Thursday, 8 October 2015

World Power in a Week

If it wasn't so entirely possible that it would lead to World War 3, the flapping indignation of NATO would be comical. Four years after the US started providing material aid, and after one year of actively bombing Syria while achieving nothing, Russia appears to have achieved much within one week of a concerted campaign.

There are sound, obvious reasons for this success. Firstly is their willingness to put adequate firepower behind it - Russian fighter planes and cruise missiles, supplies of military hardware to the Syrian government, and now it seems Russian troops actually on the ground. Contrast this with the drone strikes and long range bombing runs of Obama who clearly wanted the glory of overthrowing a brutal regime and fighting terrorism, but not the bad publicity of American troops dying in Syria.

Most importantly though, the Russians are succeeding because of their wholly sensible decision to work with the Assad regime. At the very least, the regime has proven itself capable of running a stable country which tolerates minorities and will fight ISIS, even if it's not exactly a liberal democracy. It is quite simply the only possible way of stopping vast swathes of the country falling into the far worse hands of Islamic State. The western approach of adding yet another faction (one which no-one in Syria seems to want anyway) to the tinder box was always folly.

Such obvious folly that it makes one wonder if perpetual civil war and instability was the American objective all along. But this is the other thing that is so impressive about the Russian intervention - they seemingly haven't speculated about American motives, or got bogged down with the absurdly complicated politics of the region. Instead they have gone ahead with a very straight forward intervention to support a somewhat friendly government against a terrorist insurgency. Had America and it's allies done this 4 years ago, or even 1 year ago then this whole debacle could have been finished far quicker.

Instead, whether through indecision or malice, they have gifted Russia something it has longed for since the collapse of the Soviet Union: being a genuine world power which can look Washington in the eye. Shrewdly however, Putin has left the door wide open for the US and it's allies to cooperate with the Russian intervention. A deviously magnanimous move which leaves Obama with the choice of either standing back and letting Russia succeed where they have failed, or to petulantly condemn the Russian action while providing no better ideas. So far it looks like they're opting for the second course of action, with ill tempered accusations of Russian fighters violating Turkish airspace and the like. Unless Washington is prepared to risk World War 3 to repel these brief aerial incursions into the porous and barren border regions of southern Turkey, it is so much hot air.

So Putin's task is complete. After the serial failures of western countries to achieve their publicly stated objectives in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or elsewhere, Russia has shown that it has the military capability and the political will to act where America can not. Countries facing an Islamic insurgency have a new number to call when they need outside assistance, and the world is significantly more bipolar than it was this time last week.