Unfortunately for Russians, what Putin is doing puts them and their culture under threat. “For Russia, the fate of their language is a question of life or death” because the language is in many ways a metaphor for Russia itself. “The Russian language, Russian culture and Russian literature are … what Russia is.”
Indeed, Shchetkina argues, Russia doesn’t exist anywhere beyond these things; and that explains why Putin has said that Russia has no borders because Russia is a “virtual” reality rather than a geographic one. And in this is a problem: “this culture and language does not belong undividedly to a country which is now called the Russian Federation.”
Despite strong denials from Moscow, Russian airborne troops are preparing to land in Syria to fight Islamic State forces. The surprise attack on Monday, Aug. 31, by ISIS forces on the Qadam district of southern Damascus, in which they took over parts of the district – and brought ISIS forces the closest that any Syrian anti-Assad group has ever been to the center of the Syrian capital – is expected to accelerate the Russian military intervention.
Location: Syria’s Theater of the Real.
Producers: Putin, Assad, Khamenei.
Title of the Show: “Assad vs The Terrorists”.
Cast of extras, dead and alive: 250,000 dead; 9 million displaced or refugee.
Most Memorable Set Design: Homs, fashioned by barrel bombing to look like Hiroshima the day after.
Casting Dilemma: Getting Baghdadi’s fighters and other al-Qaeda-type elements to play their parts without knowing it.
Why: For Putin, post-Soviet Russia becomes neo-feudal Russia, and he’s the boss; for Assad, in the age of the “War on Terror” no spectacle could be more glorious than playing the lead in “Assad vs The Terrorists”; for Khamenei, a grand and sustained Shiite vs Sunni Battle perpetuates the medieval justification for his authority, however much he may care to abuse it.
CAUTION: From the Second Row Seat to History
Journalists in-country have an observation deck limited to their eyes and ears, but they may with accuracy report what they see and what they hear; journalists scouting the web for opinion and news in any area of interest necessarily receive all information one step removed from Being There and may be vulnerable to disinformation, in this instance information intended to change the character of the Syrian Tragedy — AKA either “Assad vs The Terrorists” or “Assad vs A Good Portion of the Syrian People” — and draw opposed powers into the field.
That noted, the world has seen also its share of barrel bombing videos and stills, read multiple reports involving at least one period of chemical warhead deployment — and seen Russia agree to neutralize and remove those munitions — and followed either the development of large Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon or Turkey, or, this week, witnessed the aftermath of drownings of ordinary people and their children, real people, Syrian refugees.
The world may also recall watching another production — the $52 billion Winter Olympics at Sochi during February 2014. However, probably overlooked by the public at large that month (February 10, to be exact) was the headline and lede in The New York Times: “Russia and China Skip Security Council Meeting on Humanitarian Aid to Syria”:
UNITED NATIONS — The morning after an aid convoy came under fire when it tried to reach a besieged Syrian city, a meeting here on a draft resolution that would force all parties in the bloody conflict to allow access for humanitarian organizations fell apart when representatives from Russia and China failed to show up, United Nations Security Council diplomats said.
Perhaps Syrians would do well to borrow some mid-20th Century Jewish wisdom: Never Forget.
New evidence proves Russian military directly engaging in Syrian Civil War
The regime’s offensive in the Lattakia Governorate continues to reveal previously unknown details about Russia’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War. Apart from the sighting of recently delivered Russian BTR-82A infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), new evidence now confirmes Russian military personnel has a key role in leading the offensive on the ground.
“We are aware of reports that Russia may have deployed military personnel and aircraft to Syria, and we are monitoring those reports quite closely,” said spokesman Josh Earnest.
“Any military support to the Assad regime for any purpose, whether it’s in the form of military personnel, aircraft supplies, weapons, or funding, is both destabilizing and counterproductive.”
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131573 – “Syria conflict: How far is Russia prepared to bolster Assad?” — 9/2/2015.
On August 22, the Bosphorus Naval News website showed the Alligator-class Russian ship Nikolai Filchenkov, part of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, two days earlier passing through Istanbul’s famed waterway en route to an unknown location in the Mediterranean (hint, hint).
But what was remarkable about the Filchenkov was that military equipment was visible on deck . . . .
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4696268,00.html “Russian jets in Syrian skies” – 8/31/2015.
http://www.newsweek.com/why-putin-sending-troops-syria-368436 – 9/3/2015 – (by Elliott Abrams).
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/c417e912-5479-11e5-b029-b9d50a74fd14.html#axzz3kz4QStb1 – “US voices concern to Russia over military moves in Syria” – 9/6/2015.
Sideways Related on BackChannels
Update: September 29, 2015 – From the Daily Beast, Aug. 23, 2015
Based on extensive fieldwork in one village in the North Caucasus, reporter Elena Milashina has concluded that the “Russian special services have controlled” the flow of jihadists into Syria, where they have lately joined up not only with ISIS but other radical Islamist factions. In other words, Russian officials are adding to the ranks of terrorists which the Russian government has deemed a collective threat to the security and longevity of its dictatorial ally on the Mediterranean, Bashar al-Assad.
Update: October 19, 2015: From The New York Review of books, July 11, 2012 – By Michael Ignatius
The Syrian conflict has triggered something more fundamental than a difference of opinion over intervention, something more than an argument about whether the Security Council should authorize the use of force. Syria is the moment in which the West should see that the world has truly broken into two. A loose alliance of struggling capitalist democracies now finds itself face to face with two authoritarian despotisms—Russia and China—something new in the annals of political science: kleptocracies that mix the market economy and the police state. These regimes will support tyrannies like Syria wherever it is in their interest to do so.
Update: October 20, 2015: From The Guardian, October 3, 2015
Another FSA officer, Colonel Abdulsalam Almerei, commander of Talbeissa operations in northern Homs, told me two days ago after his brigade was attacked by Russian aeroplanes: “We have no Isis here, we are fighting for our freedom and dignity. We want a united Syria for all Syrians. We do not want to oppress any sect or change one tyranny with another.”
Assad and his backers have jeopardised the national and territorial integrity of Syria. Many Syrians have lost faith in the UN; they feel that the international community has abandoned them to the barbaric killing machines of Assad and Isis. The international law states that the principle of responsibility to protect civilians overrides the principle of sovereignty of states when a government kills its own people.
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