Posted to YouTube by Caspian Report Aug. 17, 2016.
For Moscow, perhaps more than ever, image drives perception and perception is reality.
As Putin flexes Russia’s renewed international political and military presence, a brief look at the character of the same seems in order.
ISIL and Syria
As BackChannels has noted for some time, “ISIL” was going to be Moscow’s “gift” to itself and the world — and now it is.
Baghdadi’s organization has provided Assad with the excuse wanted for depopulating and leveling his state; it has given Putin something ugly to throw westward; and it serves now as a hornet’s nest somewhat defined in space and useful for demonstrating Moscow’s latest in military prowess and technology.
Russia’s stand in Syria — now that Iraq’s no longer a Russian client state and Libya has similarly disappeared in that regard — has become remarkable for the hardware, technology, and troops allocated to “The Terrorists” (while apparently hitting also hospitals —
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/22/three-syrian-hospitals-bombed-since-russian-airstrikes-began-doctors-say – 10/22/2015 | http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/31/wave-of-russian-air-strikes-on-syrian-hospitals-leaves-60-dead/ – 5/31/2016 | http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-civil-war-assad-russia-air-strikes-deaths-bombing-hospitals-idlib-maternity-clinic-babies-a7163691.html – 7/30/2016 | https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2016/03/syrian-and-russian-forces-targeting-hospitals-as-a-strategy-of-war/ – 3/3/2016
Russophiles “rescued” by Russia’s incursions in Crimea appear to be learning about their true status as “protected” subjects: prices are soaring while their rubles lose value and their earnings remain flat.
Russia, having also and apparently won over Erdogan into fulfilling his destiny as Turkey’s next presumptive sultan and guardian of the Moscow-enabled “Turkish Stream” Gas-to-Europe energy delivery system, has also demonstrated the chutzpah of asking permission to use the airbase at Incirlik — as NATO forces now do — for running sorties against ISIL targets in Syria. President Erdogan assented, not that Putin needs those runways at this moment.
European Union and BREXIT
It should be clear by now that every “Allahu Akbar Attack” prods a reflexive nationalism.
Add the refugees pouring out of Syria and flowing into Europe and other potential hosting space, and the backlash forms around a new xenophobia.
The gates and fences go up, first in the form of “defense leagues” and later in potential policy. BackChannels credits the Soviet / post-Soviet style incubation and later “deployment” of ISIL with goading a brief majority of Brits into separating the island state from the main traffic in commerce and politics associated with the continent.
Russia’s New Nuclear Front
This excerpt comes from the Free Beacon article published last week and cited in the “Links” section of this post:
Russia is engaged in a major buildup of strategic nuclear forces, building new missiles, submarines, and bombers. A State Department report on Russian activities under the New START arms treaty stated in the spring that Moscow added 153 strategic nuclear warheads to its arsenal under the treaty.
The increase in warheads is said to be the result of the deployment of new SS-27 Mod 2 intercontinental ballistic missiles with multiple warheads and SS-N-32 submarine-launched missiles.
Cold War? Cold Struggle?
We might haggle about missile defenses in Poland and Romania, but Russian efforts in the field may be focused on defeating NATO’s nuclear defenses, and that according to Putin’s own statements about related nuclear balance of power.
For all such statements made — fighting the terrorists in Syria; co-opting Turkey against its European and NATO interests; spooking the Brits out of the EU; and redeveloping the nuclear-obsessed Cold War mentality, Putin may nonetheless be working with a low stack of financial chips. Even though he may offset that with appeals to blood-and-soil nationalism and related sacrifice, one wonders how much room for play he has with the oligarchs who may be expected to pay either for ambitions now or their aftermath later.
A glance at posts like this one and its sources also suggests that while Putin has indeed brought Russia to its feet with the immense theatrical prowess that produces both the Winter Olympics at Sochi and the spectacle of a ruined Syria, it’s the latter on which Russians, poor or wealthy, connected or well outside the system of patronage, and “Russophones” in the “Russian near abroad” may wish to dwell.
Related: https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/experts-proclaim-lost-decade-for-russias-stagnating-economy-55039 & http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/21/russian-stocks-boosted-by-stabilizing-economy-may-surprise-analysts.html
MOSCOW — Russia flexed its muscles again over Syria on Friday, for the first time launching cruise missiles at targets from warships in the Mediterranean Sea days after beginning bombing runs from a base in Iran.
Taken together, the new military moves appeared to be a demonstration that Russia has the ability to strike from virtually all directions in a region where it has been reasserting its power — from Iran, from warships in the Caspian Sea, from its base in the Syrian coastal province of Latakia and now from the Mediterranean.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/20/world/middleeast/russia-syria-mediterranean-missiles.html – 8/19/2016
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/21/world/europe/russia-bolsters-submarine-fleet-and-tensions-with-us-rise.html – 4/20/2016
http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/21/politics/us-warns-syria-russia-on-attacks/ – 8/21/2016
“Russian doctrine states that tactical nuclear weapons may be used in a conventional response scenario,” Scaparrotti said on July 27. “This is alarming and it underscores why our country’s nuclear forces and NATO’s continues to be a vital component of our deterrence.”
Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon nuclear policy official, said Russia’s new national security strategy, which was made public in December, discusses increasing civil defenses against nuclear attack, an indication Moscow is preparing for nuclear war.
http://freebeacon.com/national-security/russia-building-new-underground-nuclear-command-posts/ – 8/15/2016
Ankara has given Russia the go-ahead to use its Incirlik air base for operations in Syria, though no official request from Moscow to use the strategic military facility has been made, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday.
http://www.timesofisrael.com/turkey-pm-russia-can-share-incirlik-airbase-with-us-if-necessary/ – 8/21/2016
More than two years after Russia annexed Crimea and promised its 2 million people a better life, residents say prices have soared, wages and pensions have stagnated and tourists have fled.
The sunny and mountainous Black Sea peninsula is back in the news, with Russian President Vladimir Putin accusing Kiev of sending infiltrators across the border to wreck its industry. But locals say the damage has already been done by Moscow’s neglect.
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-crimea-idUSKCN10W0EM – 8/21/2016.
Over the last week, the number of heavy weapons deployed near the front lines in eastern Ukraine has doubled, part of a pattern of Russia ramping up its military presence in the region throughout the summer. An estimated 40,000 soldiers have been stationed there, on top of aircraft and the anti-missile defense system.
All of this has been stoking fears Russia could be planning another invasion, two years after it formally annexed Crimea, as peace talks crumble. It’s Putin’s first visit to the territory since March.
https://news.vice.com/article/putin-touches-down-in-crimea – 8/19/2016
The Russian military has test fired the short-range nuclear-capable 9K720 Iskander-M (NATO reporting name SS-26 Stone) ballistic missile during a large-scale military exercise in Russia’s Far East this week, according to local media reports.
http://thediplomat.com/2016/08/russia-test-fires-nuclear-capable-ballistic-missile-in-far-east/ – 8/19/2016.