Over the past 24 hours the Internet, including this blog, have been flooded with opinion on what everybody and anybody would do if they were in Putin’s boots. Proposals range from declaring an no-fly zone over Syria to, I kid you not, send a couple of Russian SSBNs (subs which carry intercontinental ballistic missiles) off the coast of Israel. Furthermore, since Putin has failed, at least so far, to implement any retaliatory measures, the usual chorus of “Putin is a traitor” has been swamping my poor mods with sanguine expressions of disgust about Putin, Russia and yours truly :-)
I do realize that nothing I say would change the minds of this latter group, but for the rest of us in the real world, a short reality check might be helpful. So, here it is a a short bullet-point format.
- Putin is absolutely right to take his time and not announce any immediate measures. Not only is this region of our planet extremely dangerous, he also needs the inputs of all the experts. In Russian we say that “haste is only needed when catching fleas”.
- Furthermore, there *are* questions which need to be investigated. For example, the Russians have declared that the Russian air defenses and the Syrian ones have now been integrated. Most people don’t realize that an S-200 battery does not just fire by itself or by the decision of the crew. At the very least, this decision is taken by a air defense command post which evaluates the threats and allocates targets. There is a high probability that Russians were also involved in the chain of events which lead to the downing of the Il-20.
- Declaring a no-fly zone over all of Syria is simply not in the current Russian capabilities. Like it or not, that is a fact. However, declaring an air exclusion zone over Khmeimim and Tartus is something the Russians could do, especially with the help of the Russian Navy ships near the Syrian coast and the Russian AWACS in the air (putting a pair of MiG-31BMs on combat air patrol over northern Syria would also be an option). The size of such an air exclusion zone over Russian forces would have to be very carefully agreed upon with all the relevant experts and lawyers (yes, Russia does care about international law).
So let’s not speculate about all this and wait for the Kremlin to take some kind of decision. Then we can evaluate it. Right now all these speculations are just a waste of time.
Also, speaking of Syria: has anybody noticed that the agreement between Turkey and Russia has removed any justification for a US attack on Syria and that the Israelis have organized their latest little bloody stunt right after this deal was announced?
Finally, and on a lighter note, did you know that the Russians have, apparently, run out of Novichok gas and that they are now using rat poison to kill daughters of military band leading generals? No?
See for yourself :-)