So was it a good time or a bad time to go on break?
It was a good time.
Well, for one thing, I *needed* it. Then, well, as you see, I did not really ‘leave’. But most importantly, this is a good time to take a break precisely because the Russians have begun a military operation in Syria. The truth be told, *during* a military operation very few people really know what is going on. Just remember all the rumors about the upcoming Russian military operations and how they were all widely off getting pretty much everything wrong except that ‘something’ would happen. Same here. Only worse. Right now, all parties to the conflict, including the Russians, have a vested interest in not revealing what is really going on. Oh, I am not saying that the Russians are lying the way the Americans always do, only that there is a lot that they are not saying.
Let me give to examples.
Dream two: why size matters, even in Syria
Do you remember all the hyperbole about the Russian military intervention? It is still happening right now. And I am not referring to the rumors about a Russian ground invasion. There are smaller, much less noticeable semi-lies which are creeping in the mainstream public discourse but which are not based in fact. The first one is that Russia has imposed a de-facto ‘no fly’ zone over Syria.
That simply is not true, at least not yet.
First, there is still NO evidence that any S-300 (whether Russian or Syrian) are active. Yes, I know, the Missile Cruiser Moskva is currently off the coast of Syria and it is practicing anti-air defense operations. But the reality is that this presence is limited in time and that the Moskva is not scheduled to say for more than a few weeks. Second, Russia has exactly FOUR dedicated air superiority fighters in Syria. That is not enough to control the airspace. Yes, these are very modern SU-30SMs, with an advanced long range radar, some excellent short and medium range air-to-air weapons and they are fantastically agile thanks to their thrust-vectoring capability. But only 4 of them simply is not enough. In my opinion, it would take at least 12 such aircraft to really “lock” the Syrian airspace 24/7: 4 in the air (2 pairs – 2 in the north and 2 in the south), another 4 on quick reaction alert on the ground and another 4 on maintenance/reserve. And while the SU-30SM is a formidable fighter, much better than the F-16s, F-15s, F-18, and even Typhoons or Rafales NATO could deploy, there are only 4 of them versus, at least in theory, the entire airpower of NATO, CENTCOM, Israel and the US Navy. The truth is that the Russians never intended those four SU-30SMs to create a “Russia only” fly zone over Syria. If, and that is a big ‘if’ the Empire wanted to take control over the airspace over Syria it could do, maybe not without losses, that rather rapidly.
In my opinion these four SU-30SM are simply hear to keep any overzealous Turkish or Israeli fighters from feeling that they own the skies over Syria. That’s it.
And yes, I know that the SU-34 also have a solid air-to-air capability. But, again, not enough to stop the potentially immense airpower the West could bring into play if it wanted to.
Then there is the Russian cruise missile strike today.
Did you ever wonder why the hell the Russians used the Caspian Sea flotilla to deliver this strike rather than ships in the Mediterranean or long-range bombers (like, say, the Tu-95MS)?
Surprise and secrecy, of course. But not only.
First, these missiles flew over Iran and Iraq, thereby making these missile strikes a de-facto joint, coalition effort. Second, this now shows the entire Middle-East that Russian cruise missiles have the range, accuracy, reliability and power to strike at any target in the region. It is one thing to say that a cruise missile can fly 2’500km and quite another to actually be launched from 1’500km away and hit a target with a 3m accuracy.
With this strike, the Russians put everybody on notice. Including CENTCOM, by the way.
So size does matter: 4 aircraft, even modern ones, are not that much and a ripple-launch of 26 cruise missiles on targets 1’500km away sends a powerful message.
There was a lot of sensationalist nonsense written about this operation before it even began, and now that it has begun, there is even more sensationalist nonsense written about it. I urge everybody to take it easy, let the mission run its course and let some time pass before jumping to conclusions, even about apparently ‘simple’ tactical issues. Let’s wait until at least some of the dust settles and then let’s see what has really taken place and what has not.
For whatever it’s worth, I still believe that the real “action” will come from Iran, not Russia. Russia is playing primarily a diplomatic role, not a military one. Why?
Think of it: the Russians know full well that Daesh (aka ‘ISIS’) cannot be defeated by airpower alone. So what are they really doing? What is their real objective?
What they are really doing is using their military operation to achieve a political goal: to force the West to accept Assad. Remember – “war is a mere continuation of politics by other means“. This is also true here. The Russians are not really trying to single handedly wipe out Daesh, they are forcing the West to accept Assad, while boosting the morale of the Syrian military and demoralizing the Daesh/al-Qaeda forces. They are also providing media-cover for the Iranian/Hezbollah intervention on the ground.
While the corporate media and, alas, much of the blogosphere looks at strikes, aircraft, missiles etc. the real “action” is in the political and diplomatic sphere.
In conclusion I would say that at least so far, this move is nothing short of brilliant and that in just a few days Russia has achieved amazing results. As for the Americans, they look like total idiots. The Russians invited them to join the joint information center with the Iranians and Iraqis, and the Americans turned that down. Then they complained that they were informed of the strikes just 1 hour before their execution. When the Americans complained that Russia was hitting the wrong targets, the Russians invited them to give the Russian General Staff a list of targets. When the US, again, refused, the Russians were declared that “either the Americans don’t have a target list or they are not willing to really hurt Daesh“. Again, the Americans looks like imbeciles.
Right now, no matter what the US does or does not do – the result is always embarrassing. This is a situation which in the world of chess is called a Zugzwang: “a situation found in chess and other games wherein one player is put at a disadvantage because they must make a move when they would prefer to pass and not move. The fact that the player is compelled to move means that his position will become significantly weaker. A player is said to be “in zugzwang” when any possible move will worsen his position“.
We should not celebrate too early however. Brzezinski recently wrote that “The Russian naval and air presences in Syria are vulnerable, isolated geographically from their homeland. They could be “disarmed” if they persist in provoking the US“. Guys, I am sorry, but he is absolutely correct!
The way Putin is playing this game is to make it politically impossible for the USA to take direct military action, and I hope that he succeeds, but the more humiliated Obama & Co. will feel, the more dangerous they will become. This is why I predict that Russia will end up offering them a face “kinda saving” solution, precisely to avoid cornering them and making them do something really dumb and dangerous.
So – no celebrations yet and don’t get too taken in by all the media nonsense about what is taking place.
That’s it for now. See you in my dreams :-)
The Saker (temporarily dreaming that he is a dreaming alligator)