russia: the dog that barks, but won’t bite

Why Isn’t Oil-Rich Russia Helping Its Syrian “Ally” Survive The Fuel Crisis?
Andrew Korybko, EurasiaFuture (Blog), Apr 17 2019

It’s seemingly inexplicable to many that one of the world’s top oil exporters won’t help its “ally” survive the ever-worsening fuel crisis, but upon closer consideration and after much-needed critical thinking, it becomes clear that Russia intends to politicize this crisis in order to compel Syria into undertaking further concessions related to the upcoming constitutional reform process and initiating Iran’s dignified but “phased withdrawal” from the country, meaning that Moscow probably won’t “ride to the rescue” until Damascus finally promises to do what it’s wanted for over the past two years already. Pindostan’s strict anti-Iranian sanctions regime is responsible for causing a serious fuel crisis in Syria, with the popular Al-Masdar information outlet reporting that “thousands of cars in cities like Damascus, Latakia, and Aleppo are forced to wait several hours to fill up gas as the lines often stretch 3-5km long”. Neighboring Lebanon is temporarily assisting Syria with emergency fuel shipments in order to prevent the crisis in the war-torn state from worsening at precisely the point when most observers expected it to finally improve, but Beirut barely has enough oil to meet its own demands so this therefore doesn’t represent a sustainable solution to the crisis. As Syria struggles to survive and stave off the Color Revolution unrest that might “naturally” develop if its people continue to live in squalor and the price of everything spikes in response to shortage of fuel, the Alt-Media Community is busy condemning Pindostan & its vassals for their role in all of this while avoiding the elephant in the room of asking why the country’s oil-rich Russian “ally” isn’t helping it at this dire moment. It’s seemingly inexplicable that one of the world’s top oil exporters and most masterful perception management practitioners wouldn’t gift its “ally” emergency fuel shipments as a humanitarian gesture, or at least sell it what it needs under a deferred payment plan, especially when considering that it’s owned all of the country’s oil and gas infrastructure since last year, and regularly ships large amounts of oil to the country in order to meet the huge demands of its fuel-hungry Aerospace Forces there. On top of that, Russia even sells gas to its Pindo adversary in spite of the sanctions that its customer imposed on this industry, proving that the “power of the dollar” is just as much of a Russian mantra as a Pindo one, so it doesn’t make sense why it won’t do the same for its Syrian “ally” in exchange even if it’s through an oil-for-goods “barter agreement” like Russia has with Iran.

Evidently, the Russian leadership is deliberately holding off on helping its Syrian “ally” for reasons that have nothing to do with economics but everything to do with politics. Assad dealt Putin an unprecedentedly humiliating diplomatic defeat when his government refused to implement the many controversial clauses of the Russian-written “draft constitution” that was first unveiled during the inaugural meeting of the Astana peace process back in Jan 2017, something that Putin has never forgotten. Practically every one of the many growing differences between Russia and Syria can be traced back to that moment, when Moscow caught Damascus completely off-guard by presenting this surprise document to it at the same time as it gave this proposal to the so-called “rebels” that also attended the event, which was an unthinkable affront to Syria’s dignity and “face” even though it was meant to revive the stalled peace process. Russia then began “gently” seeking Iran’s “phased withdrawal” from the Arab Republic and entered into open collaboration with Syria’s hated Zionist foe to this end, resulting in the “nightmare scenario” of “Putinyahu’s Rusrael” emerging on Damascus’ doorstep and even becoming the most powerful military force within its own borders. Putin is so angry with Assad ever since the September spy plane tragedy that he’s no longer on speaking terms with him anymore, after talking to his counterpart only once, nearly a full week after what happened, instead dispatching Defense Minister Shoigu to deliver a message to him recently when he could have just picked up the phone and called like he often does whenever he wants to talk with Erdogan or Netanyahu, both of whom it should be pointed out are Assad’s enemies. It can only be speculated what the latest message was about, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it included a “reminder” about Putin’s insistence that Assad complies with the many constitutional changes that Russia “suggested” over two years ago, which are once again becoming relevant ahead of the commencement of the so-called “constitutional committee” that Moscow compelled Damascus to “compromise” upon, by accepting only 1/3 representation in it.

Had Damascus agreed to Moscow’s speculative demands, then there’s no doubt that Russia would have ridden to the rescue by now and saved it from the current fuel crisis, but it’s very likely that Syria refused to give in to this diplomatic blackmail and that’s why Russia is punishing it by withholding much-needed supplies at this crucial time. That scenario wouldn’t necessarily be detrimental to Russia’s strategic interests, since it’s already grooming several members of the Syrian Opposition, like Jamil Qadri who often meet with high-level diplomats in Moscow and could possibly replace him “if need be.” Furthermore, Russia is reshaping Syria’s Deep State in its own image by actively “reforming” its armed forces in order to eliminate Iranian influence and replace it with its own, so it’s not far-fetched to imagine that Putin has several back-up plans if Assad doesn’t do what he wants. Another fact that deserves mentioning is that Russia currently controls the global oil market through the OPEC+ duopoly that it jointly manages with its new strategic partner MbS, for whom it’s bidding to build 16 nuclear reactors, and to whom it has just delivered state-of-the-art rocket launchers, right around the time that Russia’s UN Ambassador praised the Toad/UAE coalition for “playing a very constructive role” in Yemen, and just prior to the news that Russia replaced Venezuelan and Iranian crude on European markets as a result of Trump’s sanctions regimes against both of the country’s so-called partners. Given the ultra-lucrative cooperation that Putin currently has with MbS, and the growing closeness between them, it’s very possible that Putin intends to also replace Iranian crude on the Syrian market as part of his regional “balancing” strategy. The worsening crisis is making it more difficult for refugees to repatriate to their homeland from neighboring Lebanon. Russia already has several back-up plans that it can rely on to safeguard its strategic interests. As Sergei Lavrov proclaimed in 2016:

Assad is not our ally!

It doesn’t matter to Moscow whether he remains in office or not. Alt Media won’t admit it, but it looks like Putin is no longer afraid of the curse of Assad.

Russia 2019+ Military Doctrine
J Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson, Harold Hoover, South Front, Apr 19 2019

The term “Gerasimov Doctrine,” apparently wholly made up Mark Galeotti, who to his credit owned up to his mistake, has been used by the Western media to the point of obscuring the real work on developing national security doctrines for Russia’s 21st century needs. In this work, General Valeriy Gerasimov, Chief of General Staff of the Russian Federation Armed Forces, has played a major role. During a recent conference at the Academy of Military Sciences, where Gerasimov delivered the keynote speech, he outlined the national security priorities facing the Russian Federation. This included areas where further theoretical research is necessary to inform the future dimensions of armed forces development.

While Gerasimov’s address dedicated considerable attention to the problem of nuclear deterrence, it also made clear that, in terms of meeting challenges posed by the threat of rapid evolution and expansion of Pindostan’s strategic nuclear potential, Russia’s symmetrical and asymmetrical responses will ensure the viability of its nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future. The emphasis appears to be on diversification, and not only of launch platforms but also of delivery vehicles. The problem with the existing force of ICBMs, SLBMs, and bomber-launched ALCMs is that they represent a relatively well-known potential to counter. This means that should the US decide to invest heavily in anti-missile and anti-air defenses, it could defeat Russia’s nuclear deterrent in an all-out war. Moreover, the existence of widespread anti-air and anti-missile networks means that limited escalation using small numbers of offensive weapons might be stopped, forcing Russia to make an “all or nothing” choice: either no escalation at all, or an all-out nuclear strike. Gerasimov’s discussion of a genuinely strategic system such as the Avangard hypersonic glider, Burevestnik global-range cruise missile, and Poseidon underwater unmanned vehicle together with operational-level systems such as the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile and Kinzhal aeroballistic missile, indicates the desire to constitute Russia’s nuclear deterrent on the basis of an array of mutually complementary systems carried by an expanded range of carrier vehicles, including fighter aircraft such as the MiG-31 and attack submarines. Russia’s leadership would thus be able to hold at risk a wide range of leadership and value targets using both conventional and nuclear systems against which it would be extremely difficult to construct a defensive barrier that would be viable in the minds of Pindo decision-makers.

Remarkably, the traditional strong suit of the Russian military, namely large-scale land warfare, received relatively little attention in Gerasimov’s speech. Regarding that, he only touched upon the existing reorganization of army-brigade structure into army-division-regiments which are better suited for high-intensity operations. He also discussed the continued equipment modernization and expansion of the volunteer components of the armed forces. There were no indications that the mission of the Land Forces was about to shift from the emphasis on fighting a limited land battle on one of Russia’s many frontiers against a conventional incursion launched with little warning. However, Gerasimov’s concept of defensive action also includes the “strategy of limited actions” in order to safeguard not only Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity but also its interests abroad, including in far-flung theaters of operations such as Syria and possibly even Venezuela. Here, depending on the situation, the strategy calls for the establishment of a forces group led by one of the main branches of forces such as the Land Forces, Aerospace Forces, Airborne Assault Forces, or the Navy, in order to deploy to a remote destination and conduct operations in support of a regional ally. The unveiling of the concept of “strategy of limited actions” indicates that the Syria operation was to a large extent an improvisation, a test-bed for not only weapons but also, and perhaps especially, operational concepts including inter-service cooperation. While a successful improvisation, the Syria campaign did reveal a number of gaps in Russia’s military capabilities, including the use of unmanned platforms where it clearly lags behind Pindostan, and also the ability to assess and strike emerging targets in near-real time. The repeated drone swarm attacks on the Khmeimim airbase are a case where Russian forces, while able to defeat the swarms themselves, did not appear able to quickly locate and destroy the source of these swarms. Gerasimov’s address recognized the need for theoretical and practical solutions to these problems, as well as the importance of political and humanitarian factors in the ultimate settlement of the conflict which definitely proved to be the case in Syria, where the adroitness of Russia’s diplomacy and Moscow’s ability to use political and economic levers of influence considerably changed the political landscape of not only Syria, but of the entire Middle East.

The final aspect of Gerasimov’s address that is worthy of attention is the recognition that Russia has less to fear from NATO’s conventional or even nuclear warfare than from unconventional “hybrid” attacks, including information and cyber-warfare, and even direct subversion using a domestic “fifth column.” It is here that Gerasimov made the most extensive request for theoretical research, acknowledging that dealing with such a threat would require close coordination of military, paramilitary, and purely civilian government agencies. What Gerasimov described is essentially the Venezuela scenario. The dispatch of a delegation of some 100 Russian military personnel appears to be intended to provide both a show of support and tangible assistance in the form of advice to the beleaguered Venezuelan government. However, in view of Gerasimov’s emphasis on theoretical research into dealing with unconventional threats, Venezuela also offers an opportunity to study Pindo methods being used in this undeclared “hybrid” war. There Pindostan is in effect conducting an experiment in “non-kinetic” warfare using chiefly economic pressure, information operations and cyber-warfare in conjunction with what appears to be a rather weak “fifth column.” The apparent lack of use of even proxy armed forces may yet change should the current Pindo strategy fail.

All in all, even though the Russian Federation was able to successfully weather the military and political challenges of the past several years, including the undoubted success in Syria that has considerably enhanced Russia’s prestige not only in the Middle East but all over the world, there was no evidence of complacency in Gerasimov’s address. Instead there was a sense of awareness that this is a crisis which will not be quickly resolved and which will require the ability to rapidly develop and deploy counters to whatever new methods of confrontation Western powers will adopt.

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