Thursday, 5 September 2013

Russian military moves in reaction to threatened Syrian strikes

The Russian missile cruiser Moskva, flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, is en route to the eastern Mediterranean to take over the navy's operations in the region, a Russian military source said September 4, Reuters reported, citing Interfax...The cruiser is expected to join other Russian ships in roughly 10 days, the source said... The survival or removal of Syrian President Bashar al Assad is not going be the catalyst for a Russia/US clash, but the presence of US and Russian warships in the same region raises the risk of miscalculation and accidents...Russia’s plan has been to use its ties with Syria to prevent the West from becoming engaged with the rest of the world, especially in Former Soviet Union states...An attack on Syria, even a limited strike, would be interpreted by Moscow as a direct challenge...Russia may need to find some way of re-establishing credibility, risking escalation in diplomacy or even physical responses...The prospect of bogging down the US in a fresh Arab conflict would be in Russia’s interest, giving it more time to manoeuvre in its former satellite states...But Russia is unlikely to use its military assets to interdict a Western strike...Syria is ultimately a bargaining chip for Moscow and does not represent Russia’s primary interests.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I'm not very clued up on the topic, but what exactly is Russia's primary interest?

Thesmith said...

For brevity's sake, Russia's primary interests are in maintaining ideological dominance of Former Soviet Union (FSU) states, holding energy monopolies in Europe, and ensuring no other power can grow strong enough to threaten Russia proper - among other interests of course.

For Moscow, Syria serves the immediate purpose of both supplying a warm-water port (in Tartus) and furthering Moscow's influence in the Middle East. Russia's long-term plan has been to use its support of Syria to keep the United States and the West from gaining a foothold in the Levant from which the US might then threaten its other primary interests (such as Former Soviet Union states).

But this does not necessarily indicate a Russian willingness to intervene militarily on behalf of the Syrians should the US strikes occur. Syria is simply one of the most-developed of Russia's allies in the Middle East. It is unlikely Moscow would expend too much material to defend Mr al Assad's regime. Especially when getting the US embroiled in another Middle East conflagration would directly serve Russian primary interests, such as maintaining influence over FSU states.