Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Russia Problem

This is an interesting podcast on Russia's military and their operations in Ukraine and Syria.

It provides some good perspective--despite a trendy Euro-slap at our Iraq War that we did in fact win and which our current administration once boasted about before they walked away and let Iraq unravel--and it is worth your time.

Obviously, I like it because it supports my views. Before the Crimean War, I recognized that Russia's military was weak but that it could capture Crimea and eastern Ukraine if they struck fast with their limited decent quality forces.

Russia just went with the Crimea portion.

When Russia delayed their attack into the Donbas, I correctly figured that Russia had lost their chance for a quick and cheap win.

Russia has gained some ground but struggles to maintain their position there in the face of Ukrainian resistance.

As for Syria, I wondered about Russia directly intervening before Putin did. And once he did intervene I did not think that the intervention could really change the course of the war after the initial morale boost to Assad's forces of seeing Russia move in.

Basically, Russia is still weak between special forces and nuclear weapons.

And I learned something new: that much of Russia's Spetsnaz really aren't like our best special forces and are more like long-range recon units. There are even conscripts in the ranks.

Of course, I think Putin could achieve success because Russia has limited objectives for Syria, as this article details:

Today the Russian bombing campaign seeks only to stabilize the Syrian regime’s lines around the key corridor running north from Damascus through Homs and Hama. This approach provides breathing space for Assad, and allows his regime to implement its long-mooted Plan B — a rump state centered on the Alawite heartland along the Mediterranean coast.

Assad is a long way from being able to reconquer all of Syria. Indeed, I think that Assad--even with increased Russian and Iranian support--can't hold Damascus and points south and east (or Aleppo and points north) without stretching his ground forces so much that he can't hold the true Alawite heartland and a buffer zone inland to the main north-south highway.

Could Russia get non-jihadi rebels to flip in a Putin Awakening if those rebels don't feel America and the West are serious about supporting them in the face of Russia's intervention? I rather doubt that, but I'm unwilling to bet on President Obama's reputation over Putin's reputation.

For Russia, despite being weak, we actually have to stop Putin for that weakness to be the critical factor in the outcome.

Could the West really give Putin a hat trick of a secure bastion in Syria, allied to Iran; plus a deal with Europe that reduces the flow of Moslem migrants to Europe in exchange for accepting Russia's presence in Syria and letting Russia keep some (at least Crimea) or all of their conquests in Ukraine?

We don't need to start a war with Russia. But we should work to stop them while they are weak. Or do we assume they won't get stronger or that they will gain enough power and territory to be satisfied before hitting the West where it really hurts?

If we let the problem go until then, we'll really have a problem and we'll need to risk direct war to stop them.