren’t targeted at Mr. Assad or his security forces.” Obama didn’t do anything to bring down Assad because he was afraid it might anger the Syrian president’s patrons in Iran, and getting a nuclear deal with Iran was Obama’s foreign policy priority.

Why shouldn't Russia get in on the act, too?

UPDATE: Our NATO ally Greece and our new and improved proto-partner (Now Without Nuclear Ambitions!) Iran provided Russia with the exact same answer to Moscow's request for overflight rights:

Greece and Iran have reportedly granted Russia permission to fly over their territory when supplying aid to Syria.

The Interfax news agency quoted a Russian Embassy official in Tehran as saying on September 9 that Iran approved all of Moscow's requests on flights delivering humanitarian aid to Syria.

Separately, a Russian Embassy official in Athens told TASS that Greece granted Russia the right to use its airspace for humanitarian flights to Syria on August 31.

Ah, Smart Diplomacy! It's a thrill to see it in action.

Kudos to Bulgaria for turning the Russians down.

UPDATE: Oh, and Russia's Great Game against us reaches the Pacific:

“Improved maritime strike capability has given Chinese warships a much greater chance of competing against their U.S. counterparts” and improved naval air defenses allow its warships “the ability to operate at increasingly great distances from shore”—major advances in large part speeded by arms, vessels and technology sales from Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Those were two observations contained in a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, released Tuesday.

And don't you dare think that this is an accident on Russia's part.