Monday, October 29, 2018

I Think the Russians are Pretty Clear

Trying to decipher Russia's Middle East strategy.

I don't really buy the article. Even aside from the claim that Israel shielded a strike with a Russian plane that Syrian air defenses shot down recently (as I understand it, the Israeli planes were well out of the way going home when Syria shot down the Russian plane), the analysis seems needlessly complex.

The idea that Russia wants "frozen conflicts" as a matter of policy to maintain influence rather than representing a Plan B because Russia is still weak and can't simply conquer places seems obviously ridiculous. Did Russia seek a frozen conflict in Crimea? Hell no, Russia took it and annexed it. Case closed. Move along, nothing to see. And if Russia had the opportunity to win in other frozen conflicts they'd take it.

Personally, I see three answers to the question of Russia's strategy.

One, Russia wants to matter in the minds of the West. The Soviet Union scared the Hell out of the West and that gave Russians swagger. Post-Soviet Russia was ignored by the West despite recent claims that NATO is out to get Russia. The truth that the West was happy to not think about Russia was tough to digest. Now Russia matters even if Russia is now shunned. So that's a victory for Russia, oddly enough.

And as a bonus, the seemingly bizarre and counterproductive hostility toward NATO has the effect of obscuring the Russian policy of appeasement toward China.

Two, Russia wants to stick it to America--the country that blocked and then toppled the Soviet Union. And while Russia appeases China, the Russians can hope the rising China and America take each other out in a major war.

Three, Russia wants a buffer zone in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Just as Russia wants buffer zones on land in the west to push potential threats (no matter how unlikely it may seem at the moment, Russian paranoia retains a good imagination), Russia wants a sea buffer in the southwest. Crimea may be a buffer for Russia but now the eastern Med is a buffer for Crimea and the Black Sea. Lather, rinse, repeat. That's how it works. No doubt Russia would now like a buffer in eastern Libya to protect their Syria bases.

And from any buffer, Russia can project power further to harm American and European interests.

I just don't see a mysterious code concealing Russian objectives to break.