The Rise of Russia on the Warm Seas: A brief look at Russia's military in Syria - November, 2015

My blog commentary this month comes as a prelude to an important military assessment produced by this blog's resident military analyst we all affectionately call Zoravar. Comrade Zoravar's lucid work titled "The Rise of Russia on the Warm Seas: A brief look at Russia's military in Syria" appears immediately below this commentary. Please feel free to skip right to it.

As I announced in my previous blog commentary, in a historic turn-of-events, the embattled Shi'ite Arc has suddenly been reinforced by the Russian Bear. The Syrian government has been saved and a zone of Shi'ite influence (or what had remained of it after the carnage of the past four years) has been preserved. This unexpected move by Russia has given Lebanon's Hezbollah, Syria's Alawites and Iraq's Shiites a new lease on life and hope for the future. I hope to see this extend to Yemen's Houthis as well. I want to see the strengthening of Iranian influence throughout the Middle East. Moscow should not have any reservations about a greater Middle Eastern role for Iran. Moscow should realize that Tehran does not have any territorial claims on Russia nor does Russia have a significant Shiite population. Moscow also should realize that due to the region's overwhelming Sunni majority, a greater Iranian role in the Middle East will not pose any long-term problems with regards to geopolitical balance in the region because Iranian influence will be confined to Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The only place where Iranian and Russian interests can potentially have some disagreements is in the Caspian Sea region and in nations like Azerbaijan and Tajikistan. Comparatively speaking, however, these would be trivial matters that can be negotiated between the two powers.

Ultimately, Kremlin officials need to recognize that if cultivated/seeded properly, the arc of Iranian influence, an arching swath of land stretching essentially from southern Lebanon to western Afghanistan, can also be a zone where Russia wields significant influence. More importantly, for Moscow, the Shi'ite Arc can also act as an effective buffer against Salafist/Wahhabist Islamic extremism and Western, Israeli, Turkish and Saudi expansionism.

The Russian Bear therefore needs to continue assisting this budding arc of Iranian influence in the heart of the Middle East for two fundamental reasons: 1) As a measure to maintain and increase its military and political presence in the strategic region; 2) As a long-term countermeasure against Western-backed Sunni extremism.

Preventing Syria from turning into another failed state where Islamist terror groups reign as they currently do in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan is part of the reason why Moscow has decided to risk Russian lives and militarily intervene. Kremlin officials understand that if left unchecked Islamic extremists will eventually appear in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Russia is therefore throwing the first, preventative punch. President Putin couldn't have been any clearer. Simply put: If Moscow is unable to help the Shi'ite Arc become a permanent fixture in the Middle East, it runs the risk of losing its strategic foothold in Syria and the region in general runs the risk of descending into chaos. I am glad that Moscow has had the strategic foresight to act in Syria. It's encouraging for me to see that the important task of forging an "alliance between Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran" is now gaining wider recognition today -
"Shiite arc" - the new reality in the Middle East?:

The Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah military triangle:

Assad: Russia, Iran, Iraq alliance against terror must succeed:

Iraqi Shiite Politicians Call for Russian Airstrikes on Islamic State:

Iran lobbied for Russian campaign in Syria , officials say:

Popularity of 'Putin the Shiite' sky high in Iraq:
Regardless of what it is called or how it is characterized, it is important to realize that the Russian-backed Shi'ite Arc exists in the Middle East today. It was therefore highly symbolic that the Syrian President traversed the Shi'ite corridor on his way to Moscow to meet with the Russian president. The short visit to Moscow was highly symbolic in that it was President Assad's first travel abroad since the start of the civil war in Syria. It signaled to the global community that his government has survived and that any solution to the Syrian tragedy can only be possible through him as well as through Russia and Iran. A new political era is dawning. Moscow and Iran are now setting the political tone in the Middle East and Western powers have no choice but to accept it. All this came just in the nick of time for Syria was slowly heading towards complete disintegration.

Moscow's military intervention

The decision to militarily intervene in Syria was probably reached last summer after Russian officials had closed-door negotiations with Iranian officials. With the decision having been made, the first phase of Russia's military intervention in Syria was the movement of military hardware into Syria. The second phase was the commencement of airstrikes to stabilize the tactical situation on the battlefield and to deter regional powers from invading Syria. The next phase, the phase we are currently in, will be the liberation of strategic territories in Syria currently under occupation by Western-backed Islamist forces. And speaking of strategic territories, the ancient city of Aleppo is no doubt one them. Going forward, the Syrian government will concentrate its efforts on liberating towns and cities it wants under its control and deal the Western-backed opposition a decisive blow in the process. Needless to say, Syria's enemies will now respond by increasing their support for the jihadis. For the foreseeable future, the Russian air force will be providing combat air support and the Syrian army, bolstered by troops from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran will be carrying out combat operations on the ground.

Under the cover of Russian attack helicopters and ground attack aircraft, pro-Syrian forces are already advancing on several fronts throughout Syria. The Russian airstrikes have been so successful that Washington has been forced to send a contingent of special operations troops into Syria to essentially act as human shields for armed groups it's supporting and to show the world that it remains militarily engaged. I would like to note that the downing of the Russian airliner in Egypt was a tragic by-product of Russia's recent advances in the Middle East. In other words: It was Russia's punishment. The tragedy revealed two things: It is further evidence that Islamic terrorism is being controlled (directly or indirectly) by Western powers, Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ask yourselves: If a group like Al Qaeda or ISIS had the capability to bring down airliners and if there really was a Western-led "war against Islamic terrorism", wouldn't you think that such terror groups would have attacked an American, Israeli, Turkish or Saudi airliners by now? The other thing that this latest tragedy revealed is just how much contempt Western powers have towards Russians. After watching how extensively Western news media covered the German and Malaysian airliner incidents, I am shocked at how little coverage the downed Russian airliner is getting.

Involved in a major military operation in a nation far from its borders, Moscow has signaled to the world that it is back in the game and it is willing to risk Russian lives in doing so. In fact, the degree of Moscow's involvement in the Middle East is unprecedented. Soviet Union was never this involved in the Middle East. The fact that Moscow has deployed some of its most modern gadgets, tanks and warplanes and has commenced combat air operations in Syria underscores the strategic importance the Kremlin is placing on Syria and on its role in the region. Russia's strong military presence along the eastern Mediterranean Sea also signals that for the foreseeable future the Russian Bear will be a permanent fixture in the region's landscape and regional powers will have to take this new reality on the ground into account. In a sense, Russia has finally realized its dream of establishing a naval presence in the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

With the Russian Bear back in the Middle East, Israeli officials are gradually coming to the sobering realization that they no longer enjoy total military supremacy in the region. Having been militarily checked by the Russian Bear, Uncle Sam has been made to swallow its imperial pride and sign a "deconflicting" deal, which essentially gives Russians the right to enforce a no fly zone over government held territory in Syria. Uncle Sam is therefore in a serious predicament. With Russia having suddenly hijacked Washington's narrative about fighting terrorism in the Middle East, American officials are now perplexed: What should the US do: Put aside Western interests and help Russia defeat Islamic terrorists and in doing so help the Syrian government survive or preserve Western interests in the region by sabotaging the Russian effort in Syria by helping the jihadis? Uncle Sam's predicament can be vividly seen in the following news articles -

U.S. to Iraq: If Russia helps you fight ISIS, we can't:

West refuses to share intel on ISIS with Russia - MoD:

American Killed in Raid to Rescue Prisoners in Iraq:
The recent special forces raid in Iraq was meant to show the world that the US is still a power-broker in the region and that it is doing things to combat ISIS. But the effort was a failure not because one of Uncle Sam's special forces commanders was killed in the raid, but because the people Uncle Sam supposedly wanted to rescue were not present at the prison. In other words, US special forces freed people they had no intention of freeing and lost a veteran military operative in the process. As pointed out on numerous previous occasions, there is no serious Western effort to combat ISIS.

What a difference a few years makes. What is happening in the Middle East is a historic milestone in global affairs and a drastic reversal of roles between Russia and the US. Make no mistake about it, this is the dawning of a new era. What is happening is a tectonic shift in geopolitics. While the Great Game between regional powers is no way near an end, as if overnight, the Middle East has been transformed and a new geopolitical landscape has clearly begun to form. As we watch President Putin's Russia make its moves in Syria, we are watching history in the making, and it's fascinating. The nation that we were told was isolated and was on the brink of a collapse has suddenly become a global player and is currently given the global community some shock and awe of its own.

Seven years ago, Washingtonian rednecks were making fun of Russia's "rusting" navy when Moscow sent a warship to Venezuela. Two years ago, the warmongering freak known as John McCain guaranteed the American public that Russia was too weak to act in Syria. Last year, the House Negro bragged that Russia "does not make anything" and prominent Western "economists" were predicting that it was the "end of the line" for the Russia's economy. More recently, however, Western officials have begun to fear Russia's military potential and US military officials have been impressed with Russia's military performance in Syria. Suddenly, political observers in the West are envisioning a lesser role for the self-styled world cop.

The Russian military is once again raising many eyebrows around the world. After about two decades of decay, Russia's armed forces has begun making great strides. The difference between the Russian force that entered Georgia back in 2008 and the Russian force than entered Crimea in 2014 is like the difference between night and day. The Russian Bear was in deep hibernation during the 1990s as its military hardware lay rusting and its military industrial complex struggled for survival. The Russian Bear abruptly awakened in 2008, but was a bit sluggish. Crimea and Syria are proof that the Russian Bear is now fully awake, hungry and somewhat angry. Syria is now the perfect place to put Russia's newly developed weapons systems (some of it the finest in the world) and newly developed war fighting doctrines to good use. Confined wars such as the one in Syria are the perfect place to test weapons, test concepts, fine-tune military hardware and garner combat experience. Western militaries have been doing this in the Middle East since 1991. It's Russia's turn now.

Western forces are outclassed by Russia's military

Many around the world today are shocked by Russia's unexpected military intervention in Syria. For that matter, they were also shocked when Moscow sent troops into Georgia back in 2008. They were also shocked when Russia annexed Crimea back in 2014. I guess people continue being surprised because of the depth to which Russia had sunk to in the 1990s, a time when Chechen separatists brought the post-Soviet Russian army to its knees. With Western military running amok around the world with impunity, no one expected the Russian military to recover so quickly and so thoroughly. No one expected Russia to directly oppose Western powers. But it did. The Russian military is back and in some respects it is better than ever.

Many observers around the world today are asking why has there not been a discernible response to Russia's actions by the "greatest military" in the world? Many are asking why does Washington seem so helpless against Moscow? Why is the US military ceding strategic territory to the Russian military? Why does Uncle Sam look so impotent as of late? As I pointed out in my previous commentary, the problem the US has today has nothing to do with the miserable House Negro in the White House. Simply put: The problem for Washington is that the US military has finally met its match and it can no longer act with impunity in the Middle East. Western military observers are coming to the sobering realization that the Russian military today is a formidable force, a force to be reckoned with. I want to bring the readers' attention once more to an interesting comment President Putin made back in 2012 -

"We have more aces up our sleeve that would push our Western colleagues and partners to a more constructive dialogue than we have seen before. What do I mean why this? Just a few years ago, as I know, they used to speak of us among their fellow allies as follows: "Russia could tinker with its military as much as it wants, we are not the least interested in what's happening there. All they have is rusted-out junk." But this is not true. Today, it's a different game"
Ever since Russia reportedly prevented a Western-led military aggression against Syria back in September, 2013, the military calculus in the Middle East seems to have changed quite drastically. The West has ceded its initiative in Syria and is pulling back militarily essentially because it does not want to get into a situation where Russian forces make them look like the paper tigers that they are. Western powers have actually been defeated on the battlefield and they are embarrassed as a result, that is why mainstream news media in the US did not report the recent incidents involving the US Predator drones -
Two armed US Predator drones crash in Iraq, Turkey:
Two US operated Predator drones, one patrolling on the Turkish border with Syria and the other over Iraq were brought down last week within a couple of days of each other. The Russian air force was known to be shadowing US operated drones throughout the conflict theater. Curiously, Western officials and Western media have been silent about the incidents. I have no doubt that Russians brought down the pilotless aircraft to force US officials to the "deconflicting" table. US military leaders have been made to recognize that they no longer have military leverage against Russia. Moscow has been developing cutting-edge weapons systems that are capable of rendering US weapons obsolete. What I'm essentially saying is that the US military today is outclassed by weapons systems being produced by Russia's military industrial complex. The following is a sampling that could be pulled from the internet -

Russian Plasma Weapon:

Russian systems of electromagnetic weapon:

Electromagnetic weapon of Russia:

What frightened the USS Donald Cook so much in the Black Sea?:

New U.S. Stealth Jet Can’t Hide From Russian Radar:

Pentagon Worries That Russia Can Now Outshoot U.S. Stealth Jets:

Meet The Russian "Avtobaza" - Iran's Possible Drone Killer:
Take the information provided above into close consideration when reading the following comments made by President Obama recently in response to Hillary Clinton's criticism for his inaction against Russian actions in Syria -
She was, obviously, my secretary of state. But I also think that there’s a difference between running for president and being president, and the decisions that are being made and the discussions that I’m having with the Joint Chiefs become much more specific and require, I think, a different kind of judgment. I think Hillary Clinton would be the first to say that when you’re sitting in the seat that I’m sitting in, in the Situation Room, things look a little bit different
What President Obama was essentially saying was this: Having assessed the situation at hand, high ranking military officials in Washington recognize that they have no military options available against what Russia is doing inside Syria. Therefore, the US will not respond in any tangible way, even if Russian airstrikes are indeed targeting US-backed rebel strongholds, shadowing US operated drones and threatening NATO member Turkey.

There are a number of military related articles posted below this commentary. Please read them to better understand the military aspect of what's going on in the region. Bluntly put, there are weapons systems today that can disable and render useless satellites, communications, computers, radars, missiles, ships and aircraft. Simply put: There are weapons that can disable anything that is operated electronically. Such weapons systems was how the super high tech US spy drone, the Sentinel, was hijacked over Iran back in 2011; how Russian forces stopped a missile attack against Syria back in 2013; how USS Donald Cook was essentially shutdown after it entered the Black Sea and encountered a single Russian aircraft; and why two US operated Predator drones crashed within days apart more recently. The more technologically advanced a military is, the more vulnerable it becomes to countermeasures.

It has traditionally been known that Russia excels in ballistic missile technology. Now, electronic warfare seems to be a new field that Russians are also excelling in. But it's not only electronic warfare and ballistic missiles that Russia is making a new name for itself. Innovative weapons like the 5th generation PAK-FA T-50, 4th generation SU-34, surface to air missile systems like the S-400 and robotized tanks like the T-14 Armata are state-of-the-art weapons platforms that either equal their Western counterparts or excel them.

The reason why Western powers were taken aback when a Russian warship stationed in the Caspian Sea struck about a dozen targets in Syria was because of size, the size of the ship and the weapon in question. A small cruise missile stationed on a relatively small warship was able to navigate at low altitude (to avoid radar detection) and accurately deliver a warhead around one thousand miles away. From a risk assessment's perspective, this is what it means: A large numbers of combat aircraft and small naval vessels can be equipped with these cruise missiles - armed with nuclear warheads - and can accurately hit targets over one thousand miles away and there is no good defense against them. Suddenly, NORAD's radars and the great oceans that once made Uncle Sam feel secure has all but dissipated. This was the real significance of the cruise missile strike in Syria, but don't expect to hear about it on CNN or read about it in the Wall Street Journal.

Nevertheless, this is a new a new era not only in the Middle East but also in warfare. The more technologically advanced a military is, the more vulnerable it is to electronic countermeasures. Western forces and the Zionist state today no longer enjoy military supremacy in the region and they can therefore no longer go on reckless military adventures anymore. This is a new era in warfare and Syria has become a theater where newly developed Russian weapons systems are being showcased and tested in live combat. Thus far, with astonishing results.

No military, including the US military, will risk the prospect of facing these new weapons in a high stakes war. In other words, the US is no longer facing a third world army or some paramilitary force that it has gotten so used to fighting in recent years. This is why we are seeing the US military stand down. With that said, I do not think the US presence in Syria or Iraq will disappear any time soon. They are too deep into the mess they have created. More importantly for them, there is simply too much at stake in the region - not the least of which is the protection of the Zionist state as well as the preservation of pro-Western Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf region. I therefore think there will be a negotiated settlement in the end. All parties currently involved in Syria now recognize this political inevitability. Impacting the war's political aftermath is the main reason why Moscow entered the fight. For now, however, they have to prop-up government forces by pushing back rebels from certain strategic areas. That is what the current airstrikes are accomplishing. Going forward, the struggle will be over who get what. Nevertheless, with Russia now firmly entrenched in Syria and with Iran gradually shedding its isolation, the Shi'ite zone of influence cutting horizontally right through the Middle East can potentially bring peace and political parity to the region.

Allow me to remind the reader once more that this is not the 1990s and a Western-backed drunk is not in power in the Kremlin. Russia's military has gone through a drastic makeover in recent years and is today modern fighting force. Man-for-man, I would dare say that Russia's military today is better than its Soviet predecessor. Man-for-man, I have no doubt that the Russian military is better than any military in existence today, including Western ones. Russian military might is the reason why we are seeing Western powers back down and give the Russian Bear freedom of movement. Pretty soon, the only threatening weapon the West will have left will be the US Dollar. I am glad President Putin is working on neutralizing that threat as well.

The Western military is a paper tiger

Sci-fi looking "special ops" troops... stealth bombers... fifth generation fighters... pilot-less drones spying from the skies... aircraft carrier groups roaming the oceans... hundreds of impressive military installations based around the world... bombing tribal villages... killing women and children... terrorizing third world populations... I'm really not all that impressed by the Western war machine. Omit the nuclear factor, Western militaries are paper tigers that only excel at sexual assaults, drug abuse and suicide and of course committing atrocities against third world populations.

If I had to described Western military in a few words, it would be the following: Drugged up, multiracial and sexually deviant hordes armed with exorbitantly priced fancy gadgets that don't always work.

When the celebration of gay marriages and mass shootings continue making news headlines around the Western world, you know western civilization is in steep decline. A civilization in decline will often have a military in decline as well and the Western world is not an exception to this rule. The Western spirit today is totally devoid of its foundational inspiration, Christian ideology and identity. The very concept of the traditional family (humankind's time proven institution) in the Western world has been deformed beyond recognition. Western societies have become utterly dumbed-down. Western men have become demasculinized. Western women have lost their femininity. Inundated by materialism, celebrity worship, ultraliberalism, interracialism, multiculturalism and sexual decadence Western societies have lost the true meaning of culture and morality as well as a general sense of direction.

Over-medicated, over-entertained, overweight, over-regulated, overtaxed and under-educated, Americans have become a very strange hybrid within the human race. Washington itself has been hijacked by money-men, mega-corporations and self-serving special interests.
Without God, family and country, Westerners have become instinct driven animals on a constant search for self-gratification.

The cultural decline the Western world is suffering from is also being felt in its armed forces. Historic high rates of suicides, substance abuse and sexual abuse is now the new norm, particularly in the US military. Moreover, the Pentagon has become a den of extreme corruption and criminality and the US military establishment remains for the most part dangerously overconfident of its abilities. More significantly, the US military establishment remains overdependent on comfort and technology - and the only combat experience they have had in recent decades has come against third world militaries and backward tribes.

Historically, Anglo-American militaries (particularly their land forces) have never been very effective in combat against equals. Napoleon's outnumbered, outgunned and utterly exhausted army in 1815 was defeated by German Prussians, not the British, as Anglo historians want you to believe. Anglo-American-French forces did not militarily defeat Germany during the First World War, Germany surrendered due to domestic and financial problems. Nazi Germany was defeated only when the Soviet Union turned the tide of the war in 1943 as a result of a series of German military blunders on the eastern front. Japan only surrendered when the US resorted to using atomic bombs. In both world wars, the US entered the European theater of war during its closing stages, when the war's end was clearly in sight. The Korean war was a stalemate. The Vietnam war was a defeat. Western powers didn't dare engage the Serbian army in ground warfare in 1999. Afghanistan and Iraq wars have been failures for the most part. Libya was less like a war and more like an armed robbery of a wealthy yet vulnerable nation. Finally, the Western war machine's impotence was highlighted in Syria most recently.

I am a student of military history and I cannot think of a war during which Western forces were able to comprehensibly defeat a truly powerful foe on the battlefield without third party assistance and/or without using weapons of mass destruction. Yet, due to Western successes (albeit limited) against African, Middle Eastern and Central Asian tribesmen in recent years - as well as ubiquitous movies, novels and television programming celebrating US military prowess - most people today simply assume that Western militaries are formidable on the modern battlefield. Western military strength is more a matter perception and hype than reality. But as long as they continue producing blockbuster films such as Top Gun, American Sniper, The Expendables, Zero Dark Thirty and Flags of our Fathers, the global sheeple will continue believing in the perceived invincibility of Western militaries. It can therefore rightfully be said that the Western world's greatest weapon is Hollywood (and of course the US Dollar). The reality is that Western militaries are not all that impressive under closer scrutiny. Therefore, take my advise and don't believe the hype.

For the Western soldier, war fighting has been very comfortable and I would even say fun, just like a video game! Imagine, just the cost for keeping American troops air-conditioned(!) in Iraq and Afghanistan was many times more than the entire national defense budgets of most nations on earth today.

With that said, a vast majority of the combat arsenal in Western inventories today are in fact Cold War era productions. The modern but ridiculously expensive stealth aircraft such as the B-2, F-22 and the F-35 are too impractical and in some cases too flawed. Such weapons systems only serve to deplete state coffers and provide a false sense of security. And the world famous aircraft carrier battle groups, the pride of the US navy for decades, are in reality only good at terrorizing third world populations into compliance because such naval vessels on the open seas would be worthless against a modern military armed with modern submarines and aircraft carrying anti-ship missiles. The US and Britain have traditionally been air and naval powers. Such powers are never truly successful militarily on land - where it matters the most. While the West surpasses (thus far) the capabilities of Russia on the open oceans and perhaps in the air, Russia will by the end of this decade have by-far the most capable land force on earth. Russia will therefore be the most formidable military on the Eurasian continent. But, even today, Russia could hold its own against Western air and naval forces by utilizing its highly sophisticated electronic countermeasures and anti-ship/aircraft guided missiles.

Take away their technology (and nuclear weapons) and Western troops, particularly Anglo-Americans, are a bunch of sissies. Ironically, the only sector of American society that has a natural knack for war fighting is the country's southern and mid-western white, gun toting, christian off-springs of European settlers - the same group of people Washingtonians today are trying very hard to mongrelize and castrate. Therefore, with the frontier spirit in America dying, Russians today have become the "world's scariest white people".

At the end of the day, when it comes to raw fighting abilities, I'd pick patriotic Slavic Russians and their very lethal, efficient, practical and innovative weapons systems over anything else on earth today.

I have been very impressed with the professionalism of the Russian military and the warrior spirit of Russian society. Fortunately, Russians have proven immune to the toxic/decaying effects of westernization and globalism. Consequently, the warrior gene historically prevalent within Russian society remains alive and well today. We have been seeing this Russian trait on vivid display in Georgia, Novorossiya and in Syria. Russian military interventions in recent years have shown us that what Russian troops do in real life, Western troops are only capable of doing in Hollywood movies.

Let's recall that seven years ago, with barely over ten thousand troops armed with terribly obsolete military hardware, Russia was able to comprehensively crush Georgia's Western/Israeli/Turkish armed and trained military in a matter of two or three days. Moscow has since spent hundreds-of-billions of dollars modernizing its armed forces. We vividly saw the results of this effort in the brilliant way in which Crimea was secured by Russian troops in the spring of 2014.

Today, Russia has the technology to detect and take down stealth aircraft and the anti-ship missiles to sink even the best warships in existence. This isn't 1853, hitting Western warships on the open seas today would be like shooting fish in a barrel for the Russian navy, air force and land-based anti-ship missile. A few US warships at the bottom of the sea in the first few days of a war with a power like Russia will make Washington's imperial forces either withdraw or contemplate a response with nuclear weaponry. Since they are not ready to do either, they will not risk any form of direct confrontation with a power like Russia. In short: If a war breaks out, Russia's armed forces today are capable of establishing and maintaining air, sea and land superiority throughout Eurasia.

As decadent and evil as Western powers are, Western officials are not insane enough to risk a world war, especially one that has the potential to go nuclear. Western forces will therefore not risk direct confrontation with Russia. As evil as they may be, Western officials are not crazy enough, they do not have the military capabilities necessary and they do not have the political will - or courage, or the financial resources, or the public support - to directly engage Russia in any form of military combat. This realization is essentially why John Kohen Kerry wanted the world to know that the US "will use 21st century tools to hold Russia accountable for 19th century behavior". In other words, realizing that it is powerless against Russia militarily, Washington will stick to its worthless sanctions... something that will in fact prove counterproductive for the Western world in the long-term, as it will force Russia and its allies to move away from the US Dollar, thereby weakening the currency's global dominance.

In closing, I would again like to once again point out that the Russian Bear's presence in the Middle East is preventing a new genocide. Exactly one hundred years ago the Russian Empire was similarly protecting Ottoman Armenians from assured annihilation. The protection worked quite well. As late as 1917, Russian troops were holding a battlefront against Turks as far west as Trabizon, Bitlis and Mush. The Western-financed Bolshevik revolution in Russia however forced Russian troops out of the region and the tragic result was the first genocide of the twentieth century. And as if that was not enough, what was left of historic Armenia in Turkey and Cilicia was simply abandoned by Britain, France and the US. If Bashar Assad's enemies got their way in Syria, we would have witnessed the first genocide of the twenty-first century. There is no doubt about that.

What Moscow has done in Syria is a historic milestone in global affairs and its repercussions will be felt for decades to come. While the Great Game in the region is no way near an end, as if overnight, the Middle East has been transformed and a new geopolitical landscape is being formed as we watch. We are watching history in the making and once again Russia is at the forefront. Therefore, let's all pray for the health and well being of the Russian nation because Russia today is a rising global power and a bringer of sanity, ethics, structure and balance to global affairs. Russia today is the last front against Western globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. Russia today is the last hope for the preservation of the traditional nation-state, conservative family values, apostolic Christianity and classical western civilization and adherence to international law. I cannot even begin to imagine a world today without the existence of the Russian nation.

The great leader of the Russian nation Vladimir Putin (who has been enjoying an astounding approval rating of nearly 90%) has been quite literally God sent. That is not merely my opinion. To the chagrin of Western leaders, more-and-more voices in the Middle East can be heard saying "thank God for Russia". The role Russia is playing on earth today is that of a savior. Russia's job is therefore sacred. President Putin is the man and Russia is the nation humanity needs to rally around if we hope to defeat the evil emanating from the Anglo-American-Jewish world order. President Putin echoed the sentiments of many millions of people around the world when he spoke the following words at the UN last month: "we can no longer tolerate the current state of affairs in the world". President Putin was announcing to the world that the old political order was no longer valid and that a new multipolar global order was in the process of forming - with Russia in the lead.

Now, without any further ado, I would like to present to you comrade Zoravar's assessment of Russia's military intervention in Syria. Please note that immediately below, I have also provided the reader links to Zoravar's previous works. He will be on hand periodically to answer questions pertaining to relevant military matters.

November, 2015

The East-West Balance and the Strategic Importance of Crimea (April, 2014):
Russia Military Update (December, 2010):


The Rise of Russia on the Warm Seas: A brief look at Russia's military in Syria

The Command
After receiving the readiness reports from all the field units and the authorization from President V.V. Putin, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had a final look at the huge screens in the impressive main hall of the country’s National Defense Center located on the shores of the Moskva river and gave the much anticipated command to proceed with the first ever strike that Russia (or even the Soviet Union) had delivered in a distant country since the end of the Second World War. All previous Russian (or Soviet) military involvements went no further than adjacent countries. From that moment, a new chapter in history just started…
The National Defense Center in Moscow

The Preparations

A few short weeks prior to the first anti-terror air strikes, the flow of Russian Navy transport/landing ships carrying weapons and supplies to the beleaguered Syrian Arab Army intensified: At one point, there were 3 ships crossing the Bosporus straits simultaneously (2 going to Syria and one returning). Apart from the upped tempo, nothing was unusual about this “Syria Express” which was going on since the very beginning of the “Arab Spring” crisis. But there was a major difference this time around, the majority of the “goods” were intended for the Russian units that were intended to be stationed there.
Ropucha Class Landing Ships Passing through the Bosphorus

At the same time, Russian Air Force An-124 and Il-76 cargo planes were delivering more goods and personnel to the Hmeyme airport in the coastal city of Latakia which was to become the focal point of the Russian intervention in Syria. Then – to the amazement of the whole world – wave after wave, came the Sukhoi warplanes: The well-known Su-24 and Su-25 from the Soviet era, newer Su-30 fighters and even the much vaunted Su-34 tactical strike aircraft. The planes flew in groups of 3 or 4 in formation with a larger cargo plane. With their transponders turned off, these tight groups would appear as a single plane to any radar that might be scanning the area from a distance: old-fashioned but still effective way to fool those who were watching their radar screens.

The Objectives

These kind of military operations are always designed and planned with a number of military and geopolitical objectives in mind. In the simplest terms, I can summarize the Kremlin’s objectives as follows:

-Minimal objectives: Inflict heavy blows to the various terrorist organizations in Syria, stop their advances on the ground, assist the Syrian Army to regain control of some regions of the country, stabilize the front and boost the legitimate government of President Bashar Al-Assad and place him in a strong position for possible future peace negotiations.

-Maximal objectives: Destroy the various terrorist organizations in Syria, move to Iraq and do the same there. Evict all Western, Turkish and Saudi influence from the two countries and establish a Russian zone of influence in the area.

-Strategic objective: Have permanent military bases on the shores of the Mediterranean and be a dominant player in all aspects of Middle-East politics. It is this wider regional and far more important objective that is priority for the Kremlin. Syria (and Iraq) may or may not be partitioned at the end, but the Russian Bear intends to have its paws dipped in the warm seas permanently.

The Air Component

The Su-24s and 25s are the “bomb-trucks” that would carry out the bulk of the missions. It must be noted that a good proportion of the missions are happening at night. While the Su-24 can do such low visibility missions since its inception, only the modernized Su-25 SM version is night capable, and that is the version that was brought to Latakia. The Su-34s are reserved for the more difficult missions where pin-point accuracy is required, this type of airplane is cleared to carry a variety of precision guided weapons (more about that later). Despite its capabilities to deliver highly accurate strikes, the Su-30 fighter-bomber’s main mission is to provide cover to the attacking planes in case some “unfriendly” warplanes would try to get in the way. The Russian air component in Syria also includes Mi-24 helicopter gunships and Mi-8 transport helicopters. Of course, these valuable assets would be needed in case Russian ground troops are committed into battle. The Mi-24s are operating as sentries to prevent any terrorist infiltration or encroachment to the base in Latakia. There are reports that they have also being used in Close Air Support (CAS) missions as well. The Mi-8s could be used to extract any Russian pilots that may have to eject over enemy held territory.

The Precision Strikes

With daily press briefs provided by Russian high ranking officers coupled with videos of pin-point hits on targets, this conflict is the first where Russians are using an elaborate PR complain in parallel with their military one. In stark contrast with previous wars (Georgia, Chechnya etc.), even the living quarters of the personnel are being shown to press agencies. This is also the first conflict were Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) are being used lavishly and with all the publicity against prime targets such as command posts, ammunition depots, training camps, bridges etc. Laser, IR or TV guided are not new to the Russian (and Soviet) Air Force. The drawback of these very expensive weapons is that they tend to be not very cost-effective against guerrilla or terrorist targets. A million Dollar missile against a pickup truck with a machine gun is not a sensible way of conducting a war.

Sukhoi fighter-bombers carrying Kh-25 and Kh-29 guided air-ground missiles have been filmed in Syria but, for the most part, we are seeing unguided (dumb) free fall bombs on the pylons of the aircraft. Since the Latakia based warplanes have new (Su-34) or modernized (SU-24 and 25) sighting systems, these inexpensive bombs will do the job without breaking the bank. 

One type of guided weapon that caught the attention of military analysts and enthusiasts is the guided KAB-500S that is being used by the Su-34 and the Su-24. This is a 500 kg bomb that does not use a fancy and expensive corrective system (Laser, TV or IR). Instead it uses a less expensive satellite guidance system. A few years ago, Russia finished building its GLONASS navigation system (similar to the American GPS) which is now being used to guide the KAB-500S. In general, satellite guidance is not as accurate as the other more expensive systems that correct the trajectory of the bomb or missile until the last moment when it hits the target, but the Russians are claiming an error margin not exceeding 3 meters. Considering that a 500 kg bomb will kill anyone within 30 meters of its impact point, that accuracy is more than acceptable.
Su-34 being armed with KAB-500S Bombs

Allow me to digress a bit here and talk about Russian PGMs. The current range of PGMs in Russia’s arsenal is complete and comprehensive. But there is more on the way: some of them have been revealed this August during the MAKS 2015 aviation exhibition held in Moscow. Let’s have a look at the KAB-250 series (a smaller brother of the KAB-500S): this new guided bomb is undergoing trials at the moment and will enter service soon. It can be fitted (externally or internally) to any current or future Russian warplane.
KAB-250 Guided Bomb

Among the most impressive weapons displayed at MAKS was a Trio of new high-precision air to ground missiles with completely folding wings that have been configured to fit in the internal weapons bay of the upcoming Sukhoi PAK-FA (T-50) 5th generation stealth fighter as well as under the wings of current Sukhoi and MiG aircraft. The maximum ranges of these missiles are quoted to be 300 km. The Kh-58USHKE anti-radar missile has dual seekers that enable it to still engage enemy radars even when they have switched off and stopped emitting.
Kh-58USHKE Anti-Radar Missile in the Foreground

The Kh-59MK2 is a stealthy cruise that is guided by both satellite (GLONASS) and an electro-optical terminal guidance that enables it to hit the intended targets with pin-point accuracy.
Kh-59MK2 Stealthy Cruise Missile

In contrast with the Kh-59MK2, the GROM E-1 guided cruise missile relies on supersonic speed to pass through the opponent’s air defenses and guide itself towards the target. A GROM E-2 version is also reported, it is a guided bomb version of the cruise missile.
GROM E-2 Supersonic Cruise Missile

The Unseen Warfare

Placing a bunch of sleek jets in Latakia is only the visible part of the story. Unfriendly eyes are keeping an eye on the base and looking for opportunities. The personnel, the aircraft and their logistics are vulnerable to a daring and motivated opponent and/or to their supporting countries. The base can be attacked at any moment by conventional or non-conventional means. For example: some terrorist groups are known to operate a few unmanned drones (UAVs) that can be loaded with a few kilograms of explosives and sent to crash on the base. To prevent any potential hostile act against their base, the Russians have deployed quick-reacting PANTSIR air defense gun/missile vehicles around the base. Russian Special forces have also been seen around the periphery of the airport. In addition, the base is supporte
d by a number of electronic surveillance, suppression and jamming assets. These electronic warfare means are used to “cloak” the actions from the base as well as electronically interfere with anything that might have hostile intentions. Two very powerful systems have been seen and identified: these are the Il-20 airplane loaded with electronics and the ground based Krasukha-4 electronic warfare system.

Il-20 ELINT Plane Above Syria
Krasukha-4 Electronic Warfare System in Latakia

I will take this opportunity to mention that next year, Russian Air Defense units will indict into service two new fully mobile Surface to Air systems:

-The S-350 (120 km range) will replace the older and bulkier S-300 that has become very famous despite the fact that it was never used in combat. The newer missile is a quarter the size of the old, yet it offers improved combat characteristics and about the same range.

- The BUK-M3 (70 km range) that will replace the older Soviet era BUKs that have half the range.

Over the last few years, the Russians have completed the construction of 3 brand new factories that will produce the above new SAMs as well as the much expected S-500 long range system that can shoot down any current and future air threat including Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM), hypersonic missiles, cruise missiles, manned & unmanned aircraft and even satellites in earth’s orbit. The S-500 is expected to be fielded in 2017. There are even reports of an even larger system in development: it is believed to be a super-heavy anti-missile system designed to beat any form of air and cosmic attacks: A glimpse of it can be seen on the Almaz-Antey (the designer bureau) calendar.
Unknown New ABM System on the Manufacturer’s Calendar

Let’s go back to the topic: The Russians also brought with them a number of UAVs for reconnaissance purposes. Allow me to digress here one more time and give a brief summary on Russian UAV systems: After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Russians neglected the unmanned drones and lagged behind the USA, Europe, Israel and even Iran in that field. The 2008 Georgia war caused the Russian planners to embark on a crash program to develop new UAVs. At the moment, the Russians have caught up with the rest of the world in the smaller UAV segment: the type that is used on the battlefront for reconnaissance and artillery spotting. These drones usually weigh no more than a few dozen kilograms and have mission radiuses not exceeding 100 kilometers. The very accurate and effective artillery use by the Novorossiya forces in Ukraine highlighted the successful capabilities of these small Russian-made UAVs. The Russians still lag behind in medium sized (such as the US Predator) and large UAVs (like the Global Hawk). They also don’t operate armed drones (UCAVs) yet. They do possess a few domestic models of medium sized UAVs but the best one in their inventory is a licensed copy of an Israeli model. Work is being done (mostly secretly) to develop a whole range of medium and large UAVs and UCAVs. Information and photos are very sketchy, one of them is the large UAV called ALTIUS.
Altius Drone Next to a Tu-22M3 Backfire Bomber

Video: Russia reveals secret UAV Altius:

The Other Wonder-Weapons

The air campaign alone is not going to free Syria from terrorists and reclaim the lost areas. The Russian Air Force does not have a bomb for every single fanatic. It is the Syrian Army that needs to advance and fight for every inch of the terrain with the support of ground based artillery. Without much fanfare, the Russians have brought to Syria the most potent artillery systems one can dream of: The Russian SMERCH and TOS-1 BURATINO MLRS systems. There has never been a shortage of photo and video footage of the Syrian conflict. Even photos taken by cell phones reveal a huge wealth of information about the weapons used. Here is the first photo of the long range SMERCH launchers in Syria. Note that a SMERCH rocket has a 300 mm diameter and weighs 800 kg (including a 300 kg warhead).

SMERCH Multiple Rocket Launcher in Syria

The rockets can have different types of warheads including cluster ammunition: the rocket dispenses a large number of sub-munitions over the target… just watch the effects in the following terrorist side filmed video showing the effects of sub-munitions probably coming from a SMERCH:

"Moderate terrorists" watching their rival terroristic group getting hammered by Syrian Army:

I would like to mention here that the Russians are soon going to bring in the replacements for their much-vaunted SMERCH and URAGAN Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS). The available information is sketchy, but it looks like a common vehicle will be used for both missiles that will be in palletized systems to ease reloading. Here is a picture of a recent mock-up showing SMERCH missiles on one side and URAGAN on the other: The system is called TORNADO.

TORNADO MLRS with 2 Types of Rockets in Pallets

The TOS-1 BURATINO is another beast. It does not have the size or range of the SMERCH, but its 220mm rocket carries a thermobaric warhead that incinerates everything in the area. It is a devastating weapon that is designed to destroy the opponent’s fortifications. It has been sighted in Syria only recently.


More photos of the TOS-1 in Syria:

There is already a video of the TOS-1 being used in Syria during the recent Syrian Army offensive in the Hama province: ضربات قاسمة لمواقع المسلحين في ريف اللاذقية:

The Caspian Caliber

In a previous article, I have mentioned the awesome potential of the newly built Buyan-Mcorvettes that are currently entering service with the Russian Navy. These relatively modest sized ships (75m long and displacing 975 tons)) pack a heavy punch. Apart from a 100mm automatic gun and anti-aircraft defense systems, they each carry 8 silos for anti-ship or ground attack cruise missiles. The export version of these missiles is called KLUB and has a range limited to 300 km. The domestic version used on these ships is called KALIBR and is quoted by Russian officials to have a range in excess of 1500 km, but most sources agree that it has a reach of 2500 km.

Buyan-M Corvette Launching a KALIBR Cruise Missile

The Navy has ordered 9 of these ships. Currently, 3 of them are based in the Caspian Sea, 2 are in the Black Sea and the other 4 are at various stages of construction (they will enter service within the next two years). Together with the frigate Dagestan (first Russian vessel that was equipped with the KALIBR,) it was the 3 Caspian Sea based Buyan-M corvettes that fired 26 missiles against specific terrorist targets in Syria. The missiles flew over the Caspian Sea, Iran and Iraq in order to reach their intended targets. Video of the naval strike:

Массированный удар высокоточным оружием по объектам ИГИЛ в Сирии из акватории Каспийского моря:
KALIBR Cruise Missile

Basing myself on a more conservative 2000 km range for the KALIBR, I prepared the map below to illustrate the reach (when launched from South-Western Caspian sea)of this modern cruise missile that strikes its intended target with high precision thanks to a mix of Inertial, Satellite (GLONASS) and Terrain Following guidance.

I must add that the INF treaty prohibits the basing of non-intercontinental surface-surface missiles (ballistic or cruise) with maximum ranges greater than 500 km on land. That is why the range of the ISKANDER missile is limited to 500 km. Sea based missiles are not subject to the above restriction.

The High Seas

By the time of the Georgian conflict in 2008, the Sevastopol based Black Sea Fleet was getting hopelessly outdated. Apart from a reasonable number of amphibious landing vessels, the fleet had only 4 serviceable capital (ocean going) ships left and a number of smaller one. In addition, there was only one submarine available. Only the legendary cruiser Moskva was considered to be relatively modern (it entered service in the eighties). As part of the Russian Armed Forces modernization program, the Navy ordered 6 Admiral Grigorovich class Frigates and 6 Kilo class submarines. Other smaller ships (like the Buyan-M class corvettes were also ordered). The above frigates and submarines all carry KALIBR missiles as part of their armament.
Submarine Novorossiysk

Video of Novorossiysk reaching Novorossiysk: Новейшая субмарина "Новороссийск" заступает на дежурство в Черном море:

A whole new naval base was built in Novorossiysk effectively giving the fleet a second major naval base on the shores of the Black Sea (in addition to Sevastopol). The first of the St. Petersburg built Kilo class submarines was itself called Novorossiysk and has recently reached the port that carries its name. The second one (Rostov-on-Don) has test fired a KALIBR cruise missile in the Barents Sea on the 11th of October and will join the Black Sea Fleet later on this year. Two more will be delivered in 2016, while the last pair will get there in 2017.

Frigate Admiral Grigorovich

The situation with the new frigates is more complicated. The first unit (the Admiral Grigorovich) has just completed its sea trials and is about to sail to the Black Sea. The next two are on schedule to get there next year. The construction of the remaining 3 ships is in limbo in the Kaliningrad shipyard because the Ukrainians have stopped delivering the propulsion components that are made in Nikolayev (Ukraine). The Russians are now sourcing these imported parts locally, but the delivery of the ships will be delayed by about 2 years. Video of Admiral Grigorovich during weapons tests:

Russia: Latest addition to the Baltic Fleet stages missile test:

The Navy desperately needs these frigates as they are destined to be the main component of the Mediterranean flotilla that is so active these days patrolling the Syrian coast and escorting the transport vessels that run the “Syrian Express” lifeline from Novorossiysk to Latakia and Tartous.

The above map superimposes with the previous one the reach of KALIBR missiles launched from the Syrian coast by the new ships.

The Assets in Reserve

The Kremlin is striking the terrorists very hard with a variety of old and new weapon systems. They certainly have a number of more aces in their hand to hammer the terrorist. I will mention 3 of them:

- ISKANDER missiles: These can be shipped (by air or sea) at short notice to Syria. The 500 km range of the ISKANDER missiles is able to cover all of Syria when launched from government controlled territory. This weapon system can replace many of the precision aircraft strikes without putting pilot’s lives in harm’s way.

- Air launched cruise missiles: Tupolev Tu-95 (Bear) and Tu-160 (Blackjack) can carry 6 (12 for the Blackjack) air launched cruise missiles that are known to have a range of 3000 km. With that kind of range, the bombers will not even have to leave the Russian airspace to deliver the same kind of strikes as their ship-based KALIBR cousins.

- Carpet Bombing: The ideal type of platform to inflict this type of wrath on the terrorists would be the Tu-22M3 (Backfire) bomber which can drop 20 tons of free fall bombs in one go... That is a lot of “barrel bombs”.

The Risks and Dangers

The biggest threat to this anti-terrorist campaign is the risk of having an aircraft being shot down. For the most part, the air missions are being carried out at altitudes beyond the reach of the multitude of anti-aircraft guns and Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) that the terrorists possess. I have seen on video only one raid in which a Su-25 carried out a strike at lower level with unguided rockets (the traditional way) and a few Close Air Support (CAS) missions flown by Mi-24 gunship helicopters. To minimize the potential risks that these kinds of low level missions carry, the Russian pilots were extensively using defense suppression flares and clever tactics. For example: the Mi-24s did not fly alone, there were 4 of them (in two pairs) covering each other thus deterring terrorist to shoot at the gunships. Also, they appeared suddenly and at very low level (just a few meters above the ground) complicating the job of any defender. The low level penetration method was also utilized because most MANPADS have difficulty acquiring targets at these low levels – something the Soviets had learned in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the danger of being hit by a lucky shot does not vanish entirely… I hope and pray that no Russian airplane is hit or encounters technical difficulties over enemy territory.

The Turkey Sandwich

Soon after the air campaign begun, one Ukrainian TV channel reporter mentioned that the main aim of the Russians is not to beat the terrorists, instead it is to sandwich Turkey between two major Russian fortresses: Crimea and Syria. I have stopped taking Ukrainian reports seriously a long time ago: all they are interested in is to spit their anti-Russia propaganda. But this time, I believe that the above report contained a certain element of inadvertently expressed truth. We all know that the Russian Bear and the Turkish Wolf have been at odds for centuries. That animosity has culminated into bitter wars a dozen times at least and each time it was the Wolf who retreated to lick its wounds. It is more than natural to see Russia placing itself into an advantageous position just in case hostilities break again with an increasingly adventurous and militaristic Turkey.

The above map depicts the “sandwiching” of Turkey between two major Russian military bases. The coverage of KALIBR cruise missiles is evident. Note that the red circles can also represent the mission radius (around 2000 km) of a Su-34 fighter-bomber with a light bomb load

The Armenian Krepost

But wait… Let’s not forget the Russian forces that are based in our country: at Gyumri and at Erebuni. The Russians have a squadron of MiG-29 jets and Armenia is about to get ISKANDER missiles (we currently have the SCUDs). So the Russians are not only sandwiching Turkey from the north and the south… they are also flanking them from an Eastern axis. Not a comfortable situation for Mr. Erdogan who also faces an internal Kurdish problem.

The above map illustrates the coverage of the Armenia based MiG-29 fighters and the ISKANDER missiles. Now, I will ask the esteemed reader to combine this map with the previous one…

November, 2015


Brookings Institute: Russia’s military is proving Western punditry wrong

Ever since the first indications that there were Russians encamped at the airfield in Latakia, theories have proliferated around Russia’s strategy in Syria, its intentions, and questions on just how far they (and others) will go. There are lots of things that these theories get wrong. Many analysts have called Russia militarily weak, with some pointing specifically to its shortcomings in air and naval forces in Syria. But based on Russia’s battlefield performance so far, this assessment seems off: To the contrary, Russia has shown that it has the capability and capacity (not to mention willingness) to employ its conventional forces to achieve limited political objectives.

In the air

The Russians are flying a significant number of sorties with recognizable successes. Current estimates range from 48 to 96 daily. This is a lot—as a recent New York Times article put into perspective:

"Russia’s fighter jets are, for now at least, conducting nearly as many strikes in a typical day against rebel troops opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the American-led coalition targeting the Islamic State has been carrying out each month this year (emphasis added).”
In the process, they have hit a significant number of targets among the anti-Assad rebels. There are reports, for instance, that Russian airstrikes killed First Coastal Division Chief of Staff and former Syrian Army Captain Basil Zamo, a notable rebel leader, on October 19. The commander of the Nour al-din al-Zinki Brigades was also killed in separate fighting. Can Russia sustain this level of air campaign? Maybe. Almost none of our NATO allies could match what Russia has done so far in the skies. This was an unfortunate lesson of both NATO air campaigns in Kosovo and Libya.

At sea

Russia’s navy has been called “more rust than ready.” But Russia is, impressively, both retrofitting older vessels and procuring newer ones. And the navy has unveiled a significant capability: Its Caspian Sea corvettes and frigates can fire cruise missiles at targets over 900 miles away. This is a previously unknown capability.

To put things in perspective, the two variants of the US Littoral Combat Ship, Freedom and Independence, are substantially larger at roughly 2,900 tons and 3,100 tons respectively — but they do not possess any cruise missile or similar power projection capability. This was, therefore, a major revelation. It sent the West a strong message, even prompting one commentator to suggest that the Russian Caspian Sea fleet is a game-changer. With small, inexpensive, technologically simple, and easily-produced ships, the Russian navy is displaying a unique capability and is highlighting the results of its naval modernization efforts, much of which are unknown.
Observers have also cast doubt on the notion that the Russian navy, and specifically the Black Sea Fleet, can sustain prolonged operations. But over the last three years, there has been a steady wagon train of ships delivering supplies to Assad’s forces via Latakia and Tartus, and it shows no signs of waning. With a greater commitment on the part of Russian ground and air forces, the West should expect Russia to augment its naval logistical capacities to meet the changing demand from the pro-Assad coalition partners, and by all accounts they are doing just that. In fact, the Black Sea Fleet has proven invaluable for Russia and its Syrian partners. The Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, the guided missile cruiser Moskva, and an accompanying number of surface combatants, have deployed off of Syria to provide air and missile defense from the Mediterranean.

The criticism is that these are older vessels with aging technologies. Compared to many NATO vessels this is true, but they are more than adequate for the job they have been deployed for. Moreover, their employment portends both a Russian capability and an intent aligned to achieving Russian limited foreign policy objectives. Thus they represent a significant threat which cannot be dismissed by NATO naval planners. By all accounts, the Russians have been building up their navy over the last few years, which seems to align with their stated and demonstrated foreign policy objectives. Time will surely tell, but until we have evidence that a collapse of the Russian navy is actually imminent, we should be careful about throwing around rash predictions that don’t reflect reality.

Don't doubt Russia's capabilities

Many assessments of what the Russian military can and cannot do have been inaccurate. This isn’t just problematic for the facts’ sake — more troubling, it risks skewing our assessment of how far Moscow will go in its Syrian intervention. When Western analysts — and in turn, Western leaders — seek to discredit Russian military capabilities, Moscow will likely continue to take the opportunity to prove them wrong.

Commander Garrett I. Campbell of the United States Navy is the Federal Executive Fellow at the Brookings Institution

Colonel Wilkerson: US Empire Is Approaching Its Demise
Colin Powell's former chief-of-staff says signs are the Washington colossus is in its death throes

The former chief of staff of US Foreign Minister Colin Powell, recognizes signs in the US military structure, indicating that the US is loosing significance as a world power. The increased use of mercenaries instead of regular soldiers is indicative of the decay of an empire. The US even financed terrorists as mercenaries in Syria.

The former chief of staff of Colin Powell, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, views the future of the US as a military power with pronounced pessimism. During a speech to students of the Lone Star College in Kingswood, Texas, he said: “Empires, shortly before their demise, focus on military power as the Alpha and Omega of power. In this phase of their decline, they rely on mercenaries instead on soldiers, which are drafted from the citizenry. Upon the attack by 'barbarians', who kill 3000 citizens mainly due to the Empire's negligence, they set out to kill 300000 people and spend three billion dollars doing it. They aggravate the threats wih their own actions. We know that from somewhere, right? That is what empires do – especially on the eve of their collapse.

The author has a certain credibility: his boss, Colin Powell, provided to the world the decisive, but incorrect justification for the US war against Iraq. Powell apologized later for having stated, that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Wilkerson himself said to Democracy Now, that the lie came to be because all involved were so taken by their own propaganda, that they never questioned the intelligence reports. (interesting video at the beginning of the article)

Wilkersons elaborations remind of the very readable book by Cullen Murphy, “Are we Rome?”, which was several years ago, being handed around as must read literature among Obama's currently serving top diplomats of various prestige universities.

Murphy, like Wilkerson, recognized a principal non-interest of a world power at the rest of the world as a sign of decay. Hence, the drawing of attention to mercenaries is interesting: for example, US mercenaries of the private army Academy – former Blackwater – are on duty in the Ukraine and Iraq at present. How poorly these mercenaries are performing, can be observed in Syria: there as well, the CIA have allied themselves with terrorist groups, as the US military command refused a deployment of US soldiers in Syria.

In the meantime, even the classical US media is criticizing this development openly. CBS News, for example, reported: “In the year 2020, the Pentagon, according to current plans, is going to sing the 'Ave Maria' for a dying Empire. They will employ sophisticated lethal air and space robotics, which, despite the declining economic influence, will be viewed as the last hope for sustaining the Empire. However, but that time, China's global network of communication satellites, power by the world's most potent super computers, will be commissioned and fully operational. This development provides Beijing with a independent platform for the militarization of space and a powerful communication system for either airborne or cyber strikes on all quadrants of the world.”

The US operate over 500 satellites in space. China and Russia apparently are working on a anti-satellite weapons system. Washington fear Beijing's warlike intentions and is preparing for a possible “Starwars” scenario. The US commander for Space Command of the Air Force (AFSPC), John Hyten, announced this already in May.


Wall Street Journal: America’s Fading Footprint in the Middle East
As Russia bombs and Iran plots, the U.S. role is shrinking—and the region’s major players are looking for new ways to advance their own interests

Despised by some, admired by others, the U.S. has been the Middle East’s principal power for decades, providing its allies with guidance and protection. Now, however, with Russia and Iran thrusting themselves boldly into the region’s affairs, that special role seems to be melting away. As seasoned politicians and diplomats survey the mayhem, they struggle to recall a moment when America counted for so little in the Middle East—and when it was held in such contempt, by friend and foe alike. “It’s the lowest ebb since World War II for U.S. influence and engagement in the region,” said Ryan Crocker, a career diplomat who served as the Obama administration’s ambassador to Afghanistan and before that as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan. From shepherding Israel toward peace with its Arab neighbors to rolling back Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and halting the contagion of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, the U.S. has long been at the core of the Middle East’s security system. Its military might secured critical trade routes and the bulk of the world’s oil supply. Today, the void created by U.S. withdrawal is being filled by the very powers that American policy has long sought to contain.

“If you look at the heart of the Middle East, where the U.S. once was, we are now gone—and in our place, we have Iran, Iran’s Shiite proxies, Islamic State and the Russians,” added Mr. Crocker, now dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. “What had been a time and place of U.S. ascendancy we have ceded to our adversaries.”

Of course, the U.S. retains a formidable presence across the greater Middle East, with some 45,000 troops in the region and deep ties with friendly intelligence services and partners in power from Pakistan to Morocco. Even after U.S. pullbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s military might in the region dwarfs Russia’s recent deployment to Syria of a few dozen warplanes and a few thousand troops. And as the Obama administration has argued, it isn’t these disengagements but the regional overstretch under President George W. Bush that undermined America’s international standing. Still, ever since the Arab Spring upended the Middle East’s established order in 2011, America’s ability to influence the region has been sapped by a growing conviction that a risk-averse Washington, focused on a foreign-policy pivot to Asia, just doesn’t want to exercise its traditional Middle Eastern leadership role anymore.

“It’s not American military muscle that’s the main thing—there is a hell of a lot of American military muscle in the Middle East. It’s people’s belief—by our friends and by our opponents—that we will use that muscle to protect our friends, no ifs, ands or buts,” said James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Turkey. “Nobody is willing to take any risks if the U.S. is not taking any risks and if people are afraid that we’ll turn around and walk away tomorrow.”

This perception seems to be gaining traction in the region, where traditional allies—notably Israel and the Gulf monarchies—feel abandoned after the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. Many regional leaders and commentators compare Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unflinching support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless regime with Washington’s willingness to let go of its own allies, notably Egypt’s longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The phrase “red line” now often elicits knowing smirks, a result of the president’s U-turn away from striking Syria after the Assad regime’s horrifying sarin-gas attack in 2013. By focusing Moscow’s latest bombing raids on moderate Syrian rebels trained by the Central Intelligence Agency, with nary an American effort to protect them, Mr. Putin has showcased the hazards of picking the U.S. side in this part of the world.

“Being associated with America today carries great costs and great risks,” said Emile Hokayem, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Bahrain. “Whoever you are in the region, you have a deep grudge against the United States. If you are in liberal circles, you see Obama placating autocratic leaders even more. And if you are an autocratic leader, you go back to the issue of Mubarak and how unreliable the U.S. is as an ally. There is not one constituency you will find in the region that is supportive of the U.S. at this point—it is quite stunning, really.”

The Obama administration’s pivot away from the Middle East is rooted, of course, in deep fatigue with the massive military and financial commitments made by the U.S. since 9/11, above all after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: Since 2001, at least $1.6 trillion has been spent, according to the Congressional Research Service, and 6,900 U.S. troops have been killed in the region.

“We couldn’t have gone in more flat-out than we did in Iraq, and not only didn’t it work, it made things even worse. That’s something to keep in mind when talking about Syria,” said Jeremy Shapiro, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and a former State Department official. By scaling down its Middle East commitments, he added, the Obama administration has rightly recognized the limitations of U.S. power in a perennially turbulent region: “The difference is not whether you have peace, it’s whether Americans are involved in the lack of peace.” Such reluctance to get involved also reflects the overall mood of the American public, argued Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank close to the administration. “It’s not really about ‘exhaustion’ from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I see it a bit more as pragmatism—many Americans look back on the past 15 years of U.S. engagement in the Middle East, and they see a meager return on investment when it comes to stability. So there’s a natural skepticism,” he said.

For now, the American public isn’t paying much of a price for the erosion of the country’s standing in the Middle East. The U.S. hasn’t suffered a major terrorist attack on its homeland since 2001. Oil prices remain low. The millions of refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq are flooding into neighboring countries and, increasingly, Europe, not into distant America. And while the region is aflame, with five wars now raging between Libya and Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers no longer die daily on its remote battlefields. But U.S. disengagement still has long-term costs—even if one ignores the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, where more than 250,000 people have died and more than half the population has fled their homes. With the shale revolution, the U.S. may no longer be as dependent on Middle Eastern oil, but its allies and main trading partners still are. Islamic State’s haven in Iraq and Syria may let it plot major terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S. And the American pullback is affecting other countries’ calculations about how to deal with China and Russia.

The White House disputes the notion that the U.S. is losing ground in the Middle East. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama said that Russia’s attacks on anti-Assad forces were made “not out of strength but out of weakness” and warned that Moscow would get “stuck in a quagmire.”

“We’re not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia,” Mr. Obama added. “This is not some superpower chessboard contest.”

But for the past several decades, the Middle East has indeed been a geopolitical chessboard on which the U.S. carefully strengthened its positions—nurturing ties with such disparate friends as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Pakistan and Turkey to thwart the ambitions of Moscow and Tehran, Washington’s main regional rivals. On the eve of the Arab Spring in 2011, Russia had almost no weight in the region, and Iran was boxed in by Security Council sanctions over its nuclear program. The costly U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had hardly brought stability, but neither country faced internal collapse, and the Taliban had been chased into the remote corners of the Afghan countryside. Many people in the Middle East chafed at America’s dominance—but they agreed that it was the only game in town. Dramatic developments in recent weeks—from Russia’s Syrian gambit to startling Taliban advances in Afghanistan—highlight just how much the region has changed since then. The Syrian deployment, in particular, has given Mr. Putin the kind of Middle Eastern power projection that, in some ways, exceeds the influence that the Soviet Union enjoyed in the 1970s and 1980s. Already, he has rendered all but impossible plans to create no-fly zones or safe areas outside the writ of the Assad regime—and has moved to position Russia as a viable military alternative that can check U.S. might in the region.

“What Putin wants is to establish a sort of co-dominion with the U.S. to oversee the Middle East—and, so far, he has almost succeeded,” said Camille Grand, director of the Fondation pour la recherché stratégique, a French think tank. Russia’s entry has been welcomed by many in the region—particularly in Iraq, a mostly Shiite country where the U.S. has invested so much blood and treasure—because of mounting frustration with the U.S. failure to roll back Islamic State. More than a year after President Obama promised to “degrade and ultimate destroy” Islamic State, the Sunni militant group remains firmly in control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. In May, it seized Ramadi, another crucial Iraqi city. Islamic State—also known as ISIS—is spreading across the region, rattling countries from Afghanistan to Libya to Yemen.

“What’s been the result of this American coalition? Just the expansion of ISIS,” scoffed retired Lebanese Maj. Gen. Hisham Jaber, who now runs a Beirut think tank. Iraqi officials and Kurdish fighters have long complained about the pace of the U.S. bombing campaign against Islamic State and Washington’s unwillingness to provide forward spotters to guide these airstrikes or to embed U.S. advisers with combat units. These constraints have made the U.S. military, in effect, a junior partner of Iran in the campaign against Islamic State, providing air cover to Iranian-guided Shiite militias that go into battle with portraits of the Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei plastered on their tanks. Iraq has already lost a huge chunk of its territory to Islamic State, and another calamity may be looming further east in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s recent seizure of the strategic city of Kunduz, which remains a battleground, suggests how close the U.S.-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani has come to strategic defeat. Its chances of survival could dwindle further if the Obama administration goes ahead with plans to pull out the remaining 9,800 U.S. troops next year.

“If the Americans decide to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan, what has happened in Kunduz will happen to many other places,” warned Afghan lawmaker Shinkai Karokhail.

Further afield, U.S. disengagement from Afghanistan has already driven Central Asian states that once tried to pursue relatively independent policies and allowed Western bases onto their soil back into Moscow’s orbit. “It’s obvious that what’s happening in Afghanistan is pushing our countries closer to Russia. Who knows what America may come up with tomorrow—nobody trusts it anymore, not the elites and not the ordinary people,” said Tokon Mamytov, a former deputy prime minister of Kyrgyzstan who now teaches at the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University in Bishkek. Among America’s regional allies, puzzlement over why the U.S. is so eager to abandon the region has now given way to alarm and even panic—and, in some cases, attempts at accommodation with Russia.

The bloody, messy intervention in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies stemmed, in part, from a fear that the U.S. is no longer watching their backs against Shiite Iran. These Sunni Arab states could respond even more rashly in the future to the perceived Iranian threat, further inflaming the sectarian passions that have fueled the rise of Islamic State and other extremist groups. The Gulf states “are acting more independently than we have seen in the last 40 years,” said Abdulhaleq Abdulla, a political scientist in the United Arab Emirates. Even Israel is hedging its bets. Last year, it broke ranks with Washington and declined to vote for a U.S.-sponsored U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian annexation of Crimea. In recent days, Israel didn’t criticize the Russian bombardment in Syria. So how deep—and how permanent—is this deterioration of the U.S. ability to shape events in the Middle East?

“The decline is not irreversible at all,” said retired U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, who served in 2009-13 as NATO’s supreme allied commander and is now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He argues that a boost in aid, exercises and engagement with the Gulf states and Israel, as well as a larger commitment to fighting Islamic State and helping the moderate Syrian opposition, could undo the recent damage. But others have concluded that the Middle East’s Pax Americana is truly over. “Whoever comes after Obama will not have many cards left to play,” said Mr. Hokayem. “I don’t see a strategy even for the next president. We’ve gone too far.”

Pentagon Fears It’s Not Ready for a War With Putin

The U.S. military has run the numbers on a sustained fight with Moscow, and they do not look good for the American side. A series of classified exercises over the summer has raised concerns inside the Defense Department that its forces are not prepared for a sustained military campaign against Russia, two defense officials told The Daily Beast. Many within the military believe that 15 years of counter terrorism warfare has left the ground troops ill prepared to maintain logistics or troops levels should Russia make an advance on NATO allies, the officials said. Among the challenges the exercises revealed were that the number of precision-guided munitions available across the force were short of the war plans and it would be difficult to sustain a large troop presence.

“Could we probably beat the Russians today [in a sustained battle]? Sure, but it would take everything we had,” one defense official said. “What we are saying is that we are not as ready as we want to be.”

One classified “tabletop exercise” or “TTX”—a kind of in-office war game—“told us that the wars [in Iraq and Afghanistan] have depleted our sustainment capability,” a second defense official explained, using military jargon for the ability to maintain a fight. The exercise was led by the Department of Defense and involved several other federal agencies. In recent months, the top officers of the military have begun to call Putin’s Russia an “existential threat” to the United States. The results of those exercises—and Russian-backed forces’ latest advance in Ukraine—didn’t exactly tamp down those fears.

But these concerns about readiness and sustainability are not universally held—not even inside the Pentagon. Nor is there a consensus about the kind of risk Putin's Russia really poses. Everyone in the U.S. security establishment acknowledges that Moscow has roughly 4,000 nuclear weapons, the world’s third largest military budget, and an increasingly bellicose leader. There’s little agreement on how likely that threat could be.

“A war between Russian and NATO is an unlikely scenario given the severe repercussions Russia would face. In addition to the overwhelming reaction it would provoke, Russia’s aging military equipment and strained logistical capabilities make a successful offensive attack a very difficult proposition for them,” one U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast. “In short, direct conflict with Russia is a low probability, high-risk situation. The challenge of Putin’s erratic leadership is that low probability events are slightly more probable.”

The U.S. military still has the upper hand in so many ways, after all. But there are limits—severe limits—on those advantages. For its air power, for example, the U.S. military would be leaning on worn out fighter pilots and limited maintenance abilities for their planes. And the surveillance drones needed would have to be drawn from other conflict zones.

“Against an adversary like Russia, we can’t take the kind of air dominance we’ve had in conflicts since 9/11 for granted,” a second defense official explained. “Any conflict of significant magnitude against an adversary like Russia means we’d need to commit airmen and resources that are now operating in other parts of the world at a rate that minimizes their ability to train for that kind of fight.” The official added, “We may very well be able to provide the airpower that would allow us and our allies to prevail in a high-end fight, but the current state of our air forces definitely doesn’t make that a sure bet.”

Around the time of that TTX, in June, the U.S. military also conducted four major field exercises with its NATO counterparts, called Allied Shield, consisting of 15,000 troops and 19 member countries. In March, Russia conducted its own exercises, at one point deploying as many as 80,000 personnel. “The focus of the exercises is on what each side sees as its most exposed areas, with NATO concentrating on the Baltic States and Poland whilst Russia is focusing primarily on the Arctic and High North, Kaliningrad, occupied Crimea, and its border areas with NATO members Estonia and Latvia,” is how one reported summarized the dueling manuevers (PDF).

And like the tabletop exercise, Allied Shield suggested the U.S. could not maintain a sustained fight against the Russians. Moreover, Russia’s blend of special forces, local proxies, weaponized propaganda, cyber espionage, and sneak attacks has many in the U.S. military struggling to figure out how to respond. Of course, they want to check Russian aggression—especially if Putin makes a move for America’s NATO allies in the Baltics. They’re not sure how do to that without starting down the path towards World War III. Especially now that Russia has declared itself open to the notion of using first-strike nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict.

The Daily Beast’s Anna Nemtsova, who is currently with U.S. military trainers in Ukraine, asked one of them what they would they do if their units were suddenly surrounded by Russian-backed forces.“Let me think for a moment, that is a difficult one,” the American soldier said. At his last briefing with reporters, Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, the outgoing Chief of Staff of the Army, said NATO exercises conducted in Europe exposed even small challenges that could have outsized impact in a fight against Russia.

“One of the things we learned is the logistical challenges we have in Eastern Europe. For example, Eastern Europe has a different gauge railroad than Western Europe [where U.S. has traditionally trained] does so moving supplies is a more difficult. So we are learning great lessons like that,” Odierno said.
“We may very well be able to provide the airpower that would allow us to prevail in a fight, but the current state of our air forces definitely doesn’t make that a sure bet.”
More serious was Odierno’s warning that “only 33 percent” of the U.S. Army’s brigades are sufficiently trained to confront Russia. That’s far short of the 60 percent needed. Odierno said that he does not believe the Army will reach those levels for several more years. During the height of the Cold War, there were roughly 250,000 U.S. troops deployed to Europe. After the first Gulf War, that number fell to roughly to 91,000. That number today stands at 31,000—although some additional troops have been added since the stealth invasion of Ukraine.

And yet, many throughout government are not nearly as worried as the military. In fact, these insiders suspect that the Pentagon’s warning is more a means to seek leverage amid threats of budget cuts. The military is hoping to stave off major cuts to its ground force and cash flow, as the war in Afghanistan winds down. Lawrence Korb—a senior fellow at the Washington D.C.-based Center for American Progress, which is closely aligned with the Obama White House and the Hillary Clinton campaign, said that he believes the military is taking advantage of Russian aggressions over the last two years to fight its budget battles.

Further, Korb is not convinced the exercises reflect reality, noting the U.S. spends roughly $600 billion on its defense compared to Russia’s $60 billion. Russian weapons are far less modern, and Putin had to abandon his $400 billion plan to upgrade them earlier this year as the Russian ruble fell.

“We’d clean their clocks. [Russian troops are] not that good. They are not as modern,” Korb said. “I think [the military] took advantage of recent Russian aggression because it has become clear we would not use large ground armies” to confront groups like the self proclaimed Islamic State.”

The U.S. military is now worried about Russia “in the same way the Navy [once] talked about the Chinese” to stop cuts to its budget, he added. But Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, who retired in 2012 as the commander of U.S. Army Europe, said that the Russian threat existed far before the latest budget squabbles. And when he raised them in 2010, they fell on deaf ears.

“We were beating the drum of Russia in 2010 and we were told [by Washington officials], ‘You are still in the Cold War.’ All the things we predicted would happen, happened, but it wasn’t at the forefront of the time,” Hertling said. “This gets to a lack of trust between the government and the military,” Hertling added. “We were monitoring Russian movement and they were increasing not only their budget but their pace of operation and their development of new equipment. They were repeatedly aggressive and provocative even though we were trying to work with them.”

Since then, the Army has shrunk rapidly—by 80,000 troops. Should Congress enact the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, the Army could fall from 450,000 soldiers to 420,000, making it the smallest U.S. ground force since the end of World War II. Odierno has called such figures dangerous.

“The unrelenting budget impasse has compelled us to degrade readiness to historically low levels,” Odierno said last month at a conference. Either way, the London-based European Leadership Network released a report Wednesday, and concluded the dueling large scale military exercises are aggravating tensions, not deterring the opposing side, as intended.

“Russia is preparing for a conflict with NATO, and NATO is preparing for a possible confrontation with Russia. We do not suggest that the leadership of either side has made a decision to go to war or that a military conflict between the two is inevitable, but that the changed profile of exercises is a fact and it does play a role in sustaining the current climate of tensions in Europe,” found the report, titled Preparing for the Worst: Are Russian and NATO Military Exercises Making War in Europe more Likely?

US Army Colonel: Russia Would ‘Annihilate’ US Army In A Direct Confrontation

For those villagers eagerly snapping pictures on the side of a road in the Czech Republic in late September, the appearance of the line of U.S. “Stryker” armored fighting vehicles must have seemed more like a parade than a large-scale military operation. The movement of some 500-plus soldiers of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment from Vilsack in Bavaria to a Hungarian military base was intended to strengthen U.S. ties with the Czech, Slovak and Hungarian militaries and put Russia’s Vladimir Putin on notice. Dubbed “Dragoon Crossing,” the tour traced a winding 846- kilometer tour that featured airdrops and simulated bridge seizures to show America’s Eastern European allies that the U.S. military could respond quickly to any threat. “We are demonstrating operational freedom of maneuver across Eastern Europe,” Col. John V. Meyer III told a reporter for the Army’s website, “and that is having the strategic effect of enabling our alliance, assuring our allies, and deterring the Russians.”

But not everyone is convinced. “This Stryker parade won’t fool anyone in Moscow,” says retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor. “The Russians don’t do many things well, but they have been subverting, destabilizing, invading and conquering their neighbors since Peter the Great. And what’s our response: a small unit of light armored trucks.”

Vladimir Putin has done more than make headlines with his aggressive military moves from Ukraine to Syria, along with displays of force on the high seas and in the air. The Russian leader has also escalated an intense debate inside the Pentagon over the appropriate response to the Kremlin’s new, not-so-friendly global profile—and over the future of the U.S. Army. And now the debate has spread to Capitol Hill: later this week the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing addressing the same issue. Ironically, this Washington war of ideas has pitted against each other two brainy career Army officers who fought together in one of the most famous battles of modern times.

On one side is Macgregor, an outspoken and controversial advocate for reform of the Army– whose weapons he describes as “obsolescent,” its senior leaders as “self-interested,” and its spending as “wasteful.” Viewed by many of his colleagues as one of the most innovative Army officers of his generation, Macgregor, a West Point graduate with a Ph.D. in international relations (“he can be pretty gruff,” a fellow West Point graduate says, “but he’s brilliant”), led the 2nd Cav’s “Cougar Squadron” in the best-known battle of Operation Desert Storm in February 1991. In 23 minutes, Macgregor’s force destroyed an entire Iraqi Armored Brigade (including nearly 70 Iraqi armored vehicles), while suffering a single American casualty. Speaking at a military “lessons learned” conference one year later, Air Force General Jack Welsh described the Battle of 73 Easting (named for a map coordinate) as “a stunning, overwhelming victory.”

In the wake of the battle, however, Macgregor calculated that if his unit had fought a highly trained and better armed enemy, like the Russians, the outcome would have been different. So, four years later, he published a book called Breaking The Phalanx, recommending that his service “restructure itself into modularly organized, highly mobile, self-contained combined arms teams.” The advice received the endorsement of then-Army Chief of Staff Dennis Reimer, who ordered that copies of Macgregor’s book be provided to every Army general.

But Macgregor is still fighting that battle. In early September he circulated a PowerPoint presentation showing that in a head-to-head confrontation pitting the equivalent of a U.S. armored division against a likely Russian adversary, the U.S. division would be defeated. “Defeated isn’t the right word,” Macgregor told me last week. “The right word is annihilated.” The 21-slide presentation features four battle scenarios, all of them against a Russian adversary in the Baltics – what one currently serving war planner on the Joint Chiefs staff calls “the most likely warfighting scenario we will face outside of the Middle East.”

In two of the scenarios, where the U.S. deploys its current basic formation, called brigade combat teams (BCTs), the U.S. is defeated. In two other scenarios, where Macgregor deploys what he calls Reconnaissance Strike Groups, the U.S. wins. And that’s the crux of Macgregor’s argument: Today the U.S. Army is comprised of BCTs rather than Reconnaissance Strike Groups, or RSGs, which is Macgregor’s innovation. Macgregor’s RSG shears away what he describes as “the top-heavy Army command structure” that would come with any deployment in favor of units that generate more combat power. “Every time we deploy a division we deploy a division headquarters of 1,000 soldiers and officers,” Macgregor explains. “What a waste; those guys will be dead within 72 hours.” Macgregor’s RSG, what he calls “an alternative force design,” does away with this Army command echelon, reporting to a joint force commander–who might or might not be an Army officer. An RSG, Macgregor says, does not need the long supply tail that is required of Brigade Combat Teams – it can be sustained with what it carries from ten days to two weeks without having to be resupplied.

Macgregor’s views line him up against Lt. General H.R. McMaster, an officer widely thought of as one of the Army’s best thinkers. McMaster fought under Macgregor at “73 Easting,” where he commanded Eagle Troop in Macgregor’s Cougar Squadron. McMaster, however, had more success in the Army than Macgregor, is a celebrated author (of Dereliction of Duty, a classic in military history), and is credited with seeding the Anbar Awakening during the Iraq War. Even so, McMaster was twice passed over for higher command until David Petraeus, who headed his promotion board, insisted his success be recognized. McMaster is now a lieutenant general and commands the high-profile Army Capabilities Integration Center (called “ARCINC”), whose mandate is to “design the Army of the future.” David Barno, a retired Lt. General who headed up the US command in Afghanistan, describes McMaster as an officer “who has repeatedly bucked the system and survived to join its senior ranks.”

For many, McMaster is as controversial as Macgregor, with comments about him spanning the spectrum from condemnation to praise. “H.R. is an excellent officer and a good friend,” a senior JCS officer says, “but you don’t get to three stars by being an outsider, and you don’t get to head ARCINC by bucking the system.” Retired Brigadier General Kimmitt waves away claims that McMaster has traded his ideals for promotion (“clichéd nonsense,” he says) and describes McMaster as “a giant in a land of midgets. He’s the one true intellectual in the Army’s corporate culture. He’s smarter than almost any of them.”

In effect, the debate between Macgregor and McMaster is a battle over whether the Army’s BCT structure is capable of matching up against what Army thinkers call a “near peer” competitor, like Russia. Though it may sound to outsiders like a disagreement over crossed t’s and dotted i’s, the dispute is fundamental–focusing on whether, in a future conflict, the U.S. military can actually win. Even inside the Pentagon, that is very much in doubt. A recent article by defense writer Julia Ioffe reported the “dispiriting” results of a Pentagon “thought exercise” between a red team (Russia) and a blue team, NATO. The “table top” exercise stipulated a Russian invasion of the Baltics, the same scenario proposed by Macgregor. “After eighthours of gaming out various scenarios,” Ioffe wrote, a blue team member concluded that NATO “would lose.”


A New Warning About Putin’s Russia from a Top U.S. General

The Marine Corps General nominated by President Obama to be the country’s highest-ranking uniformed military officer told members of Congress on Wednesday that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is the most significant military threat to the United States. Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Marine Corps Commandant Joseph F. Dunford said that amid the various current and potential threats facing the U.S., including Islamist extremist groups, cyberattacks from China and North Korea, and more, the largest national security challenge the country faces is from Russia.

“If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia,” Dunford said. “If you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.” Dunford, who is expected to be confirmed as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that as recently as a few years ago, U.S. defense policies “did not fully anticipate growing Russian aggression.”

Russia, which invaded the Crimea region of Ukraine and declared it “annexed” last year, continues to support armed rebels in Eastern Ukraine with soldiers and materiel. Dunford, asked by the members of the committee to prepare answers to some questions in advance, said that the U.S. military remains worried that Russia will invade other former members of USSR in an effort to rebuild its sphere of influence. “Are you concerned that Moldova and Georgia may be at a heightened state of vulnerability, given Russian willingness to take aggressive action in Ukraine?” the committee asked.

“Yes,” Dunford replied. “Russia has demonstrated both in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine today its willingness to use force, violate sovereignty, and exploit the vulnerabilities of these fragile democracies to achieve its strategic objectives. Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine all contain Russian-occupied separatist regions that the Kremlin exploits for its own purposes.” Asked what he believes the U.S. can do to block future Russian aggression, Dunford said, “Sanctions alone are unlikely to deter future Russian aggression; deterring combined Russian-separatists actions against Ukraine requires a whole of government approach that is aligned with our NATO allies and friends in Europe. However, U.S. and EU sanctions have had an impact on Russia's economy and send a clear signal to Moscow that aggression against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity entails costs.” Working with Russia – particularly to forestall the possibility of accidentally touching off a conflict, Dunford said, should be a priority.

“Cooperation with Russia in areas of mutual interest within the military sphere remains possible if Russia assumes the role of a responsible international actor moving forward, not isolated and moving backward as it is today. If confirmed, my intent for the military-to-military relationship is to reduce the chances of miscalculation or escalation through professional, candid communications and behaviors.”

However, he also suggested that when it comes to a reduction in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, any further efforts now must be undertaken “hand-in-hand” with Russia – meaning that the U.S. can no longer afford to act unilaterally to reduce its arsenal. Any changes, he said, should “focus on measures that will maintain or strengthen deterrence of adversaries, assurance of our Allies and partners, and strategic stability.”

US Military Outclasses Russia's in Only One Area…Corruption

U.S Air Force aircraft at Sheik Isa, Bahrain, file photo.

In spite of prevailing clichés about corruption in Russia being out of control, the scale of the scourge is of an incomparably larger scale in the United States, according to independent journalist Einar Schlereth. In the journalist's view, nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of the US military industrial complex.

In his article, published in popular Austrian news blog Neopresse, Schlereth suggested that if in Russia, corruption and bribery generally have a 'bottom-up' nature, in the US, it is a phenomenon which is inherent to the highest levels of political power. Schlereth begins his analysis by recalling a recent article by respected American historian F. William Engdahl, in which Engdahl suggested that in many areas, Russian military capabilities have proven to be 'at least equal' to those of the US, despite having a tenth of the Pentagon's budget.

Some estimates, the Schlereth notes, "suggest that the United States is less corrupt than Russia." But in reality, the journalist suggests, Washington is just able to hide its own corruption better than the Russians. The fundamental difference, the journalist suggests, is that "in the US, corruption is more concentrated at the top, whereas in Russia, it comes from below."

Furthermore, "with regard to corruption in expenditures for the military," the journalist argues, "the scale of corruption in the US is simply gigantic, and certainly far worse than it is in Russia." A May 2014 headline by official US DOD organ Stars and Stripes is telling, Schlereth says, with its suggestion that 'Decades later, military still unable to account for its spending'.

"Nearly three decades after US taxpayers gasped over $640 toilet seats and other Cold War military waste, the Department of Defense remains the last federal department still unable to conduct a financial audit despite laws passed in the 1990s that require the accounting," Stars and Stripes then commented.

"In other words," Schlereth notes, "the US military has turned into a black hole, into which billions of taxpayer dollars have disappeared, without any clear evidence on how, when, and to whom the money went."

"The fact is that the US government now subcontracts almost everything out to private companies (who collectively spend billions lobbying Congress and funding political campaigns), and this is particularly true when it comes to the Pentagon." 

Many of these companies, the journalist warned, have concentrated so much power that they have access to the White House, able to influence the president on how much military aid to give country x, or when and when not to go to war. And the Supreme Court's recent decision, via Citizens United, allowing unlimited campaign contributions from corporations and organizations, "has only greased the process further along."

"Russia's system of military spending," Schlereth suggests, "is the diametric opposite of America's. While the United States has privatized their military industry, in Russia it is in state hands. All profits from arms sales go to the Russian government, not to the makers or the multinationals. The arms manufacturers are [effectively] part of the government."

"Just like in the US, there are is no financial accounting of their operations, but there are financial reports reviewed each year by the defense minister and, moreover, by the president and the prime minister –i.e. by people who are responsible to the electorate, and not only to the aristocracy of large shareholders."

"In the US," Schlereth notes, "there is no financial accounting. Instead (as per aristocratic preference) dollars flow to American politicians' election campaigns." Effectively, the journalist suggests, "war profits are private and the buying of politicians becomes just another business expense."

Ultimately, Schlereth says, "Russia receives much more for its military rubles –that's for sure. And as the White House increasingly attempts to strangle Russia, not only economically but militarily as well, this overlooked component of America's huge corruption comes more and more into the spotlight, unlike the financial operations behind it."


Do We Really Want a New World War With Russia?

Washington continues making an international fool of herself by her inability to effectively counter the impression around the world that Russia, spending less than 10% of the Pentagon annually on defense, has managed to do more against ISIS in Syria in six weeks than the mighty US Air Force bombing campaign has done in almost a year and half. One aspect that bears attention is the demonstration by the Russian military of new technologies that belie the widely-held Western notion that Russia is little more than a backward oil and raw material commodity exporter.

Recent reorganization of the Russian state military industrial complex as well as reorganization of the Soviet-era armed forces under Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu’s term are visible in the success so far of Russia’s ISIS and other terror strikes across Syria. Clearly Russian military capabilities have undergone a sea-change since the Soviet Cold War era.

In war there are never winners. Yet Russia has been in an unwanted war with Washington de facto since the George W. Bush Administration announced its lunatic plan to place what they euphemistically term “Ballistic Missile Defense” missiles and advanced radar in Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and Turkey after 2007. Without going into detail, BMD technologies are the opposite of defensive. They instead make a pre-emptive war highly likely. Of course the radioactive ash heap in such an exchange would be first and foremost the EU countries foolish enough to invite US BMD to their soil.

Then came the highly provocative US-instigated coup d’etat in Ukraine in February 2014, installing a cabal of gangsters, neo-nazis and criminals who launched a civil war against its own citizens in east Ukraine, an ill-conceived attempt to bring Russia into a ground war across her border. It followed two UN Security Council vetoes by Russia and China of US proposals for No Fly zones over Syria as was done to destroy Qaddafi’s Libya. Now Russia has surprised the West by accepting the request of Syrian President Bashar al Assad to help eliminate the terrorism that has ravaged the once-peaceful country for over four years.

What the Russian General Staff has managed, since the precision air campaign began September 30, has stunned western defense planners with Russian technological feats not expected. Two specific technologies are worth looking at more closely: The Russian Sukoi SU-34 fighter-bomber and what is called the Bumblebee hyperbaric mortar weapon.

Sukhoi SU-34 ‘Fullback’ fighter-bomber

The plane responsible for some of the most damaging strikes on ISIS and other terror enclaves in Syria is manufactured by the Russian state aircraft industry under the name Sukhoi SU-34. As the Russian news agency RIA Novosti described the aircraft, “The Su-34 is meant to deliver a sufficiently large ordnance load to a predetermined area, hit the target accurately and take evasive action against pursuing enemy planes.” The plane is also designed to deal with enemy fighters in aerial combat such as the US F-16. The SU-34 made a first test flight in 1990 as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the chaos of the Yeltsin years caused many delays. Finally in 2010 the plane was in full production. According to a report in US Defense Industry Daily, among the SU-34 features are:

• 8 ton ordnance load which can accommodate precision-guided weapons, as well as R-73/AA-11 Archer and R-77/AA-12 ‘AMRAAMSKI’ missiles and an internal 30mm GSh-301 gun.
• Maximum speed of Mach 1.8 at altitude.
• 3,000 km range, extensible to “over 4,000 km” with the help of additional drop tanks. The SU-34 can also refuel in mid-air.
• It can fly in TERCOM (Terrain Contour Matching) mode for low-level flight, and has software to execute a number of difficult maneuvers.
• Leninets B004 phased array multimode X-band radar, which interleaves terrain-following radar and other modes.

Now new EW technologies

Clearly the aircraft is impressive as it has demonstrated against terrorist centers in Syria. Now, however, beginning this month it will add a “game-changer” in the form of a new component. Speaking at the Dubai Air Show on November 12, Igor Nasenkov, the First Deputy General Director of the Radio-Electronic Technologies Concern (KRET) announced that this month, that is in the next few days, SUKHOI SU-34 fighter-bombers will become electronic warfare aircraft as well. Nasenkov explained that the new Khibiny aircraft electronic countermeasures (ECM) systems, installed on the wingtips, will give the SU-34 jets electronic warfare capabilities to launch effective electronic countermeasures against radar systems, anti-aircraft missile systems and airborne early warning and control aircraft.

KRET is a holding or group of some 95 Russian state electronic companies formed in 2009 under the giant Russian state military industry holding, Rostec. Russia’s advances in what is euphemistically termed in military jargon, Electronic Counter Measures or ECM, is causing some sleepless nights for the US Pentagon top brass to be sure. In the battles in eastern pro-Russian Ukraine earlier this year, as well as in the Black Sea, and now in Syria, according to ranking US military sources, Russia deployed highly-effective ECM technologies like the Krasukha-4, to successfully jam hostile radar and aircraft.

Lt. General Ben Hodges, Commander of US Army Europe (USAREUR) describes Russian ECM capabilities used in Ukraine as “eye-watering,” suggesting some US and NATO officers are more than slightly disturbed by what they see. Ronald Pontius, deputy to Army Cyber Command’s chief, Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, told a conference in October that, “You can’t but come to the conclusion that we’re not making progress at the pace the threat demands.” In short, Pentagon planners have been caught flat-footed for all the trillions of wasted US taxpayer dollars in recent years thrown at the military industry.

During the critical days of the March 2014 Crimean citizens’ referendum vote to appeal for status within Russia, New York Times reporters then in Crimea reported the presence of Russian electronic jamming systems, known as R-330Zh Zhitel, manufactured by Protek in Voronezh, Russia. That state-of-the-art technology was believed to have been used to prevent the Ukrainian Army from invading Crimea before the referendum. Russian forces in Crimea, where Russia had a legal basing agreement with Kiev, reportedly were able to block all communication of Kiev military forces, preventing a Crimean bloodbath. Washington was stunned.

USS Donald Cook…

Thereafter, in April, 2014, one month after the accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation, President Obama ordered the USS Donald Cook into the Black Sea waters just off Crimea, the home port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, to “reassure” EU states of US resolve. Donald Cook was no ordinary guided missile destroyer. It had been refitted to be one of four ships as part of Washington’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System aimed at Russia’s nuclear arsenal. USS Donald Cook boldly entered the Black Sea on April 8 heading to Russian territorial waters.

On April 12, just four days later, the US ship inexplicably left the area of the Crimean waters of the Black Sea for a port in NATO-member Romania. From there it left the Black Sea entirely. A report on April 30, 2014 in Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta Online titled, “What Frightened the American Destroyer,” stated that while the USS Donald Cook was near Crimean (Russian by that time) waters, a Russian Su-24 Frontal Aviation bomber conducted a flyby of the destroyer.

The Rossiyskaya Gazeta went on to write that the Russian SU-24 “did not have bombs or missiles onboard. One canister with the Khibin electronic warfare complex was suspended under the fuselage.” As it got close to the US destroyer, the Khibins turned off the USS Donald Cook’s “radar, combat control circuits, and data transmission system – in short, they turned off the entire Aegis just like we turn off a television by pressing the button on the control panel. After this, the Su-24 simulated a missile launch at the blind and deaf ship. Later, it happened once again, and again – a total of 12 times.”

While the US Army denied the incident as Russian propaganda, the fact is that USS Donald Cook never approached Russian Black Sea waters again. Nor did NATO ships that replaced it in the Black Sea. A report in 2015 by the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office assessed that Russia, “does indeed possess a growing EW capability, and the political and military leadership understand the importance…Their growing ability to blind or disrupt digital communications might help level the playing field when fighting against a superior conventional foe.” Now new Russian Khibini Electronic Counter Measure systems are being installed on the wingtips of Russia’s SUKHOI SU-34 fighter-bombers going after ISIS in Syria.

Killer Bumblebees

A second highly-advanced new Russian military technology that’s raising more than eyebrows in US Defense Secretary ‘Ash’ Carter’s Pentagon is Russia’s new Bumblebee which Russia’s military classifies as a flamethrower. In reality it is a highly advanced thermobaric weapon which launches a warhead that uses a combination of an explosive charge and highly combustible fuel. When the rocket reaches the target, the fuel is dispersed in a cloud that is then detonated by the explosive charge. US Military experts recently asked by the US scientific and engineering magazine Popular Mechanics to evaluate the Bumblebee stated that, “the resulting explosion is devastating, radiating a shockwave and fireball up to six or seven meters in diameter.” The US experts noted that the Bumblebee is “especially useful against troops in bunkers, trenches, and even armored vehicles, as the dispersing gas can enter small spaces and allow the fireball to expand inside. Thermobarics are particularly devastating to buildings — a thermobaric round entering a structure can literally blow up the building from within with overpressure.”


We don’t go into yet another new highly secret Russian military technology recently subject of a Russian TV report beyond a brief mention, as little is known. It is indicative of what is being developed as Russia prepares for the unthinkable from Washington. The “Ocean Multipurpose System: Status-6” is a new Russian nuclear submarine weapons system designed to bypass NATO radars and any existing missile defense systems, while causing heavy damage to “important economic facilities” along the enemy’s coastal regions.

Reportedly the Status-6 will cause what the Russian military terms, “assured unacceptable damage” to an adversary force. They state that its detonation “in the area of the enemy coast” (say, New York or Boston or Washington?) would result in “extensive zones of radioactive contamination” that would ensure that the region would not be used for “military, economic, business or other activity for a long time.” Status-6 reportedly is a massive torpedo, designated as a “self-propelled underwater vehicle.” It has a range of up to 10 thousand kilometers and can operate at a depth of up to 1,000 meters. At a November 10 meeting with the Russian military chiefs, Vladimir Putin stated that Russia would counter NATO’s US-led missile shield program through “new strike systems capable of penetrating any missile defenses.” Presumably he was referring to Status-6.

US Defense Secretary Carter declared on November 8 in a speech that Russia and China are challenging “American pre-eminence” and Washington’s so-called “stewardship of the world order.” Carter added that, “Most disturbing is Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling,” which in his view, “raises questions about Russian leaders’ commitment to strategic stability, their respect for norms against the use of nuclear weapons…”

Not surprisingly, Carter did not mention Washington’s own very loud nuclear saber-rattling. In addition to advancing the US Ballistic Missile Defense array targeting Russia, Carter recently announced highly-advanced US nuclear weapons would be stationed at the Büchel Air Base in Germany as part of a joint NATO nuclear program, which involves non-nuclear NATO states in Europe hosting more than 200 US nuclear warheads. Those NATO states across Europe, including Germany, have just become a potential Ground Zero in any possible nuclear war between the United States and Russia. Perhaps it’s time for some more sober minds to take responsibility in Washington for restoring a world at peace, minds not obsessed with such ridiculous ideas of “pre-eminence.”

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


U.S. may lose if there is a World War 3

Several military experts have warned in the last few weeks that Russia was hell-bent to trigger a major conflict in Syria that could escalate into World War 3. The airspace above Syria has become increasingly crowded as Russian and Western fighter jets are flying all over the country. According to the Mirror, Russia claims to have carried out 55 airstrikes against ISIS targets, which the U.S.-led coalition carried out 24 attacks on ISIS on Saturday.

Syrian airspace has become increasingly crowded

However, anti-Assad groups trained by CIA reported that Russian airstrikes have targeted rebels that are fighting to oust President Bashar Al-Assad from power. Citing an unnamed military expert, the Daily Record says we could be less than 30 seconds from World War 3. Fighter jets, drones, attack helicopters, missiles and artillery from different countries with a military presence in Syria are increasingly likely to crash in the congested Syrian airspace. In one terrifying incident, a U.S. F-16 fighter came within 20 miles of the Russian Sukhoi-34 warplanes in Syria, says Lt Gen Charles Brown, commander of the U.S. air campaign in Syria. Given their speeds of travel, it would have taken the two warplanes less than 30 seconds to collide. One military expert compared the situation in Syria to getting your mind round a Rubik’s Cube moving at 1,500 kilometers per hour.

U.S. may lose if there is a World War 3

At any moment a military plane could be shot down in a “catastrophic misunderstanding of intent.” Many of the American fighter planes had to move away from their intended targets to avoid Russian jets. China has further complicated the situation by stationing its aircraft carrier Liaoning off the coast of Syria, from where it may carry out airstrikes. Military experts have warned on several occasions that Russia and China would easily crush the United States if there is a World War 3. Russia’s objectives in Syria are very different from that of the U.S.-led coalition. Western countries are working to oust Bashar Al-Assad and establish a liberal democracy in Syria. But Russia is determined to maintain a pro-Russian regime in Syria. Meanwhile, experts fear that China could use airstrikes in ISIS as a cover to support Russia and target the U.S.-trained rebels.

New Russian military might on full display in Syria

Sleek combat jets loaded with precision bunker-buster bombs roar into the skies as soldiers in desert-style uniforms march past rows of neat housing at this Russian military base at one of Syria’s largest airports. The air campaign in Syria, Russia’s first military action outside the former Soviet Union since the war in Afghanistan, shows a revamped Russian military, which sharply differs in both capability and mindset from the old, Soviet-style force.

It is capable of quickly projecting power far from Russian borders, widely uses drones and precision weapons, and cares about soldiers’ comfort. The thunder of Syria’s civil war couldn’t be heard at Hemeimeem, located in the coastal province of Latakia, which has largely been spared the chaos and destruction of more than 4 1/2 years of fighting in Syria. A small group of journalists visiting the base this week could see a dozen Su-24 bombers taking off into the night with a deafening roar, piercing the darkness with scarlet flames from their engines. Such missions were impossible just a few years ago, when the Russian air force had few planes capable of hitting targets at night. As part of President Vladimir Putin’s sweeping military modernization program, the air force received hundreds of new and modernized aircraft, all equipped with state-of-the art electronics on a par with U.S. and NATO jets.

“All aircraft here at the base are equipped with targeting systems that allow hitting targets with pinpoint precision,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov. He dismissed Syrian opposition claims that the Russian airstrikes killed civilians as “sheer nonsense,” saying the aircraft have hit ammunition depots, bunkers and other targets away from populated areas. The ministry has released cockpit video to support its claims, just as the Pentagon did during the two Gulf wars. The precision strikes differ sharply from Russian operations to quash two separatist insurrections in Chechnya, where the Russian military indiscriminately used obsolete, inaccurate weapons, reducing the Chechen capital of Grozny to rubble.

Latakia, the heartland of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Alawite minority, offers the Russian military a safe environment — and a warm welcome from people blaring car horns and chanting “Thanks!” in Russian. At a refugee camp in Latakia, which houses several thousand mostly Alawite refugees from other provinces in Syria, smiling kids shouted: “Thank you, Putin!” Warmly greeted by the locals and at a safe distance from the front lines, Russian soldiers at the base look calm and relaxed. Still, Russian military police manning checkpoints with Syrian security forces thoroughly check incoming vehicles, special forces guard key facilities and Mi-24 helicopter gunships sweep around the base on regular patrols looking for any suspicious activity. Pantsyr air defense systems are deployed at the edge of the airfield, completing the security bubble.

Soldiers at the base are visibly proud of their crisp new uniforms and comfortable sand-colored high boots, a stark contrast with the drab Soviet-style military attire worn until recently. Air force support crew attaching heavy bombs and missiles under the warplanes’ wings wear shorts and white sports shoes for comfort in very un-Russian temperatures of nearly 30 Celsius (mid-80s Fahrenheit). On a typical day, each jet flies several sorties during the day and at night. Konashenkov shrugged off U.S. criticism that Russia was targeting moderate rebel groups fighting Assad instead of focusing on Islamic State militants, the main goal declared by the Kremlin. He argued it doesn’t matter which of the myriad militant groups owns facilities making suicide belts and rigging trucks with explosives for suicide missions, which the Russian warplanes target.

In another break with the old Russian military tradition, the planners of the Hemeimeem base took care of the troops, a marked departure from Soviet-style neglect of soldiers’ comfort. The neat rows of housing units, each holding from two to eight men depending on rank, are equipped with air conditioning, a must in the scorching heat, and there are plenty of wash cabins available. A field kitchen and a canteen look immaculately clean, a sight to shock anyone familiar with crude ways of the old-style Russian military. At the base’s water treatment unit, Lt.-Col. Alexander Yevdokimov spoke enthusiastically about a multilayer filter system that purifies Syrian tap water to the highest drinking standard and prevents any threat of chemical or bacteriological contamination. “Please try it, it tastes really good!” he told reporters.

The base bakes its own bread and cooks prepare no-frills but filling Russian dishes. An army store offers souvenirs, cosmetics and clothing, and smiling attendants at a nearby coffee shop sell candies, cookies and ice cream delivered from Russia. Konashenkov, a veteran of the war in Chechnya and other post-Soviet conflicts, is keen to highlight the progress the military has made. “Remember Chechnya, where everything was covered in dirt?” he asks, pointing at the base’s freshly paved grounds that help keep uniforms and housing units clean. Officers at the base say its comfortable layout and logistics reflect the personal touch of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is widely popular in the ranks, unlike his predecessor, Anatoly Serdyukov.

Serdyukov, who was ordered by Putin to streamline the bloated and under-funded military after the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, conducted painful cuts of the officer corps and made other radical changes, but was eventually sacked amid growling in the ranks. The military welcomed the appointment of Shoigu, who had served as Russia’s emergencies minister for two decades and won a reputation as one of the few Russian officials who could actually get things done. A latecomer to Putin’s inner circle, Shoigu has developed strong personal ties with the president. They have gone fishing together and the defense minister now seems to be one of the few officials whom Putin particularly trusts. Spending on the military increased under Shoigu’s leadership, financing hundreds of new aircraft and missiles and the commissioning of numerous other new weapons.

The armed forces have held a series of massive exercises, engaging hundreds of thousands of troops and hundreds of aircraft across vast areas from the Baltics to the Pacific and from the Caspian Sea to the Arctic. The drills paid off when Putin moved to annex Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014. Within hours, waves of Russian transport planes airlifted special forces that quickly blocked Ukrainian troops at their bases without firing a shot. The swift operation took the West by surprise. Unlike the past, when the military’s post-Soviet meltdown forced the Kremlin to rely increasingly on nuclear weapons, it has grown more confident about its conventional forces.

The rapid deployment of a sizable expeditionary force by sea and air, an air campaign in which dozens of jets relentlessly pounded targets round the clock for weeks and the launching of long-range cruise missiles from the Caspian were intended to send a clear message: Russia’s military could rival U.S. operational capability. Putin has pointed at the launch of 26 cruise missiles from Russian navy ships in the Caspian at targets in Syria 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) away as a signal to the U.S. that Russia can pack a similar punch. Konashenkov, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, shrugged off the Pentagon’s claim that four of the missiles crashed in Iran. “All those targets (in Syria) must have exploded all by themselves then!” he said with a sardonic smile, insisting that every Russian missile hit its target.

Putin’s Old-School Syria Strategy

The Kremlin is playing out ideas about Russia’s role in the Middle East held over from the czarist era.
Ever since Russia launched a military campaign in Syria, the White House has offered the usual mixture of appeasement and lecturing. Washington wants to “de-conflict” the situation, says Secretary of State John Kerry, using an Obama administration neologism. Barack Obama insists Vladimir Putin isn’t making a bid for Middle East supremacy but propping up a failing client, Bashar Assad. This is what happens when a U.S. president, who imagines history began sometime around 2004, confronts a power with a longer historical horizon. For the Kremlin, the goal is clear: to position Moscow as a dominant actor in Middle East affairs, bolstering friends and punishing enemies. Far from running contrary to Moscow’s best interests, as Mr. Obama argues, Russian Middle East policy follows a clear vision and strategic patterns that in some cases date back to the czarist era. “In my view this intervention was close to inevitable,” says Vladimir Orlov, the founder of the Russian Center for Policy Studies, a Moscow think tank.

“What caught some by surprise was, for those of us following the Kremlin’s thinking about the Middle East, something that Russia was preparing for six months at a minimum and perhaps longer.” Mr. Orlov, who also directs a research center at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, is an influential scholar-practitioner of Russian Middle East and nonproliferation policy.

By intervening, Mr. Orlov says, “Russia managed to speak independently for the first time in the region” since the Cold War. “Even anti-Russian, anti-Assad forces now recognize that Russia is not only speaking but acting in practical terms.” In the past, he thinks, the Kremlin acquiesced too readily to the West, notably failing to block the 2011 Libyan intervention at the United Nations Security Council, “one of the biggest mistakes in Russian foreign policy.” No more. It’s obvious, then, why most of Mr. Putin’s sorties hammer U.S.-backed Syrian rebels rather than Islamic State—targeting priorities that have befuddled the White House. “For Russia it would make little sense to focus only on ISIS,” Mr. Orlov says, using an acronym for the terrorist group. “Because let’s put it simply: Russia fights alongside the Syrian army. Russia fights with Bashar Assad’s army. And these [non-ISIS rebel] groups are causing problems for Assad’s existence.”

Nor are the Russians as jittery about Saudi-led Sunni blowback as Messrs. Obama and Kerry think they should be. As the U.S. abandons the Middle East, and the Kremlin’s major ally, the Iranian regime, gains power and prestige, it is Riyadh that will likely bend to Moscow, not the other way around. The death of King Abdullah and the ascent of King Salman “opened up a window of opportunity for Russia and Saudi Arabia to look at each other’s positions,” says Mr. Orlov. The Saudis circulated a shopping list of Russian-made arms and sought Moscow’s help with developing their own nuclear industry. To be sure, Riyadh still bandwagons with the Americans, for now, yet on the Syria question Mr. Orlov detects a shift in the Saudis’ tone toward the Kremlin. “Two years ago the Saudis brought ultimatums” when discussing Syria with Russia, Mr. Orlov says. “Now they don’t do that.” Regardless of Riyadh’s feelings about the matter, Moscow couldn’t tolerate the explosive rise of Islamic State or the loss of its base on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, he says, which would have meant “an inability to operate in the Middle East.” He adds: “If hypothetically the Americans could have dealt efficiently with ISIS . . . maybe Russia wouldn’t have intervened.”

Even so, Mr. Putin didn’t intend to upstage the leader of the Free World, Mr. Orlov suggests. Maybe, but Russian friends and foes alike today see Moscow in the driver’s seat. Even stipulating Mr. Obama’s Russian-desperation hypothesis, it’s precisely the mark of a cunning strategist to turn the potential collapse of a client into a chance to redraw the map and shift the balance and momentum of forces. Behind Mr. Putin’s decisiveness is a vision of the Middle East in which Russia and its clients in the Iranian-Shiite sphere edge out the U.S. and its traditional Arab allies. It’s an idea with roots in the late czarist period, when Russia was the most powerful, and most predatory, presence in Iran, then known as Persia, and used that presence as a springboard for projecting power elsewhere in the Middle East and Central Asia. Today Russian ideologues such as Alexander Dugin, known as “Putin’s philosopher,” celebrate the Iranian regime as a bastion of “tradition” resisting U.S.-led Western liberalism. Iran is a political and strategic linchpin of “Eurasia,” the Russian-led, anti-Western empire of Putinist ambition.

Mr. Orlov doesn’t speak in such bombastic terms, but he touts “Russia’s level of cooperation with Iran” and “our level of dialogue with Hezbollah.” He says “we’ve been protective of the Shiites” and predicts that Russia and the Islamic Republic will deepen their ties in the coming years. Moscow earlier this year reneged on a promise to Washington by agreeing to transfer S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Tehran. All this runs contrary to seven years’ worth of White House assumptions and predictions. Not least the notion that a “Russian reset” would buy Moscow’s cooperation on Iran and the Middle East. Welcome to the 19th century, Mr. Obama.

Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria

Russia doesn’t want to fight a war with Turkey, so Russian generals devised a simple, but effective plan to discourage Turkey from taking any action that could lead to a clash between the two nations. Last week, Russian warplanes intruded into Turkish airspace twice. Both incidents caused consternation in Ankara and send Turkish leaders into a furor.  On both occasions, officials in Moscow politely apologized for the incursions claiming they were unintentional (“navigational errors”) and that they would try to avoid similar intrusions in the future. Then there was a third incident, a more serious incident, that was not a mistake. It was clearly intended to send a message to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  Here’s a short summary of what happened from an article at the World Socialist Web Site:
“Turkish officials claimed a third incident on Monday, when an unidentified MiG-29 fighter jet locked its radar for four and a half minutes on eight Turkish F-16 jets that were on patrol on their side of the border, in apparent preparation to open fire.” (“US, NATO step up threats to Russia over Syria“, World Socialist Web Site)
This was no mistake. The only time a fighter pilot adopts these protocols is when he plans to take down an enemy plane. This was a message, and while it might have been over-the-heads of the politicians and the media but, I assure you, every general in the Turkish High-Command knows what’s it means. This is a wake-up call.  Moscow is indicating that there’s a new sheriff in town and that Turkey had better behave itself or there’s going to be trouble. There’s not going to be any US-Turkey no-fly zone over North Syria, there’s not going to be any aerial attacks on Syrian sites from the Turkish side of the border, and there certainly is not going to be any ground invasion of Turkish troops into Syria.  The Russian Aerospace Defence Forces now control the skies over Syria and they are determined to defend Syria’s sovereign borders. That’s the message. Period.

This is a good example of how “preemption” can actually prevent conflicts rather than starting them. By firing a shot over Turkey’s bow, Moscow has dampened Erdogan’s plan to annex part of N. Syria and declare it a “safe zone”. Turkey will have to scrap that plan now realizing that any attempt to seize-and-hold Syrian territory will trigger a swift and powerful Russian retaliation. Seen in this light,  Russia’s incursion looks like an extremely effective way to prevent a broader war by simply telegraphing to potential adversaries what they can and can’t do. Simply put: Putin has rewritten the rules of the game in Syria and Erdogan had better comply or else. Here’s more on Turkey from Patrick Cockburn in The Independent:
“A Turkish ground invasion into Syria, though still a possibility, would now be riskier with Russian aircraft operating in areas where Turkey would be most likely to launch an incursion. The danger for the Turks is that they now have two Kurdish quasi-states, one in Syria and one in Iraq, immediately to the south. Worse, the Syrian-Kurdish one…is run by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which is effectively the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has been fighting the Turkish state since 1984. Any insurgency by the PKK in Kurdish areas in south-east Turkey in future will be strengthened by the fact that the PKK has a de facto state of its own. It appears that Turkey’s four-year attempt to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad has failed. It is unclear what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can do about this since support from Nato is at this stage purely rhetorical. As for Turkey’s relations with Russia, Mr Erdogan says that any attack on Turkey is an attack on Nato and that “if Russia loses a friend like Turkey with whom it has co-operated on many issues, it will lose a lot.” But in Syria, at least, it appears that it is Turkey that is the loser.” (“Russia in Syria: Russian Radar Locks on to Turkish Fighter Jets“, The Unz Review)
Poor Erdogan. He rolled the dice and came up snake-eyes. He figured he could expand his would-be Ottoman Empire into Northern Syria, and now his dream is in a shambles. Should he deploy his warplanes to N Syria and openly challenge the Russian airforce?  No, he’s not that foolish. He’s going to stay on his side of the border, stomp his feet, and lash out at “evil Putin”, but at the end of the day, he’ll do nothing. And Washington’s not going to do anything either. Yes, Hillary and McCain have been calling for a no-fly zone over Syria, but that’s not going to happen. Putin won’t allow it and neither will the Security Council. And, on what pretext anyway? Is Obama really going to request a no-fly zone on the basis that Putin is killing “moderate” terrorists along with the “extreme” terrorists? That’s not a very compelling argument, in fact, even the American people are having a hard time swallowing that one. If Obama wants something from Putin, he’s going to have sit-down at a bargaining table and hash out a deal. So far, he has refused to do that, because he still thinks regime change is within his grasp. There are signs of this everywhere like this article in Turkey’s Today’s Zaman titled “İncirlik base to increase capacity by 2,250 to accommodate new personnel”:
“A tent city within İncirlik has been undergoing reconstruction for modern prefabricated houses, which will host 2,250 US military personnel, the Doğan news agency reported on Friday. During the Gulf War of 1991, a tent city was established to accommodate military personnel serving with Operation Provide Comfort (OPC) and was shut down with the end of the OPC. On Aug. 20, work began to transform the site of the tent city into a new area named “Patriot Town.” After construction is completed, the İncirlik base will have the largest capacity among the US bases in Europe… The expansion of the İncirlik base’s capacity comes at a time when Russia has launched the biggest intervention in the Middle East in decades….Moscow’s intervention means the conflict in Syria has been transformed from a proxy war.. into an international conflict in which the world’s main military powers… are directly involved in fighting.” (“İncirlik base to increase capacity by 2,250 to accommodate new personnel“, Today’s Zaman)
This article smacks of US ambitions in the Middle East. As readers can plainly see,  Washington is gearing up for another war just like it did in 1991.  And the US air war is going to be launched from “Patriot Town” at Incirlik just like we’ve been predicting since July when the deal was finalized. Here’s more background from an article at Hurriyet:
“U.S. Air Force Central Command has started deploying search and rescue helicopters and airmen at Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır Air Base in order to help with recovery operations in neighboring Iraq and Syria, it has announced…. NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and the commander of U.S. European Command, Gen. Phillip Breedlove, has said the mission will be temporary. “We will be guests of the government of Turkey at Diyarbakir Air Base. There are no plans for a permanent U.S. presence at this location … This marks yet another successful cooperative effort between the Turkish and U.S. militaries,” Breedlove said.” (“US deploys recovery aircraft in Turkey’s southeast“, Hurriyet)
“US Search and rescue helicopters” just a couple miles from Turkey’s southeastern border? Yep. In other words,  if an F-16 is shot down somewhere over Syria while trying to impose an illegal no-fly zone, then– Presto– the search and rescue helicopters are just 20 minutes away. How convenient. So you can see that– even though Putin has thrown a wrench in the works–  the Obama team is still moving ahead with its “Topple Assad” plan.  Nothing has changed, the Russian intervention just makes the future much more uncertain which is why frustrated geopolitical strategists, like Zbigniew Brzezinski, have begun to pop-up in the op-ed pages of leading newspapers blasting Putin for sabotaging their plans for regional hegemony. It’s worth noting that Brzezinski is the spiritual godfather of Islamic extremism, the man who figured out how religious nutcases could be used to foment hysteria and advance US geopolitical objectives around the world. Thus, it’s only natural that Brzezinski would want to offer his advice now in a desperate effort to avoid a legacy of failure and disgrace. Check out this clip from Politico:
“The United States should threaten to retaliate if Russia does not stop attacking U.S. assets in Syria, former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in a Financial Times op-ed published Sunday, urging “strategic boldness,” with American credibility in the Middle East and the region itself at stake….And if Russia continues to pursue non-ISIL targets, the U.S. should retaliate, he added. In these rapidly unfolding circumstances the U.S. has only one real option if it is to protect its wider stakes in the region: to convey to Moscow the demand that it cease and desist from military actions that directly affect American assets,” he said.” (“Brzezinski: Obama should retaliate if Russia doesn’t stop attacking U.S. assets“, Politico)
The people who Brzezinski breezily refers to as “American assets” in Syria are terrorists. It’s that simple. Putin doesn’t distinguish between the “moderate” terrorists and the “radical” terrorists, the good terrorists and the bad terrorists. It’s a joke. They’re all in the same pool and they’re all going to meet the same fate. They all have to be rooted out, apprehended or killed. End of story. By tweaking the war on terror narrative in a way that supports some, but condemns others, the Obama administration has backed themselves into an ideological cul de sac from which there is no way out. What they are doing is wrong and they know it is wrong. And that’s why it’s going to be so difficult to make the case for war. In a recent “must see” interview, Putin called out Obama on this very point. Here’s what he said:
“President Obama frequently mentions the threat of ISIS. Well, who on earth armed them? And who created the political climate that facilitated the current situation?  Who delivered arms to the area? Do you really not know who is fighting in Syria? They’re mercenaries mostly. They are paid money. Mercenaries work for whatever side pays more. We even know how much they are paid. We know they fight for awhile and then see that someone else pays a little more, so they go there….. The US says “We must support the civilized, democratic opposition in Syria”. So they support them, arm them, and then they join ISIS. Is it impossible for the US to think one step ahead?  We do not support this kind of policy at all. We think it’s wrong.” (Putin explains who started ISIS, you tube, 1:38 to 4:03)
See? Everyone knows what’s going on. Barack Obama is not going to initiate a confrontation with Russia to defend a fundamentally immoral CIA program that has gone south.  He will, however, do what the US always does when dealing with an adversary that can actually defend itself.  He’s going to hector, harass, threaten, demean, demonize, ridicule, and bully. He might launch another attack on the ruble, or fiddle with oil prices or impose more economic sanctions. But he’s not going to start a war with Russia,  that’s just not going to happen.

But don’t give up hope just yet, after all, there is a silver lining to this fiasco, and all of the main players know exactly what it is. It’s called Geneva. Geneva is the endgame. Geneva is the UN-backed road map for ending the war in Syria. Its provisions allow for the “establishment of a transitional governing body”, the  “participation of all groups… in a meaningful national dialogue,” and “free and fair multi-party elections.”

The treaty is straightforward and uncontroversial. The one sticking point, is whether Assad will be allowed to participate in the transitional government or not. Putin says “Yes”.  Obama says “No”. Putin is going to win this battle. Eventually, the administration will cave in and withdraw their demand that Assad step down. Their plans for regime change through the use of jihadi-proxies will have failed, and Putin will have moved the Middle East one step closer to a lasting peace and genuine security. That’s the silver lining and that’s how the war in Syria will end. Bravo, Putin.


The Empire of Chaos is in a [Electronic] Jam

The no-fly zone in Syria already exists. It is run by Russia and Washington is unable to jam it

NATO is desperate. The Pentagon is desperate. Imagine waking up one day in Washington and Brussels just to realize Russia has the ability to electronically jam — detect, trace, disable, destroy — NATO electronics within a 600 km range across Syria (and southern Turkey). Imagine the nightmare of row after row of Russian Richag-AV radar and sonar jamming systems mounted on helicopters and ships jamming everything in sight and finding every available source of electromagnetic radiation. Not only in Syria but also in Ukraine. Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army units in Europe, was even forced to qualify Russian electronic warfare capabilities in Ukraine as "eye-watering." For their part, caught in the crossfire as sitting ducks or headless chickens, that mighty ideological aircraft carrier known as the USS Think Tankland was left dabbling with the four options left for Washington to "achieve its goals" in Syria. 

The first option is containment — which is exactly what the Obama administration has been doing. The recipe was proposed in full by the Brookings Institution; "containing their activities within failed or near-failing states is the best option for the foreseeable future." But that, Think Tankland argues, would "crush the popular opposition" in Syria. There is no "popular opposition" in Syria; it's either the government in Damascus or a future under the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh Salafi-jihadi goons.

The second option is the favorite among US neocons and neoliberalcons; to weaponize the already weaponized opposition. This opposition ranges from the YPG Kurds — who actually fight on the ground against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh — to Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria and its Salafi-jihadi cohorts. Al-Nusra of course has been rebranded in the Beltway as "moderate rebels"; so this option means in practice the House of Saud weaponizing al-Qaeda while they fight under the cover of US air strikes. Pure Ionesco-style theatre of the absurd. Compounded by the fact those apocalyptic nut jobs who pass as "clerics" in Saudi Arabia, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, have duly declared jihad against Russia

The third option will go nowhere; Washington allying with "Assad just go" and Iran — not to mention Russia — in a real fight-to-the-finish  against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. Obama boxed himself in a long time ago  with "Assad must go", so he remains immobilized by a self-inflicted ippon. The fourth option is the neocon wet dream; regime change, achieved, in theory, by what I call the Coalition of the Dodgy Opportunists (CDO), as in the NATO-GCC embrace, with a Turkish starring role and attached US air strikes, plus all those thousands of CIA-trained "moderate rebels" slouching all the way to Damascus. As if the Russian campaign did not exist.

In fact, for US corporate media, it's as if the overwhelming Russian massacre — and not "containment" — of "Caliphate" assets these past three weeks is not happening at all. Hubris has metamorphosed into huge embarrassment and finally into total omission. The Obama administration's "Assad must go" diktat has also metamorphosed into a wacky version of a non-denial denial. It's plain obvious now that the Russia air campaign, way beyond ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, has destroyed the whole imperial game across "Syraq"; that same old mix of regime change, Balkanization, creating and keeping failed states, "isolating" Russia.

Moreover, and contrary to all the current rehash of Afghan mythology — where, incidentally, the Taliban continue to win in America's Longest War — Syria won't be a revisited USSR quagmire. On the contrary; while in Afghanistan in the 1980s the proverbial imperial game of using Salafi-jihadis against a secular government worked, as it worked in NATO turning Libya into a failed state, now Moscow reverse-engineered the process, smashing the Salafi-jihadis on the ground in conjunction with secular governments.

It's our (bombing) way or the highway

Which bring us to Iraq. Next week, Iraq's parliament will vote on whether to request Russian air strikes against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. Mowaffak al-Rubaie, former national security adviser to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is convinced the vote will pass — even facing Sunni and somewhat Kurdish opposition. A measure of Washington's alarm is that the new chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford was forced to fly to  Baghdad to make sure this won't happen. In his own words, the Pentagon was consumed by "angst" when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi evoked the vote.

"Angst" is bound to persist. This is all about imperial spheres of influence. A "yes" vote, on the ground, means the Russian Air Force working in tandem with ground intel collected by Shi'ite militias such as the Badr Corps and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haqq to smash all fake "Caliphate" positions. And geopolitically, a "yes" vote signifies the ultimate humiliation — after all those elaborate multi-trillion dollar plans for the "Greater Middle East" which Shock and Awe in 2003 should have set in motion.

The USS Think Tankland's prescription for all the trouble in Syria is to beef up NATO, as in "send aid of all kinds" to "protect" poor Turkey. Sultan Erdogan is possibly about to profit from a Chancellor Merkel-engineered 3 billion euro plan to "encourage" Ankara to keep on Turkish soil potential Syrian migrants bent on a peaceful invasion of the European Union. Thus the Sultan will have paved the way for being finally "accepted", in the long run, as a EU member. The problem is Sultan Erdogan not only supports ISIS/ISIL/Daesh as a regime change tool, but he also has renewed his war against PKK Kurds, which are allied with YPG Kurds, which are objectively allied with Washington.

Even that configuration does not prevent the USS Think Tankland from advising the creation of a NATO-enforced no-fly zone along the Turkish-Syria border, supported by American, Turkish, British and French troops. Beltway, now we do have a problem. This no-fly zone is already in effect. And it's run by Russia. And you won't be able to jam it. A quick final recap: the Empire of Chaos destroys Iraq; creates the conditions for the emergence of a Salafi-jihadi constellation, from al-Qaeda in Iraq to its Frankenstein, ISIS/ISIL/Daesh; does not get the oil (remember Wolfowitz's "We're the new OPEC"?); tries to destroy Syria for four years, unsuccessfully; and in the end Russia reinstates its Middle East sphere of influence as the real power fighting Salafi-jihadism across "Syraq". If this is what passes for imperial planning, the Empire of Chaos certainly does not need enemies.

Russia has restored much of its Soviet era military capability

ARMY-2015 international military technical forum. Day Three

Putin’s expansionist policy in Russia’s neighborhood is backed up by a poised and professional military thanks to Russia’s most significant military reforms since the 1930s. ECFR Visiting Fellow Gustav Gressel, asserts that reforms initiated in response to the blundering invasion of Georgia in 2008, have left Russia with a military that would make short work of any of its neighbors, were they left isolated by their Western allies, though he calls into question Russia’s capacity in Syria. Gressel argues that many Western policy makers, have been lulled into a false sense of security by focusing primarily on the military hardware component of Russian military modernization.

Russia’s fighter jets are, for now at least, conducting nearly as many strikes in a typical day against rebel troops opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the American-led coalition targeting the Islamic State has been carrying out each month this year. The operation in Syria — still relatively limited — has become, in effect, a testing ground for an increasingly confrontational and defiant Russia under Mr. Putin. In fact, as Mr. Putin himself suggested on Sunday, the operation could be intended to send a message to the United States and the West about the restoration of the country’s military prowess and global reach after decades of post-Soviet decay.

The Russian campaign in Syria is giving officials and analysts far greater insight into the new Russian military. “We’re learning more than we have in the last 10 years,” said Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, noting the use of the new strike fighters and the new cruise missile, known as the Kalibr. “As it was described to me, we are going to school on what the Russian military is capable of today.”

The Russian advancements go beyond new weaponry, reflecting an increase in professionalism and readiness. Russia set up its main operations at an air base near Latakia in northwestern Syria in a matter of three weeks, dispatching more than four dozen combat planes and helicopters, scores of tanks and armored vehicles, rocket and artillery systems, air defenses and portable housing for as many as 2,000 troops. It was Moscow’s largest deployment to the Middle East since the Soviet Union deployed in Egypt in the 1970s. “What continues to impress me is their ability to move a lot of stuff real far, real fast,” Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of United States Army forces in Europe, said in an interview.

Since its air campaign started on Sept. 30, Russia has quickly ramped up its airstrikes from a handful each day to nearly 90 on some days, using more than a half-dozen types of guided and unguided munitions, including fragmentary bombs and bunker busters for hardened targets


4 Ways Russia's Military Is More Advanced Than You Might Think

Vladimir Putin is not a man to back down from provocation, especially a direct, lethal provocation like the shooting down of a Russian Su-24 aircraft by Turkey on Tuesday. Such an attack raises the possibility of a direct military confrontation, and makes you wonder just what Russia could do if you rattled its cage. How dangerous are they? Russia's defense complex may be just a shadow of the old Soviet Union, with defense spending only about 12 percent of the USA's. As such, many in the West tend to see Russian hardware as second-rate—stuck with 1970's electronics, crude manufacturing standards, and no money to improve matters. If the Russians make anything good, the thinking goes, they must have copied it from the West. The poor performance of the Russian-equipped Iraqi army in 2003 (and Russian-supplied Arab forces against the Israelis) reinforces the idea of inferior Russian military tech. In reality, Russia can be innovative in weapons design, and sometimes ahead of the West. Occasionally the country pursues crazy ideas than cannot work, like mind control weaponry. Yet just as often they develop weapons with no counterparts in the U.S.


Nobody should doubt Russian rocket science. After all, they have provided all the manned flights to the International Space Station since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, and Russia's military rockets have a long pedigree. In 1973, new Soviet-built guided anti-tank missiles carried by Egyptian infantry decimated Israeli armor in their first large-scale use on the battlefield. Similarly, Russian SA-7 "Strela," a shoulder-launched heat-seeking surface-to-air missile, gave the Israeli Air Force real problems in the same 1973 conflict. They did not shoot down many aircraft, but forced pilots to change tactics. Portable missiles meant a plane could not just cruise over looking for targets.

The SA-7 was the contemporary of an American missile, the FIM-43 Redeye. Both weapons were limited to shooting at the jet exhaust of receding aircraft only; the Russians  introduced an upgraded Strela-3 which could tackle aircraft head-on in 1974, a capability which the US could not match until the FIM-92 Stinger arrived in 1982. Russian surface-to-air missiles are still formidable, hence the long-running concerns over the possible supply of the advanced S-300 system to Iran. The Russians themselves have a more sophisticated air-defense system, the S-400, which they are now set to deploy in Syria. These are dangerous weapons. Far from being backward, the Russian developers have "mastered the difficult embedded software technology so critical for radar and electronic warfare system," according to analyst Carlo Kopp.


In air-to-air combat, the Russians have long pursued an approach of firing salvoes rather than single shots. Planes like the Su-27 Flanker may carry a dozen missiles, launching two or three at a time. The missiles have different guidance types—a mixture of infra-red and radar-guided—that makes jamming or avoiding all of them difficult, and gives a high chance of a kill. A radar-guided missile may be fired alongside another missile that homes in on radar jamming, guaranteeing a hit whether or not a jammer is used. Russian aircraft's missiles are sophisticated, too. The Russian Vympel R-73 dogfight missile has an "off-boresight" capability to hit targets not directly in front of the aircraft. It was introduced in 1982, and NATO planners soon noted the advantage it gave Russian pilots in a close-quarters fight compared to their equivalent, the AIM-9 Sidewinder. U.S. pilots did not gain the same off-boresight capability until the AIM-9X version of the Sidewinder more than 20 years later. Meanwhile, the Russian R-73 has enjoyed several upgrades, and missile buffs still argue about which is better.

For longer-range air combat (40 miles or more) the Russians have the Vympel R-77, another advanced piece of hardware. The latest version has an Active Phased Array Antenna that gives it "zero reaction time to unexpected evolutions of the target," according to the designers. Called the "can't miss missile", the K-77M appears to be more sophisticated than the current version of the West's equivalent, the AIM-120 AMRAAM. War Is Boring writes that, "The U.S. military doesn't have anything like it … or adequate defenses." The K-77M was revealed in 2013 and may already be in production. In any conflict, US warplanes will be heavily dependent on stealth technology to make them invisible to radar and give them the edge. Of course the Russians have long been working on counter-stealth systems. For example the Russian 55Zh6ME air defense radar released in 2013 has multiple radar modules working at different wavelengths. It is easy to design an aircraft that is invisible at one wavelength, but progressively harder the more wavelengths involved. We do not know how well this counter-stealth radar works, but aviation guru Bill Sweetman points out that the Russians have had 25 years to work on it.

The Weird Stuff

The Russians also have a surprising ability to think out of the box—for good and bad. For example, the Shkval rocket-torpedo forms a bubble around itself, reducing friction to travel at an amazing 230 mph under water – more than four times as fast as any Western torpedo. The same work produced a unique underwater assault rifle for Special Forces; US development in similar "supercavitating" projectiles lags behind. This oddball thinking extends to the strategic arena. In 2012, Putin wrote an article for Rossiiskaya Gazeta on the strategic military balance in which he advocated "weapons systems based on new principles: beam, geophysical, wave, genetic, psychophysical and other technology."

Some of this is dubious. In the field of new wave principles, the Soviets started research into Torsion field weapons in 1987. These are supposed energy fields (not recognized by Western science) with electrical and gravitational effects, and researchers promised to use them to shoot down ballistic missiles. A review by the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1991 concluded that torsion fields were a scam to get money, having attracted some five hundred million roubles of state funding (roughly $15 billion dollars). Russian research into so-called "psychotronic" weapons for mind control has been similarly fruitless. "Geophysical weapons" to create earthquakes remain imaginary, though one Russian analyst suggested earlier this year that the Yellowstone supervolcano might be triggered with a nuclear strike to destroy the US. So there's that.

The Unknown

We can still expect the unexpected. A recent Russian TV news report appears to have leaked Putin's plans for a unmanned submarine carrying a 10-megaton dirty bomb. This would be detonated at a port city, submarine base, or other coastal site, spreading a lethal radioactive cloud over a wide area. The main purpose of this unusual delivery method seems to be bypassing any possible antimissile defences. Scare stories notwithstanding, the Russians are unlikely to have any exotic superweapons. But it is dangerous for the rest of the world to underestimate its capability. A regional conflict in Syria may not be a pushover against second-rate forces with outdated equipment, but could turn into something very much bloodier.


NATO Rings Alarm Over Russia’s Might in Mediterranean

NATO military chiefs are raising alarm over what they now view as "a wider strategic plan of Vladimir Putin’s Russia to challenge the west closer to home"; they now fear Russia’s fast-developing arsenal of ship-launched cruise and ballistic missiles is able to restrict the alliance’s "ability to easily deploy military assets" in the Mediterranean.

“Russia has not had any sizeable presence in the Mediterranean since the end of the Cold War. And a lack of investment until recently in its decaying Black Sea fleet, based in Crimea, had led many strategic military planners to overlook the entire theatre as a possible source of concern when it came to Moscow,” reads a recent article in the UK newspaper The Financial Times.

However Russia’s recent success in Syria has changed Western rhetoric. “We have to be prepared for Russia to be [in Syria] as a factor for a long time,” the newspaper quotes Alexander Vershbow, NATO’s deputy secretary-general as saying. He especially noted what he referred to as “Moscow’s permanent, disruptive presence south of the Bosphorus”. “[We have to] think about the broader consequences of this build up in the Eastern Mediterranean and the capacity of these airbases,” he said. What sparks even more alarm is that “Russia’s renewed presence” apparently “threatens to restrict the freedom of navigation”, which allows NATO “to quickly and easily deploy military assets”. For the US, for example, it could complicate its ability to readily project naval power into the Gulf, the newspaper says.

“It would have made a NATO decision to intervene in the Libyan conflict in 2011 far more difficult to plan.” With an enlarged fleet so far south, Russia’s recently inked agreement with Cyprus giving its navy berthing rights also presents fresh challenges, the outlet says. “Russian surveillance and electronic warfare assets now have the potential to be legally and regularly brought close to the British Royal Air Force base at Akrotiri, home of one of NATO’s most importance listening stations.”

“The deployment to support Assad is not the end of the story,” the newspaper quotes Jonathan Eyal, international director at the Royal United Services Institute in London as saying. “This is really a fundamental shift in Russian posture that will be long lasting.” Russia’s Mediterranean fleet bristles with its most powerful anti-aircraft missiles — s300 systems — which have been fitted to all but its smallest ships, the newspaper says.

NATO officials are now alarmed that for NATO it creates what military tacticians refer to as an anti-access area-denial problem — a no fly-zone — but one directed against the west. For the first time, NATO thus has to practice without assuming it will have total control of the skies. “It’s something entirely new,” the newspaper quotes Gen Mercier as saying. “We have now a situation where we are exercising in a scenario where NATO does not necessarily have the balance of military power.”

Putin Building a New Byzantine Empire

An interesting Israeli look at the situation in Syria: It must be noted that only the emergence in the Middle East of Putin’s Russia as the successor of the past USSR will lead to regional stabilization, due to the Byzantine heritage of Moscow.

Putin is consistently working on creation of a new superstate, “Imperial Orthodox-Byzantine Russia”, designed to replace the Communist USSR which broke up 25 years ago. This power will become the center of a huge regional block including the countries neighboring Russia. This also concerns the Middle East, which the new Russia considers to be space where its interests in the sphere of national security are manifest. Putin’s plans to create the new Russian imperial power are shown in very different spheres. Recently they affected Israel in connection with the events in Syria and partly in Iraq. Russia is strengthening its presence also in Jerusalem: in Muscovy in Ein-Karem, in the Sergiyev Courtyard in the city center, and other Orthodox religious objects in the capital and its suburbs, as for example in the church of Alexander Nevsky in the Old City. At present it is possible to note the following facts:

War in Georgia in 2008, with two areas with Russian population torn away — South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
War on Donbass in Ukraine where Russian population predominates, and where the region received the name Novorossiya. Annexation of the Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea, seized from Ukraine. Creation of the Russian outpost on the Syrian coast of the Mediterranean Sea (with the participation of Assad, Hezbollah, Iranians, and Shiites) in Tartus and in Latakia, facing the economic waters of Syria which are hiding a shelf with rich mineral deposits — oil and gas (in parallel with sections of the economic waters of Lebanon, Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt).

The events in Syria belong to traditional Russian strategy, according to which Russia must have presence at the “warm seas” in the south — the Black Sea, the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles leading to the East Mediterranean, which Russia considers as operative space to ensure its national interests in the security realm. In the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea there is the Suez Canal leading to the Red Sea, and from there to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. The necessity of restraining Islamic anarchy also plays a role, as numerous Muslims live in the Russian Federation, and some of them, primarily Chechens, have joined ISIS. In Greater Moscow there live about three million Muslims.

The vacuum which has generated anarchy

The policy of the western states in the Middle East has created a vacuum which has generated anarchy. The most radical manifestation of this process is ISIS, with whom nobody is seriously fighting (a similar phenomenon was formed as a result of anarchy in the region about one thousand years ago under the name of the “Assassins”). This all led to political deadlock and loss of vision, which in turn has been expressed in the breakdown of the modern states created by Great Britain and France, with assistance of the USA, after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Lebanon. The threat to the Hashemite kingdom in Jordan is also growing and getting stronger. This should also seriously disturb Israel. Post-communist Russia under the direction of Vladimir Putin intends to inherit the identity and essence of the “Eastern Byzantine Empire”, which appeared as a result of the split in the Christian world into western Catholic and eastern Orthodox churches.

The stabilizing role which Byzantium played in the Middle East passed from it to the Ottoman Empire and then and also to the USSR. All these empires had the common “Byzantine Eastern” identity, even though the Ottoman Empire was a Muslim state. The USSR existed in the conditions of friction with the West, first of all with the USA, as well as with post-colonial France and Great Britain. At the same time, operating in coordination with the western countries, the USSR managed to maintain secular national stability in the Arab Middle East. This was facilitated by Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was advancing a secular-nationalist pan-Arab ideology. This course was carried out in cooperation with Baathist parties in Iraq and Syria and in “Movement of Non-aligned Countries” bloc, representing the Third world freed from colonialism. It must be noted that only the emergence in the Middle East of Putin’s Russia as the successor of the past USSR will lead to regional stabilization, due to the Byzantine heritage of Moscow. As appears from their recent statements, US Secretary of State John Kerry and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are beginning to understand this.
The new equation in the Middle East

Russia has come forward in the world arena in its new “Orthodox-Byzantine-Imperial” cloak. It can construct a new equation to restore stability in the Middle East. Such a development of events will in turn lead to weakening the Islamic messianic fanaticism expressed in ISIS. This phenomenon corresponds to Messianic Judaism and messianic Protestantism-evangelism in Christianity. This process will take place in cooperation with the West. The main participants will be Russia, the West, and the Sunni Arab countries which have not fallen into anarchy. They have a community of interests which is expressed in aspiring anew to stabilize the post-colonial Middle East, which is collapsing before our eyes. For this purpose it is essential to strengthen the system of authority, which is distinct from western democracy which cannot be inculcated in this region. A further purpose of the program is to put an end to a flow of refugees and illegal immigrants fleeing from the bleeding Middle East to Greece, or to Italy from Libya. The flow of illegal immigrants from the Middle Eastern states seriously threatens the demographic and cultural stability of Europe.

New stabilization of the Middle East will be carried out according to Ottoman-Byzantine eastern principles, instead of western. These methods are time-honored, tested and rolled out over a thousand years. These include creation of autonomous structures and provision of collective security to a mosaic of religious and ethnic groups in the Middle East within stable state formations under the Russian-Byzantine aegis. The system of “religious communities and millets”, somewhat like cantons, worked remarkable well in the region for generations. Great Britain, having accepted the mandate for Palestine, also used the same principles, adopting relevant laws on communities which are still operative in Israel, Palestinian Authority, and Jordan. A return to this system will benefit various religious, ethnic, cultural, and clan communities in the Arab Middle East. These include Kurds, Palestinians, Druzes, Alawites (in Syria), Alawites (in Turkey), Yezidi (fire worshipers living in Iraq, against whom genocide is occurring currently), Assyrians, numerous Christian communities of the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic orientation, Turkmens, Bahai, and many others. This assumption leans on the fact of a community of interests of Russia and the USA. Washington aspires to reduce its own intervention in the affairs of the region and presence in the Middle East. This tendency is associated with the global priorities of the USA, requiring rapid transfer of the American attention to the Far East.

Stabilization and initialization

The information mentioned above means that stabilization will occur on the basis of a restart of the Middle East. There are no two ways about it. Vladimir Putin plays a key positive role in this process. He has already demonstrated an ability to show restraint in the question of a Syrian chemical weapon. He will likewise direct and counterbalance the activity of Iran and its satellite in the agancy of Hezbollah, in accordance with Russian interests. Putin has been involved in the stabilization of Syria, and China in the fight against ISIS. Beijing has its own interest in eliminating ISIS associated with the presence, in the ranks of this group, of fighters from among the Uighur, the Chinese Muslim minority. There is also interest in Germany, which is striving with all its efforts to stabilize Syria and Iraq for the sake of terminating the flow of refugees from these states to European countries. One more state interested in the same process is France. The French citizens, both those of Muslim origin and those newly converted, are fighting on behalf of ISIS. In addition, France has a a link with the region since the times of the mandate to Syria and Lebanon, which it received after the First World War. The Russian-Byzantine relationship, based on intuition and understanding, in this case is more preferable than the rigid western approach based on a black-and-white picture of the world.

“Byzantism” corresponds better to the necessity to construct a complex policy in a region abounding with ethnic, cultural, religious, national, and tribal groups, so as to stabilize it. Only a synthesis and a common denominator between western thinking with its limitations, and the Byzantine approach based on the principle of “union of cultures”, can become the solution for the chaos and the anarchy which have generated dangerous tendencies and created the conditions for the flourishing of messianic ideas in Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The situation in Syria

Taking into account of the above, Vladimir Putin is acting properly, presenting the world with the fact of the creation of a Russian outpost in Syria. It is possible that he will act the same way in Iraq and in Benghazi, which is the location of the lawful government of Libya which is at war with local detachment of ISIS. A new formation of the imperial periphery of Russia provides for the conclusion of strong bonds between Moscow and as-Sisi’s Egypt, Greek Cyprus, and Tsipras’ Greece, as well as the former Yugoslavian republics, Bulgaria, and Romania. Russia also plays a leading role in the BRICS group which includes besides itself Brazil, India, China, and the Republic of South Africa, a powerful bloc which has become a counterweight to the USA, Europe, and Japan.

Avigdor Lieberman, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, understood the significance of these processes and the importance of “Byzantism”, and hence tried to include Israel in this system of unions so as to protect Israeli national and regional interests. But in this regard, Benjamin Netanyahu prefers not to engage in strategy and is keen on tactical attempts of static rather than dynamic management of the conflict. He conducts himself in the style of Golda Meir, who led the country to the Yom Kippur War in 1973, as mentioned in the report of Agranat’s commission of inquiry.


Did Russia’s Intervention Derail Turkey’s Plan to Invade Syria?

Thousands of Iranian soldiers have arrived in Syria to join a major offensive against Sunni militants located in the northwest section of the country. The Iranian ground forces will be part of a joint operation that will include the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Russia and fighters from Lebanese militia, Hezbollah. The assault comes on the heels of a withering two week aerial bombardment of enemy positions by the Russian Air Force which has wreaked havoc on US-backed jihadis along the western corridor. The mobilization of Iranian troops indicates that the 4 year-long conflict is entering its final phase where the Russian-led coalition will attempt to crush the predominantly-Sunni militias and restore security across the country.

Currently, the fiercest fighting is taking place in three areas that are critical for Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s survival: The Rastan enclave, the North Hama salient, and the Ghab plain. While Assad’s forces are expected to overpower the jihadis at all three sites, the militants are dug in and have destroyed a number of armored vehicles and tanks. The regime must seize this area in order to control the M5 highway which runs north to south and connects the cities that create an integrated state. Once these enemy strongholds are broken into smaller pockets of resistance, coalition forces will move further north to close the borders with Turkey while attempting to recapture the strategic city of Aleppo. (See: Sic Semper Tyrannis for an excellent breakdown of the ground offensive with maps.)

According to military analyst Patrick Bahzad:

“Overall, the outcome of the current operations in the three areas mentioned above is clear. Whether the various rebels groups have thrown everything they got into these battles is hard to say, therefore no assessment can be made as to how their fighting capabilities will be affected by the coming defeat. It is also worth mentioning that once SAA units have managed to break through rebel defences…. this might cause a disorganised retreat of the trapped rebel units. That moment of the battle could be crucial, as it might be the starting point to a massive artillery barrage (MRLs) and large RuAF airstrikes, resulting in crippling casualties among rebel ranks.” (Sic Semper Tyrannis)

In other words, there’s a good chance that the jihadis will realize that they have no chance of winning and will head for the exits, but it’s still too early to say when that will be. According to a report in Reuters, “…a large mobilization of the Syrian army … elite Hezbollah fighters, and thousands of Iranians” are moving northwards to retake Aleppo. However, ISIS militants are also headed towards the city from the east which means that a major clash could take place at anytime. In response, the Russian air force has increased its bombing raids to more than 100 sorties per day. That number is expected to double in the days ahead as the fighting intensifies. According to early reports from Syria Direct, the Syrian army has enclosed Aleppo in an open fist configuration that cuts off the main artery of vital supplies to the north from Turkey. As the fist tightens around the city, US-backed rebel units have fled to the west which is now the only possible escape route. The panicky retreat has precipitated protests against rebel leaders who are blamed for losses on the battlefield and for allowing “the regime’s disastrous completion of the Aleppo siege.” One of the militia’s commanders summarized his frustration saying:

“The myriad brigades under al-Jabha a-Shamiya’s umbrella in northeast Aleppo are bleeding men and hardware across multiple fronts…They’re caught between regime forces to the south, and IS to the north….(Due to) the complete lack of coordination between each brigade, and not nearly enough guns and cash from the Americans to compete with the much-better equipped Islamic State, and they had no choice but to retreat.” (“Jabha Shamiya commander blames ‘complete lack of coordination’ for Aleppo losses“, Syria Direct)

Aleppo is a key node in Moscow’s strategy to defeat terrorism and reestablish order across Syria. The battle is bound to be hard-fought, possibly involving close-range, house-to-house urban warfare. This is why it is imperative that coalition forces seal the border from Turkey and stop the flow of arms and supplies as soon as possible. There are rumors that Putin will use Russia’s elite paratroopers north of Aleppo for that very mission, but so far, they are just rumors. Putin has repeatedly said that he will not allow Russian ground troops to fight in Syria. There’s no way to overstate the Obama administration’s destructive and nihilistic role in Syria. Along with its Gulf allies, the US has funded, armed and trained the bulk of the jihadi hoodlums that have ripped the state apart and killed nearly one quarter of a million people. Now that Putin has decided to put an end to Washington’s savage proxy war, the administration is planning to add more fuel to the fire by air-dropping pallets of ammunition and weapons to their fighters in central and eastern Syria. The editors of the New York Times derided the program as “hallucinatory.” Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“…the White House on Friday unveiled a plan that is even more incoherent and fraught with risk. The Pentagon will stop putting rebel fighters through training in neighboring countries, a program that was designed to ensure that fighters were properly vetted before they could get their hands on American weapons and ammunition. The new plan will simply funnel weapons through rebel leaders who are already in the fight and appear to be making some headway….. Washington’s experience in Syria and other recent wars shows that proxy fighters are usually fickle and that weapons thrust into a war with no real oversight often end up having disastrous effects……..The initial plan was dubious. The new one is hallucinatory.” (“An Incoherent Syria War Strategy“, New York Times editorial Board)

The administration has also delivered “27 container loads of weaponry to the (Syrian) Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD)” and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The weapons are supposed to be used against ISIS, but the move has infuriated Turkish president Erdogan who regards the group as terrorists. While it appears that the Obama team is merely looking for ways to show its critics that it is being proactive in its fight against terrorism, it may have created the perfect pretext for a Turkish invasion into N Syria which would greatly complicate the situation on the ground. Here’s a clip from the Turkish Daily Hurriyet:

“Findings in the aftermath of deadly explosions in Ankara on Oct. 10 targeting pro-Kurdish and leftist activists indicate the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as well as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), may be involved, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Wednesday. “As we deepen the investigation, based on the [information obtained about] Twitter accounts and IP addresses, there is a high possibility that Daesh [Arabic name for ISIL] and the PKK have played an effective role in the bombing,” he said while speaking at a press conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in İstanbul.” (“Turkish PM says both ISIL and PKK may have role in Ankara bombing“, Hurriyet)

There is, in fact, no evidence of PKK (Kurdish militia) involvement at all. DNA samples from the two suicide bombers indicate they were both members of ISIS. The only reason Erdogan would want to implicate the PKK would be to either discredit his (Kurdish) political rivals or to create a pretext for invading Syria. (Note: A Turkish court has imposed a confidentiality order on the bombing investigation that strongly hints at a government cover up. According to Altan Tan, a deputy of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), “Bombs explode all over Turkey. Two conclusions can be made on this — either the government is behind those attacks or it failed to prevent those attacks.” Either way, the government is responsible.) While Turkey’s future role in the Syrian conflict remains uncertain, US support for the Kurds greatly increases the chances of a Turkish invasion and a broader, regional war. Is this the administration’s real objective, to draw Turkish troops across the border into Syria so that Russia gets bogged down in a costly and protracted quagmire? It sounds far fetched, but there are points worth considering. For example, on CBS news program 60 Minutes, Obama said this:

“I’ve been skeptical from the get go about the notion that we were going to effectively create this proxy army inside of Syria. My goal has been to try to test the proposition, can we be able to train and equip a moderate opposition that’s willing to fight ISIL? And what we’ve learned is that as long as Assad remains in power, it is very difficult to get those folks to focus their attention on ISIL.” (60 Minutes)

Naturally, Obama wants everyone to believe that “it’s all Assad’s fault”, after all, he’s not going to blame himself. But he is being honest about one thing: He never really thought arming Sunni extremists was a good idea. In other words, he supported the objective (regime change) just not the methods. (arming jihadis) And he probably felt vindicated when–after 4 years of fighting–the conflict deteriorated into a stalemate. So if he was convinced that arming jihadis wasn’t going to work, then what was his backup plan, his Plan B? We’ve suggested in earlier columns that Obama might have struck a deal with Erdogan to launch a Turkish invasion of Syria as long as the US provided air cover for Turkish ground forces. We think this was part of a quid pro quo that Obama agreed to for the use of the strategic airbase at Incirlik. Keep in mind, Erdogan withheld US access to Incirlik for more than a year until the US met his demand to help him topple Assad. Naturally, this is not something that Obama could acknowledge publicly, but it would have been an essential part of any agreement. An interview on PBS News Hour last week with David Kramer, the former assistant secretary of state during the George W. Bush administration, provides some support for this theory. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David Kramer, what about that? There is the real worry if the U.S. gets involved, it gets sucked in, dragged in, and can’t get out.

DAVID KRAMER: The Turks had indicated a long time ago that they were prepared to send forces in if the United States provided cover and support. So, we should create safe zones. We should create no-fly zones. We should enforce those for any planes that would threaten people in those areas, whether they’re Syrian planes or Russian planes. We should give the Russians full notice that any violations or attacks on those zones would constitute an attack that we would have to respond to. Nobody wants this. There are bad decisions that have to be made here, but that’s where we are right now. And I think unless we do that, we will continue to see people get killed, we will continue to see people flee Syria, so there aren’t any good solutions. We have to find the least worst options.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But my question is, isn’t that an entire new level of risk, U.S. planes get shot down, U.S. troops get potentially captured, not to mention a conflict, potential conflict with Russia, unintentional?

DAVID KRAMER: We have the Turks that have indicated a willingness to go ahead. We may have other countries, including from the Gulf, although they’re not great contributors to this kind of operation. The United States could provide the air support, to provide the cover that way. I think there is a way of doing this without putting U.S. forces on the ground, but there aren’t any good options here.” (“Pulling the plug on rebel training, what’s next for U.S. in Syria?“, PBS News Hour)

Kramer not only sounds extremely confident that “The Turks… were prepared to send forces in if the United States provided cover and support.” He also seems to imply that a great many Washington elites were aware of the deal but kept it under their hats. Fortunately, Putin’s military intervention sabotaged any prospect of implementing Plan B, so we’ll never know whether Turkey would have invaded or not. What matters now is that the Russian-led coalition move fast to solidify their gains, disrupt enemy supply lines, block the exits, seal the borders and discourage Turkey from taking any action that would expand the war. Erdogan will surely listen to reason if it is backed by force. The jihadi mercenaries must either surrender or be wiped out as quickly as possible so that 11 million Syrians can return safely to their homes and begin the arduous task of starting over.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

Russia Blocked Israeli Military Fights Over Syria, Lebanon

Russian forces sent out a warning to the Israeli Air Force after Israeli jets were detected near Russian controlled airspace near the Syrian–Lebanese border, Lebanese media outlet As Safir reported Friday. The warning was issued after a Russian radar system spotted Israeli jets approaching Russian-controlled airspace two weeks ago, a Lebanese diplomatic official said, according to the report. Russia’s defense ministry said Thursday that its forces in Syria had set up a “hotline” with Israel’s military to avoid clashes in the sky over the war-torn country.

An “information-sharing” mechanism “has been established through a hotline between the Russian aviation command center at the Hmeimim air base (in Syria) and a command post of the Israeli air force,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the two sides were undergoing training on how to cooperate. According to As Safir, the Lebanese source said that Russian aircraft immediately blocked the Israeli jets’ path while they flew above the Akkar region in northern Lebanon.

“The Russians immediately sent a clear warning to the Israelis that entering Syrian airspace would be a pretext for opening fire,” the source added. According to the paper, which is considered loyal to Hezbollah, the Israeli aircraft quickly heeded the warnings and changed their course. Russia and Israel have been working to find a way to avoid unintended collisions between their aircraft over Syria since President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to set up a “mechanism” at talks in Moscow last month. Russia launched a bombing campaign in Syria on September 30 at the request of its long-standing ally Bashar Assad that Moscow says is targeting Islamic State jihadists and other “terrorist” groups.

Israel has reportedly launched air strikes in Syria against Iranian arms transfers to Hezbollah and Israeli officials are believed to fear that Russia’s intervention could limit their room for maneuvre. The United States and its allies involved in a coalition bombing IS have sharply criticised Russia’s air campaign and say that the majority of its strikes have hit more moderate rebel groups fighting Assad. Moscow has blasted the accusations and says Washington has rebuffed calls to cooperate more closely.

It looks like Russian warships may be shutting out Israel's Air Force access to Syria'am.jpeg

The Israeli Air Force has an impressive reputation. As a son of an IAF veteran, I grew up hearing their stories and watching runways. I was told tales of daring dogfights against the Egyptian spitfires in the early days, or the overwhelming casualties the IAF caused to the Egyptian Air Force during the Six-Day War (’67)—a total of 452 Arab aircraft were destroyed, 49 of which were aerial victories. Over the years, the IAF has become more technologically advanced and is now an important part of our national security. But above all, it has become an important element of our special operations, providing our forces with the ability to reach far, silently and in deadly fashion.
Operations such as OP Babylon (bombing an Iraqi nuclear plant) or Operation Orchard were important milestones in the IAF progression and development; their reputation has since helped the Jewish country to rule the sky in a manner that offers us freedom of action, even in such a complex conflict as the Syrian Civil War. But with the recent developments in Syria, the Russians working to establish a stronger presence in the region, it is likely that the era of the IAF crossing borders as if merely walking over a sidewalk is nearly over. The Russian Navy’s Black Sea flagship, the guided missile cruiserMoscow (or Moskva ‘glory’), left from Sevastopol in Crimea on Thursday, 24 September, 2015, according to Russian state-controlled media. It is currently located to the west of Latakia, in western Syria.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD), “In the course of the training activity, the Russian ships will practice organization of anti-submarine, anti-ship, and air defense, as well as search-and-rescue activities and rendering assistance to distressed vessels. During the exercise, the military seamen are to perform over 40 different combat tasks including missile and artillery firings at surface and aerial targets.”

By positioning the Moskva, a cruiser armed with S300 missiles, west of Latakia, the Russians have endangered the IAF’s favorite corridor of flight into Syria. The IAF has no stealth capabilities to circumvent this anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) bubble, nor any other Air Force in the area. Putin managed to do in several days what Obama failed to do in the last three years: He’s created a true no-fly zone. In fact, Putin’s actions suggest (my opinion) that he’s willing to force the coalition and the Israel Air Force, specifically, into reporting and coordinating their flights in the region—an act that I’m sure no one is really in favor of or willing to comply with. The Moskva carries an estimated 64 S-300 missiles (according to foreign sources) and could intercept multiple targets up to 150 miles away, making it a serious threat in addition to other Russian assets in the region. The presence of the Moskva essentially locks down British air assets in Cyprus, American F-16s in the southern part of Turkey, and the Israeli Air Force, which likes to use that particular flight corridor for penetration into Syria, or alternatively when flying over the western part of Lebanon. Any flights in or around the country will now be quite tricky for the IAF to accomplish.

Currently, there’s a great deal of disinformation and propaganda on the web pertaining to Russian activities in the region, and their ostensibly benevolent operations to rid the region of the likes of ISIS. A lot of false information is circulating and PSYOPs are in full effect. But one may not ignore reality: Russian activities on the diplomatic field suggest that the Russians have intentionally established their own no-fly zones, creating anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) bubbles in Syria through which no aircraft, unless stealth capable, can travel. The Russian Navy has reestablished its old Cold War base, Tartus, located on the western coast of Syria. That, along with a Russian airbase in northwestern Syria, ensures Russia can maintain steady supply routes into Syria to support its military actions. Considering this and the sophisticated air-defense capabilities the Russians have already deployed in Syria, perhaps the entire operation is about more than merely buoying Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the short term. As the saying goes, ”Russia is not just a country, it’s a mentality.”

Concerning aspects of Russia’s presence in Syria
  1. The Israeli policy in Syria was to indirectly support rebels and entities on our eastern border (in the Golan Heights region) in order to counter Iranian attempts to support their proxy war branches. The current Russian campaign has made the region easier for the Iranian ‘advisors’ (read: Quds Force) and the Kuntar militias (Hezbollah proxy) to assume their positions and launch future operations. With the previous IAF airstrikes in the area, Hezbollah and the Iranians were forced to think twice before moving their tools. With that region being protected by a sophisticated air defense like the one Russia has introduced, operated by personnel who can actually read what’s written on the keyboard, the IAF’s influence has essentially been counteracted.
  2. When the U.S. moved into Iraq, they did it the way they know best: with tons of troops and equipment, in a big and impressive way. The problem is, when the U.S. left, military bases and vast amounts of military equipment were left behind, mostly just to save the expense of bringing it back home. Now the Russians are mirroring this approach—dumping major hardware into the conflict—which may result in a similar situation to that of Iraq. The Israeli government was the first to recognize this horrifying possibility. Netanyahu said, “If anybody wants to use Syrian territory to transfer nuclear weapons to Hezbollah, we’ll take action.”
So what happens to coalition surveillance flights? What about airdrops to parties in the region supported by the coalition? This will become another complicated situation which will require the precision of a surgeon and the creativity of artists. One thing is certain: The Kremlin’s recent move is dangerous and places us all in danger. It may be time to dust off the old Cold War books. 


In an attempt to establish a no-fly zone, Russia has created a roadblock for current and future actions by coalition forces in the region. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know how many corners the Syrian table has, but I do know one thing: Too many airplanes belonging to rival factions flying in the same airspace should be a wake-up call to do a home check. The proposed American no-fly zone idea was meant to protect civilians. The Russian no-fly zone does the opposite and poses complications in lands far beyond Syria. It protects the Assad regime as it continues to kill civilians. The more Obama allows the Russian military to become involved in Syria, the more I suspect that Obama has reconsidered forcing Assad out of the game. 

UPDATE: As of October 7, 2015, for the first time, four Russian Navy ships used surface-to-surface, long-range missiles in an ”operational” setting. The bombardment struck 26 targets in Syria. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, 11 hits were confirmed. Shoigu also said that the strikes were launched from the Caspian Sea using long-range missiles (Klub series) that flew 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) to their targets. 

Iraanian ambassador: Delivery of S-300 air defence systems to Tehran begins

An S300PMU2 "Favorite" anti-aircraft missile © Ruslan Krivobok

The delivery of Russian S-300 anti-missile rocket systems to Iran has started, Iran’s ambassador to Moscow said in an interview. Iran is getting one of the latest versions of the air defence complex. The delivery is underway, ambassador Mehdi Sanaei told Persian-language daily, Etemaad, as cited by Tasnim news agency. The news was not welcome in Washington, with US State Department spokesman Mark Toner reiterating the US stance on the issue in a briefing on Monday.

We made clear time and again our objections to any sale of the S-300 missile system to Iran,” Toner told reporters. Earlier this month Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan announced Tehran is going to get Russian air defence systems by the end of the year, which in Iran ends on March 20, 2016. Brigadier General Dehghan stressed that a major batch of the hardware is going to be delivered in less than two months’ time. “Iran has bought as many S-300 air defense systems as it needs,” Dehghan said, adding that Iranian operators of S-300 system are being trained in Russia.

The initial S-300 contract between Moscow and Tehran was signed in 2007 and implied the delivery of five S-300 squadrons worth $US 800 million. In 2010 the contract was put on hold by then-President Dmitry Medvedev due to the UN imposing sanctions on Iran. In return, Iran lodged a $4 billion lawsuit at an international court in Geneva against Russia’s arms export agency Rosoboronexport. In April 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin repealed the ban. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on the decision, saying Moscow’s voluntary embargo on S-300 deliveries was no longer necessary due to the progress in talks on Iran’s nuclear program.

In October, Iran’s Defense Ministry confirmed Moscow’s readiness to deliver the S-300 system under an agreement signed between the two countries. Sergey Chemezov, the head of the Russian state-owned high-tech giant Rostec, said that the new contract came into force on November 9. Iran has bought Russia’s most well-known air defense systems in one of its latest versions S-300PMU-2 Favorite, TASS reported earlier this month during the Dubai Airshow 2015. The last time Russia supplied S-300 systems abroad was in 2010, when 15 squadrons were delivered to China.


Fox News: Top Cuban general, key forces in Syria to aid Assad, Russia, sources say

Cuban military operatives reportedly have been spotted in Syria, where sources believe they are advising President Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers and may be preparing to man Russian-made tanks to aid Damascus in fighting rebel forces backed by the U.S. Gen. Leopoldo Cintra Frias, head of  Cuba's Armed Forces, recently visited Syria to lead a group of Cuban military personnel joining forces with Russia in their support of Assad, according to information received by the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. On Wednesday, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News that Cuban paramilitary and special forces units are on the ground in Syria, citing evidence from intelligence reports. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cuban troops may have been training in Russia and may have arrived in Syria on Russian planes.
" ... it would indicate that General Raul Castro is more interested in supporting his allies, Russia and Syria, than in continuing to normalize relations with the U.S." - Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami
An Arab military officer at the Damascus airport reportedly witnessed two Russian planes arrive there with Cuban military personnel on board. When the officer questioned the Cubans, they told him they were there to assist Assad because they are experts at operating Russian tanks, according to Jaime Suchlicki, the institute's executive director. "It doesn't surprise me," Suchlicki told, noting Russia's long history of supplying military equipment to Cuba as well as Cuba's assistance in Soviet-led operations in Africa the 1970's. "They have a very close relationship," Suchlicki said. "The Russians have been training the Cubans for years and supplying them with all sorts of military equipment."

Syria's bloody civil war is in its fourth year and has so far cost an estimated 250,000 people their lives and sparked a humanitarian crisis as displaced refugees flee the embattled nation. The U.S. has called for the ouster of dictator Assad, and is supporting a rebel group known as the Free Syrian Army. But ISIS and Al Qaeda offshoot Al Nusra are also present in Syria, battling Assad, the FSA and each other. Russia, Iran and now apparently Cuba are helping Assad in his bid to maintain power. Cuba's military is ranked the world's 110th most powerful by the site While small, the Cuban military is "very well-trained," according to Suchlicki, who said their presence in Syria is a "departure from what the U.S. expected."

President Obama earlier this year removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, seeking to normalize relations between the two countries. The U.S. cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro's revolution. The U.S. spent decades trying to either actively overthrow the Cuban government or isolate the island, including toughening the economic embargo first imposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The U.S. Embassy in Havana reopened in July 2015. "Yes, there are those who want to turn back the clock and double down on a policy of isolation," Obama said at the time, "but it's long past time for us to realize that this approach doesn't work. It hasn't worked for 50 years."

"This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people, and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas," Obama said in July from the White House Rose Garden. The U.S. official described Cuban's involved in Syria as similar to the "Cuba-Angola arrangement" -- a reference to Cuban troops operating on behalf of the Soviets in several central African countries in the 1970's. Cuba also sent troops to Syria in 1973 to support them in the Yom Kippur War against Israel and deployed officers to observe Israeli military tactics. The official could not confirm whether Cuba's top general is in Syria, or if Cuban forces are manning Russian tanks provided to Assad by Russia.

"If this information about the presence of Cuban troops in Syria now is confirmed, it would indicate that General Raul Castro is more interested in supporting his allies, Russia and Syria, than in continuing to normalize relations with the U.S.," the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies said in a statement Tuesday. "Raul Castro has expressed publicly his support for the Syrian regime and his solidarity with Russian and Iranian objectives in the Middle East," the group said. "This new Cuban internationalism reaffirms one more time that the Castro’s brothers are more interested in their role in the world in opposition to the U.S. than in modernizing Cuba and helping the Cuban people rise above their current misery."

China Joining Russia In Syria Brings Risks Of World War

American Decline: Chinese forces head to Syria to join with Russia in filling Obama's power vacuum and purportedly fight the Islamic State. A false move involving NATO member Turkey could mean world war. Russian and Chinese military sources now confirm that Chinese warships are en route to the Middle East to get in on some of the action of humiliating the U.S. In just a week and a half, Moscow has upended the dynamics of power in the Mideast by taking on the role that President Obama relinquished: acting like a superpower in a regional conflict that has implications extending far beyond the region.

Russian ruler Vladimir Putin launched airstrikes against rebels opposing the terrorist Assad regime in Syria, first with a modest force to gauge the U.S. response and perhaps pull out if threatened. Seeing no threat, Putin has been intensifying Russian operations, even sending in Spetsnaz special forces troops. China's entry means two major powers are stepping in to do what the U.S. was unwilling to do against IS. It's a lesson in how fast the tables can turn when America displays weakness — losing wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and proving to be ineffective against IS despite fighting it for a year and three months now.

Our commander-in-chief even admits that he has no strategy against the monstrous caliphate that his very own policies of weakness brought into being. What is apparently happening now was inconceivable before Obama sent America spiraling into decline: our two Cold War adversaries uniting militarily in an effort that will ultimately give them dominance, at our expense, in the most strategically important part of the world, the oil-rich and politically fragile Middle East. You can't carry out your objectives there over the course of years with the most advanced military in the world? Fine. Watch us do it, Moscow and Beijing are telling us with their actions. And in months, or perhaps only weeks.

How the next president will dig us out of this hole is hard to fathom. A new post-Cold War Brezhnev Doctrine could come into effect, in which Moscow and Beijing warn that they will not let the U.S. reassert its influence in countries they've "liberated" in the Mideast. If that turns out to be the case, America will be risking war with both Russia and China if it even tries to return to its pre-Obama influence in the region. Moreover, with Russia already more than once "accidentally" violating the airspace of Turkey, a NATO member in spite of its current anti-U.S. government, the dangers — Moscow and Beijing engaging in incursions or other provocative actions on the Syria-Turkish border — are clear.

All NATO nations are obligated by treaty to defend against an attack on any individual NATO nation. If Russia and China see what they can get away with, they could expose NATO as impotent. Or, worse, they could trigger World War III. Neither Obama nor the many millions who voted for him twice ever thought his policies of weakness could make things this bad.

Russia’s Nuclear Arsenal Is Obstacle To US Global Dominance

“Russia continues to be the second most significant nuclear power after the United States,” said Keith Preston, chief editor and director of, a Virginia-based website that encourages revolt against domestic and foreign U.S. policies. The author also noted that Russia still owns the world’s second largest nuclear arsenal, which is considered to be a potential obstacle to U.S. global dominance. “Also, there is the fact that Russia is a key component in the emergence of the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] axis, which is essentially trying to create a reserve currency – an international reserve currency – that’s independent of dollar,” he told Press TV on Friday.

“Essentially, Russia is in a position of having a massive multi-national military alliance really camped out right on its border,” Preston said. Preston noted that all these things combined are blocking the American global hegemony, and “it’s clear from American policy documents that this is what the policy makers in Washington want.” The expert explained that there are many nations trying to resist U.S. global hegemony with Russia being “one of the primary nations that does resist this.” He added that Russia is the most “significant” nation to do it due to the size of their army and their nuclear arsenal as well as Russia’s growing alliance with China.

U.S. eliminates potential rivals to its dominance in Asia

“The objections that the [Defense] Department has raised to Russia are really in line with the similar criticisms that the [Defense] Department has raised, concerning China, concerning Iran,” Preston said, referring to the chief of Pentagon Ashton Carter’s Thursday statements regarding Russia being a “very, very significant threat” to the U.S. national security.

“The goal of American foreign policy throughout Asia is to eliminate potential rivals to the American dominance in Asia,” Preston added. The fact that Russia is delivering modern S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to China has a potential to disrupt plans of the U.S. military in the Asian-Pacific region, as it was recently reported by citing military experts. ValueWalk has recently reported that China poses a great challenge to all major foundations of U.S. military superiority, according to military experts. Experts gathered at the forum of the Hudson Institute, an American think-tank, noted that China is challenging all three major foundations U.S. military superiority has been thriving on: (1) strategic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, (2) power projection capabilities, and (3) a dominant position in terms of technological advantage in a conflict of any kind.

U.S. is trying to achieve dominance over Russia, China and Iran’s resources

The experts cited by also said that a durable alliance between Beijing and Moscow may lead to a “new, post-Cold War geopolitical order,” which is going to challenge U.S. global dominance.  However, according to Preston, “Russia today is a much different society than the Soviet Russia. The United States’ elite, however, are still behaving as though the Cold War was still going on.”  Preston provided the “only rational explanation” for this by saying that Russia stands in the way of ongoing American expansionism in Eastern Europe and in Central Asia as well as Washington’s elite efforts to get NATO closer to Russian borders in order achieve dominance over various natural resources in Asia by pushing Russia’s influences out of the region.  At the same time, the U.S. is trying to do the exact same thing to the Iranians and Chinese, the expert noted.

What should U.S. do about China-Russia alliance?

In ValueWalk’s recent article it was laid out what the U.S. should and should not do about Russia-China rapidly growing alliance, which has been a prominent topic in the media this month. Particularly, the U.S. shouldn’t apply pressure to neither Moscow nor Beijing individually to prevent the relations between the two countries from strengthening further. As China’s influence in Central Asia continues to grow and expand, the alliance between Beijing and Moscow will most likely start breaking apart due to Russia’s unwillingness to share its present influence in the region with China. What the U.S. should to instead – is let China and Russia compete against one another while helping to counter global terrorism and engage in the economic development of Asia, which in the long run would prove itself useful for the whole world, not just the U.S. Meanwhile, the U.S. should be on full alert about the growing size of China’s ballistic and cruise missile arsenal, which Beijing can dispatch any second against U.S. aircraft and air bases located in the Western Pacific in order to defend its hegemony in the region, the experts at the Hudson Institute warned.

Japan on full alert over China-Russia joint military drills

ValueWalk recently reported that the Russian and Chinese navies are holding their largest-ever joint military drills called ‘Joint Sea 2015 (II)’, which will go through August 28. The exercises are being held in the Sea of Japan. Japan, a major ally of the U.S. in Asia, is on full alert about the drills being so close to its shores. The week-long drills will involve Russia’s 12 naval aircraft, 20 battleships, nine amphibious vehicles, two submarines and 200 marines. From the Chinese side, there will be seven warships, five warplanes, six shipborne helicopters, 21 amphibious vehicles and 200 marines. The Chinese Navy has never conducted any military exercises in this area before. Over the last decade, China and Russia have held five major joint military exercises. Besides, it’s not only China-Russia alliance the U.S. should be worried about, but also the emerging Russia-Iran nuclear alliance, which has become more of a reality due to Moscow and Tehran’s recent agreement over the delivery of the S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems by the end of 2015.

Russia’s Nuclear Arsenal Is Obstacle To US Global Dominance

War ships of the NATO take part in a military drill on the Black Sea

Washington is using every instrument in its arsenal to "limit Russia's ability to project power beyond its borders," political analyst Eugene Chausovsky argues. This strategy, born in the early days of the Cold War, has become known as the containment policy. One might think that this policy could have been laid to rest when the decades-long standoff was no longer an issue but "the containment policy never really ended," Chausovsky noted. "Right now, the United States is very actively applying" it against Russia.

The reason for the strategy's longevity is quite simple – the geopolitical imperative at the heart of containment did not disappear 25 years ago and is here to stay. This imperative is based on an assumption that Washington has to "prevent the rise of regional hegemons with the potential to challenge the United States." Nowhere has Washington applied the containment policy so vigorously than in Ukraine. "The Euromaidan revolution of February 2014… originated from concerns that Russia was becoming too powerful in Ukraine...

What started as the United States containing Russia politically in Ukraine by supporting the overthrow of a pro-Russia government in favor of a pro-West one has expanded to entail economic and security components of containment," Chausovsky noted in an opinion piece titled "Why the US Feels It Must Contain Russia. The US also pursues its containment policy in other countries along Russia's Western border, as well as in the Caucasus and Central Asia by using a broad array of instruments from conducting joint war-games to offering lucrative energy projects. It is against this background that the US is increasing its military presence in Europe and NATO is holding more military drills than ever before.

"Although the US containment strategy differs widely in each country and sub-region of the former Soviet Union, the underlying principle is the same: to limit Russia's political, economic and military influence throughout its periphery," Chausovsky explained.

Syria regime advances with Russian air support

Payback Time! Syrian Army Hammers ISIL

Syrian government troops backed by Russian air strikes advanced against rebels Sunday, as a rights group accused Moscow of being behind a new type of cluster bomb in the conflict. Twelve days into Russia's aerial campaign, the troops were gaining ground on two fronts: in central Hama province around the Damascus-Aleppo highway, and in the northern part of regime stronghold Latakia province. In Hama, regime forces have taken three villages east of the highway and are now seeking to also secure control of an area to its west.

"This offensive is intended to confront the rebels in the Sahl al-Ghab plain that is at the intersection of Hama, Latakia and Idlib provinces," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

Alawites from the same sect as President Bashar al-Assad live in the south and west of the strategic 1,000 square-kilometre (385 square miles) plain, while the north and east are mostly Sunni. In recent months, rebels have sought to capture parts of the area, advancing particularly from Idlib province, which is held by the Army of Conquest alliance that includes Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

Control of the plain would threaten regime-held areas in Hama and also Latakia, which is both a stronghold of the regime and home to Assad's ancestral village. In northern Latakia meanwhile, regime forces took the village of Kafr Dalba as they pressed a bid to capture a strategic mountainous area in the region, the Observatory and sources on the ground said. Earlier this week, a military source said government troops wanted to seal off Idlib province from Hama and Latakia and prevent rebels from being able to threaten either region. Long-term, the regime may also try to recapture the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughur in Idlib, which it lost earlier this year as the Army of Conquest swept through the province and expelled the army.

Human Rights Watch meanwhile on Sunday accused Russia of being behind the use of new advanced cluster munitions in Syria. The New York-based group said it had obtained photographs showing cluster munitions were dropped on Kafr Halab, a village southwest of Syria's second city of Aleppo, on October 4. It said it could not confirm whether the munitions had been used by Russian forces, or supplied by Moscow but used by Syria. "It's disturbing that yet another type of cluster munition is being used in Syria given the harm they cause to civilians for years to come," said Nadim Houry, HRW's deputy Middle East director.

"Neither Russia nor Syria should use cluster munitions, and both should join the international ban without delay."

Cluster munitions contain dozens or hundreds of bomblets and are fired in rockets or dropped from the air. They are widely banned because of their indiscriminate nature and the fact that they often maim and kill long after the original attack. HRW said there was also evidence the munitions had been used in Hama and Idlib provinces. The Russian air campaign that began September 30 has complicated the efforts of the existing US-led coalition bombing IS in Syria. Washington and Moscow have sought talks on ways to avoid military accidents in Syria's increasingly crowded airspace. On Saturday, Washington said the two countries had made "progress" in the talks and that more discussions were planned.

"The discussions were professional and focused narrowly on the implementation of specific safety procedures," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said after the 90-minute video conference. Cook disclosed few details, except to say that the discussions took place between US defence officials and their counterparts in Moscow and focused on "steps that can be taken" by Russian and US-led coalition aircraft "to promote safe flight operations over Syria".

The Arc Of Chaos is Being Killed in Its Cradle

From the 1980s onwards, Polish-American geostrategist and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s ideas were at the forefront of the US’ foreign policy application all across the world. Be it through the admitted creation and arming of the Mujahedeen (which later grew into Al Qaeda and the Taliban) or the obsession to divide Ukraine from Russia (later culminating in EuroMaidan), Brzezinski’s ideas have become a destabilizing reality that have stretched across continents and decades. The most enduring legacy that he ever created, however, is the destructive theory of the “Eurasian Balkans” that he devised in his 1997 book, “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives”. He postulated that it’s the broad arc of land from North Africa to Central Asia whose ripeness for divisive ethnic and sectarian strife is exactly what the US needs to exploit in order to indefinitely maintain its unipolar grip on global power. The cradle of this concept has always been the Mideast, but with Russia working to resolve the chaos that the US created there and attempting to return the region to stability, it appears as though Moscow has finally begun to reverse Washington’s grand strategy. Let’s take a look at exactly what the “Eurasian Balkans” were intended to become, how the plans for weaponizing chaos were supposed to work, and the way that Russia rode to the rescue in stopping this madness.

Building the “Eurasian Balkans”

Brzezinski ‘s idea for the “Eurasian Balkans” didn’t just come out of the blue. As a staunchly nationalistic Pole, he was well aware of his homeland’s interwar leader Marshall Jozef Pilsudski and the destructively innovative foreign policy of “Prometheism” that accompanied his administration. This idea stipulated that the multiethnic and polyconfessional Soviet Union could be dismembered by giving weapons, training, and political support to peripheral identity revolutionaries in the Soviet Union for use in a grand forthcoming ‘liberation war’ against the central government in Moscow. The metaphorical connotation here was that this would be akin to how Prometheus gifted fire to man to help them become independent from Zeus, the strongest and most feared of the Greek gods.

The policy failed and ultimately amounted to nothing, but that didn’t stop Brzezinski from fantasizing about its comeback a couple decades later. The influence of Pilsudski’s identity obsession can be seen on Brzezinski’s late-1970s description of an “Arc of Crisis” which “stretches along the shores of the Indian Ocean, with fragile social and political structures in a region of vital importance to us threatened with fragmentation. The resulting political chaos could well be filled by elements hostile to our values and sympathetic to our adversaries.”

The mentioning of “fragile social structures” is a euphemism for identity conflict, which Brzezinski was unjustifiably paranoid that the Soviet Union would try to exploit. A couple years later, Brzezinski himself ironically took the lead in exploiting this very concept to its most radical extreme, convincing President Jimmy Carter to arm the founding fathers of Al Qaeda in their American-directed international jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Brzezinski’s strategic thinking was that the militant momentum gained in the country could be carried over to Central Asia through the external orchestration of similar Islamist uprisings, which would then lead to a subsequent Soviet retreat all the way back to the Moscow and the independence of every republic that it left in its wake.

Corralling Chaos

Inspired by what he felt was his concept’s success in contributing to the Soviet Union’s 1991 collapse, Brzezinski decided to expand upon its fratricidal nature by applying it towards other zones of potential identity conflict, namely the Mideast and North Africa. Seeing the ethnically and confessionally diverse Balkan region and its history of internecine wars as a thematic precedent (the latest of which were ongoing during the early 1990s and thus fresh in his mind), he named his finalized strategy the “Eurasian Balkans”. To summarize the ideas about this that he laid out in “The Grand Chessboard”, Brzezinski believed that the instigation of chaotic conflicts in the North African-to-Central Asian space could preempt the consolidation of a grand Eurasian alliance between Russia, China, and Iran which would challenge contemporaneous American primacy and smash the Wolfowitz Doctrine of ‘sole superpower status’ to pieces.

The US would be left unscathed by this forthcoming black hole of chaos because its main Eurasian perches are in Europe and East Asia, and if worst came to worst and the supercontinent got caught in a massive conflagration, then the two ocean buffers that separate it from the pan-continental conflict zone would cushion any significant blowback it could realistically receive.

The US needed a spark to set off the flames of fratricide that it hoped would eventually engulf Russia, China, and Iran, and it created the ‘geopolitical flint’ to do so by the 2003 War on Iraq. By forcefully plopping itself smack dab in the geographic middle of the chaotic arc that it aimed to create, the US was in the best position possible for exerting destabilizing influence along each of its two broad ends. It didn’t waste a second in doing so either, since investigative journalist Seymour Hersh’s groundbreaking 2007 expose for The New Yorker, “The Redirection”, detailed all the means in which it sought to do this. Be it through fostering sectarian hatred or overthrowing the Syrian government, Washington had a big bag of tricks at its disposal that time would eventually prove it was planning to deploy. The trigger for setting off the Mideast’s “Blood Borders” breakup, and as was tangentially planned, that of North Africa and Central Asia, was the “Arab Spring” theater-wide Color Revolutions, but the Syrian population’s staunch defense of their sovereignty stopped the US’ plans dead in their tracks and placed them on indefinite standby.

Russia to the Rescue

Enter Russia, which has now committed itself not only to defeating terrorism in the Mideast, but as a logical and extended result, reversing the destabilization that the US has spawned and consequently restoring order along the Syrian-Iraqi apex of the “Arc of Chaos”. To flip Brzezinki’s “Eurasian Balkans” theory on its head, if the Middle Eastern countries that he had so precisely targeted for domestic tumult prove themselves capable of remaining united and strong in the face of American-directed adversity, then this would have an exemplary effect in stabilizing the North African and Central Asian ends of the arc, thus crippling the US’ decades-long designs of creating Afro-Eurasian chaos.

The geopolitical facets of the US’ grand strategy start and end in Syria, which is why Brzezinski finally lost his characteristic cool and just threw an epic temper tantrum directed against Russia. Writing in an op-ed piece for the Financial Times, he suggested that “The Russian naval and air presences in Syria are vulnerable, isolated geographically from their homeland. They could be “disarmed” if they persist in provoking the US.” The devil himself couldn’t have devised a more tempting way to destroy all of humanity than that, but just in case American policy makers got any crazy ideas from their favorite strategist, Russia’s awe-inspiring cruise missile strike from the Caspian Sea swiftly discredited them and proved that Brzezinski’s intimations of a ‘vulnerable, geographically isolated’ Russian force in Syria were totally brainless. For once in his lifetime, the American establishment doesn’t seem eager to follow Brzezinski’s advice, and that might mean that for once in our lifetimes, the US might be exercising a relative semblance of sound judgement.


The Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah military triangle

Since Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria became apparent in the summer of 2012, it has been a subject of hot debate both within Lebanon and beyond. Many questioned the wisdom of this step, saying that by engaging in the Syrian conflict, Hezbollah had tarnished its image after gaining high popularity in the Arab world as an anti-Israeli resistance force.

But with the latest twist of events sparked by the Russian intervention in Syria, which started Sept. 30, the Lebanese movement may very well be in the driver's seat to assume a major regional role. This could mean the birth of a “new Middle East,” albeit in stark contrast to the one then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of shortly after Israel began its war on Lebanon in July 2006 with the aim of “crushing Hezbollah.”

A major indicator supporting the above notion is that Russia does not seem to be replacing the “Iranian-Hezbollah axis” in Syria, but rather complementing and strengthening this axis. According to political commentator with Russia’s Kommersant publishing house Sergei Strokan, there now exists a “Russia, Iran, Hezbollah military triangle” in Syria.

In a telephone interview with Al-Monitor, Strokan said, “Hezbollah can do some things that Russia can’t afford to do itself,” as putting “Russian boots on the ground [in Syria] is a subject of heated debate [within Russia].” He added, “The Russian public is worried that something similar to Afghanistan might take place.” Hezbollah for its part appeared jubilant, from day one of the Russian airstrikes. Just hours after the first airstrikes were launched on Sept. 30, a Hezbollah official emphasized during a private discussion with Al-Monitor that Moscow "has its partners on the ground in the Syrian army and its allies, like us."

A second Hezbollah official recently told Al-Monitor about reports of the establishment of a joint operations room in Damascus for the coordination of efforts between Russia, the Syrian army, Iran and Hezbollah. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, underscored that the Lebanese movement — and its allies in Syria — were now receiving “support from a superpower, and Hezbollah [along with the Syrian army] was providing intelligence to Moscow in the air raids being conducted.”

An Iranian source, who maintains close contact with both the Russian and Chinese sides, went even further, saying that Hezbollah’s regional patron, Iran, had “brought the Russians [into Syria].” This scenario is further supported by reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military intervention was planned out during a visit by the commander of the Iranian Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, to Moscow in late July.

Within this same framework, the chief international correspondent of the Al Rai Kuwaiti newspaper, Elijah Magnier, has also reported about a division of labor agreement, whereby Russian warplanes provide air support for the Iranian and Hezbollah fighters on the ground (in addition to Iraqi and Afghan fighters), as they attempt to retake lost Syrian territories.

Meanwhile, director of the military and security studies program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Michael Eisenstadt, as well as former head of Israeli military intelligence Amos Yadlin, have also shed light on the likelihood that the Russian intervention in Syria will only serve to strengthen the position of Hezbollah — and Iran — in that country. At the same time, Russian experts point out that Moscow’s intervention in Syria is part of a broader strategy in the Middle East, whereby success in Syria could spell success for Putin’s bid to assume a leadership role in the Middle East, a role Putin is widely believed to aspire to.

Strokan said President Putin has placed high stakes on success in Syria and therefore “can’t afford to lose.” If such a scenario is indeed playing out and the “Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah military triangle” is victorious in Syria, Hezbollah will not only go down as one of the major players that changed the geopolitics of the Middle East, but will also have established itself as a strategic partner in this “new Middle East.”

Ironically, the movement could go from being an organization that was internationally recognized as a terrorist group to an organization that is an “internationally recognized” anti-terrorist force — although such an outcome is far from guaranteed. The establishment of the joint operations headquarters between Russia and Iran in Iraq to share intelligence in the fight against terror only serves to reinforce the notion that Moscow will seek to expand its regional role through coordination with Iran and Hezbollah.

According to the well-informed Iranian source who asked not to be named, Russia and China "have come to view Iran and Hezbollah [along with the Yemeni Ansar Allah group, which is viewed as the Yemeni version of Hezbollah] as the most effective fighting force against terror.”

Strokan expressed a similar view, underscoring that for Russia, “Hezbollah is getting much more important.” Expanding Russia’s leadership “obviously would require it to maintain close contact and cooperation with influential players in the region,” Strokan said, adding that “Hezbollah’s role is not restricted to Syria.” Indeed, Hezbollah stands ready to enter into a similar arrangement with Moscow in Iraq. When asked whether the movement was ready to replicate the coordination with Russia on the Iraqi battlefield, the Hezbollah official nodded in approval.

The National Interest: This Is Why Russia's Air War in Syria Is So Impressive

The Russian air force in Syria seems to be generating close to the theoretical maximum number of sorties possible for thirty-two fixed-wing combat aircraft. That’s of course assuming the Russians are providing factually accurate information about their operations in Latakia. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, Moscow’s forces flew eighty-eight combat sorties while hitting eighty-six ISIS targets in a twenty-four hour span. “In the course of the last 24 hours, Su-34, Su-24M and Su-25SM aircraft performed 88 combat sorties engaging 86 ISIS facilities located in the Raqqah, Hama, Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo provinces,” reads an Oct. 13 Russian Ministry of Defense statement.

While there might be some dispute over whether the Russians are hitting ISIS targets versus other Syrian rebel groups opposed to the Assad regime, if the sortie generation number is accurate—it is an extremely impressive feat. That would put the Vozdushno-KosmicheskieSily Rossii on par with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy in terms of turning aircraft. But while the Russian forces might be able to surge their sortie generation rate up to eighty-eight per day, it remains to be seen if they can maintain that pace for long. The most optimistic U.S. military officials had predicted that the Russian forces would be able to generate a theoretical maximum of ninety-six sorties per day—but most officials dismissed that as wildly optimistic. “With thirty-two on the ramp, I think they'll probably be able to fly twenty-four jets per day,” one recently retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot told me. “Depending on sortie duration and whether they're flying at night, they may get between two and four sorties per jet, per day. So I think the range is probably between forty-eight and ninety-six sorties per day.”

However, the vast majority of U.S. military officials had predicted a far lower sortie generation rate from the Russian military. Most had predicted a sortie generation rate of around twenty per day. “If I had thirty-two airplanes and they were all different I think we could—with good logistics—get a four-turn-four from the Su-24s, a four-turn-four from the Su-25s, and two-turn-twos from the Su-30s and Su-34s…” another U.S. Air Force official had predicted. “So that’s twenty-four sorties a day.”

But several U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps official had noted that Russian jets are extremely “rugged” and could be surprisingly reliable—especially since Soviet aircraft often have a lot of common parts. “They have more interoperability between their planes and they were designed to be easy to work on,” another Air Force official had said.

As with their surprise Caspian Sea cruise missile raid from last week —which was launched from tiny corvettes and a small frigate—Russian forces continue to demonstrate a level of capability that seems to have caught some off guard. Eighty-eight sorties per day is not far off from the maximum theoretical predicted number of ninety-six per day. This seems to demonstrate that the Russian forces have recovered from their near complete implosion in the mid-1990s in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet collapse. Certainly, it demonstrates that the Russian forces in Syria are well trained and well supplied. But the question remains—how long can they keep it up?

Russia Using Syria As Testing Ground For Its Modern Weaponry

Russian Air Forces' Su-34 carrying out an air strike in the ISIS controlled Al-Raqqah governorate

It has been two weeks since Russia launched airstrikes in Syria, and now it claims that ISIS has started retreating. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was seen as a decaying, insignificant, and toothless tiger. Western countries believed its Soviet-era military hardware were now obsolete. Russia’s short war in Georgia in 2008 had exposed its military weaknesses, including poor communication and coordination.

Russia gets a chance to test its weapons in real combat

But Moscow has come a long way since the Georgia war. It now spends $81 billion or 4.1% of its GDP on defense. Russia has been aggressively modernizing its military hardware under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin. Though the U.S. has been involved in several wars away from its land since the end of the Cold War, Russia could never fight beyond the Soviet Union territory. Last year’s annexation of Crimea was a swift and stealth operation. In eastern Ukraine conflict, Russia has denied any direct involvement but it continued to back separatists. Now Moscow has officially jumped into Syria to protect its long-term ally Bashar Al-Assad. And the Syrian conflict gives Russia a chance to test its latest military technology.

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges impressed by Russia’s capabilities

The airstrikes in Syria have involved aircraft that have never been used under battle conditions such as the Sukhoi-34 and ship-based cruise missile 3M-14 Kalibr fired about 900 miles from the Caspian Sea. Russia has fired about 26 Kalibr missiles on Syrian targets, and it has sent at least six state-of-the-art Sukhoi-34 to Syria. It also gives President Vladimir Putin an opportunity to showcase the country’s ability to swiftly deploy troops and conduct large-scale operations beyond its borders.  Besides new weaponry, Russian forces were also showcasing their tactics and strategy. Russia set up its operations near Latakia within a matter of three weeks, deploying dozens of tanks and armored vehicles, combat planes, and attack helicopters. Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of United States Army forces in Europe, recently said Russia’s ability to move a lot of stuff real far, real fast “continues to impress me.”  Putin is proving in Syria that Russia is no longer a weak force that could easily be bullied by the West. And Russia’s growing ties with China could further boost Putin’s confidence.


Syria is becoming a test bed for high-tech, electronic weapons

Russian tactical group seen at Hmeimim aerodrome in Syria

The relationship between Russia and the West is becoming increasingly dangerous with potential flashpoints developing in both eastern Europe and Syria. After repeated incursions into Turkish airspace by Russian warplanes on bombing raids over Syria, NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg warned Moscow that it stands ready to “defend all allies”. Meanwhile Britain announced it would send troops to Baltic states to defend NATO’s eastern boundaries against possible Russian aggression beyond Ukraine. Russia’s military presence in Syria has been steadily increasing over the past few months. Its warplanes are carrying out regular bombing raids against both Islamic State position and, reportedly, other rebel groups opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Its warships are launching cruise missiles against the same targets. But the latest reports are that Russia has also deployed its most modern electronic warfare system to Syria – the Krasukha-4 (or Belladonna) mobile electronic warfare (EW) unit. The Krasukha-4 is a broad-band multifunctional jamming system designed to neutralise Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) spy satellites such as the US Lacrosse/Onyx series, airborne surveillance radars and radar-guided ordinance at ranges between 150km to 300km. The system is reported to be able to cause damage to the enemy’s EW systems and communications. The Krasukha-4 system works by creating powerful jamming at the fundamental radar frequencies and other radio-emitting sources. Lt General Hodges, the commander of US Army Forces Europe, commented that Russia had demonstrated a high level of offensive EW proficiency against Ukrainian forces in Donbas using a first foreign deployment of the Krasukha-4 system.

Hi tech hostilities

Electronic warfare (EW) was first developed in World War II by the UK to defend against Axis bomber attacks and to defend Allied bombers from enemy surveillance systems. From that time there have been major technological breakthroughs and EW is now acknowledged to be a major fighting element of armed forces worldwide. The US, Russia and Europe invest billions of dollars each year in research and development in order to be the best at this essential military art, while Asian countries, led by China, also view EW as ta vital area for research and development.

EW is considered to include electronic attack/support, electronic intelligence and signals intelligence. In conflicts since World war II, EW has played an increasingly important role in major including Korea, Vietnam, Arab/Israeli, Balkans, Desert Storm/Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. EW is effectively employed before the hard fighting begins to deny an opponent intelligence and the use of weapon systems. Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, NATO countries led by the US and directly supported by the UK have been actively gathering intelligence from countries employing EW assets including low-orbit surveillance satellites (Lacrosse/Onyx series), reconnaissance aircraft (NATO E3 Sentry (AWACS), USAF RC135-Rivet Joint, RAF’s Sentinel R1 and Reaper drones), and sharing intelligence information with the side being supported in the conflict.

Since the land grab by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in both Iraq and Syria, NATO’s EW assets have been targeting IS rebel fighting units, gathering intelligence to provide tactical target information and to actively engage IS by denying rebel units radio communication and surveillance information – thus electronically blinding them. Sanitised intelligence information is shared with friendly forces including the rebel forces opposed to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Until September 2015, Russia has been supporting Assad by supplying arms and training to Syrian forces. Bolstered by what it sees as Western indecisiveness on a Syria solution and by the West’s inaction on Russia’s military intervention in the Ukraine, Russia has decided to provide direct military air support to Syria. However, Assad’s enemies comprise all rebel groups opposing his rule – not just IS.

Russia is aware that NATO surveillance assets are able to monitor all Syrian-based Russian military aircraft activity including the rebel groups it is targeting, locations and weapons used. Some of these rebel groups are directly supported by the US and its allies which may result in Russia becoming in direct political conflict with NATO. To avoid being spied on, Russia needs to blind the eyes and silence the ears of NATO reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering assets so its actions are not open to close scrutiny.

Cat and mouse conflict

So how can the Krasukha-4 be used to cloak Russia’s operations in Syria? In words – partially effectively. Its surveillance systems will not only be able to monitor NATO aircraft movement over Syria but also the types, and from its intelligence it will know the frequencies used and signal characteristics present – Lacrosse satellites and AWACS operate in S-band, Sentinel (and similar) in X-band, and drones in J-band. Lacrosse/Onyx satellite positions are continually tracked by Russia. With this intelligence detail the Krasukha-4 can be programmed to engage in order to deny or disrupt NATO intelligence gathering.

ut it is not all one way – US and NATO intelligence gatherers will have “electronic counter counter measures” (ECCM) to combat Russian EW interference – and so the cat and mouse game of the Cold War is repeated. Intelligence gathering and radar-guided munitions will suffer some disruption and mistakes may be made but operations will continue. 

ECCM may include being frequency agile and dodging the jamming signal or pointing the receive antenna away slightly from the jamming source. There are also many tricks that can be played with signal processing that will mitigate the effects of jamming. Of course, it would also be possible for NATO to jam the Russian surveillance radar, denying them of identification and positioning of NATO aircraft – but this would really ramp up the war of words with Vladimir Putin. We must also accept that the Krasukha-4 EW system is an essential part of the defence of Russian forces at the Latakia airfield in Syria and this must not be denied them.

Russian military has long appreciated that “radio-electronic combat” is integral to modern warfare and accordingly that it offers a set of relatively inexpensive weapons that can potentially cripple an opponent’s ability to sense, communicate and exercise command and control within a battlespace. Russia will now be able to test its new EW systems in live combat but avoiding direct conflict with NATO – it will enhance overseas sales prospects of the Krasukha-4 system. NATO will be able test its ECCM against another EW system, presumably with similar ends in mind.

Russia’s Winning the Electronic War

It comes at different times, and in different forms. But as they have charted the war in southeast Ukraine over the past year, drones flown by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have run into the same problem: Russian troops on the ground are jamming them into virtual blindness. It’s just one part of a sophisticated Russian electronic warfare (EW) effort in Ukraine that has proved a sobering experience for the U.S. Army. Faced with how the newly modernized Russian army is operating in Ukraine and Syria — using equipment like the Krasukha-4, which jams radar and aircraft — American military officials are being forced to admit they’re scrambling to catch up.

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army units in Europe, has described Russian EW capabilities in Ukraine as “eye-watering.” Ronald Pontius, deputy to Army Cyber Command’s chief, Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, told a conference this month that “you can’t but come to the conclusion that we’re not making progress at the pace the threat demands.”

The electronic war was on display from the start of the Russian incursion into Crimea in the spring of 2014. Not long after Russian EW equipment began rolling into the region, Ukrainian troops began to find that their radios and phones were unusable for hours at a time. Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an international conflict-monitoring group, has consistently reported that its drones watching the conflict in eastern Ukraine have been “subject to military-grade GPS jamming,” forcing monitors to scrub missions taking stock of the war below.

At the forefront of the push to get the U.S. Army up to speed is Col. Jeffrey Church, the Army’s chief of electronic warfare. But it won’t be easy. Dealing with falling budgets, a lack of EW equipment, and a force that is shrinking by tens of thousands of troops, Church says that he has managed to train only a few hundred soldiers — a fraction of the EW forces that are fielded by potential adversaries like Russia and China.

“They have companies, they have battalions, they have brigades that are dedicated to the electronic warfare mission,” Church said in an interview with Foreign Policy. Those units are deploying “with specific electronic warfare equipment, with specific electronic warfare chains of command,” he said.

Currently, 813 soldiers make up the Army’s EW mission, for which just over 1,000 positions have been authorized. And other Army units are guarding against Church’s attempts to peel away soldiers from their ranks to join his. The staffing squeeze is only expected to get worse as the overall Army contracts: At its peak during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army had about 570,000 soldiers; it is on pace to be down to 450,000 by the end of 2017. That number could slide even further, to 420,000 over the next several years, if Washington deadlocks over a long-term budget deal in the coming months.

At the moment, U.S. Army battalions typically assign two soldiers to the EW mission, and they will “have to do 24-hour operations” in battle against sophisticated enemies, Church said. That includes planning and coordinating with other battalion units as well as ensuring that their own jammers and advanced communications tools are working. “There’s too much to do for those guys in a battalion,” Church said. “So how do you maintain in a high-intensity environment against a peer enemy?”

A good amount of the EW equipment the Army bought over the past decade was paid for with supplemental wartime funding accounts. Church said that means it largely sits on shelves, awaiting repair and refurbishments, without regularly budgeted funding to keep it up to date. In looking at Moscow’s capabilities, the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office assessed this year that Russia “does indeed possess a growing EW capability, and the political and military leadership understand the importance” of such warfare. “Their growing ability to blind or disrupt digital communications might help level the playing field when fighting against a superior conventional foe,” the assessment concluded.

Ukraine, which is equipped with easily jammed electronic systems, has proved to be a perfect place for Moscow to showcase its EW prowess. The Russian effort “is likely not aimed at Ukraine as much as it is aimed at NATO and more serious adversaries,” said Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization. Last March, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work created an EW executive committee led by Frank Kendall, the undersecretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics. At the time, Work noted that the Defense Department had “lost focus on electronic warfare at the programmatic and strategic level.”

Although the Army is running a number of studies to quickly update and better integrate EW capability, none will be completed soon. In the meantime, Church said, soldiers must start training for new kinds of wars — namely, those that will increasingly depend on the kinds of sophisticated electromagnetic weapons that are becoming a mainstay for America’s most powerful conventional adversaries. “We need to start challenging ourselves a little bit more,” Church said. “We should train as we anticipate we will fight.… It’s [currently] done very little.”


Sophisticated Electronic Warfare Gives Russia The Edge

Russia’s adventures in Ukraine and then in Syria have largely been made possible by Moscow’s unwavering commitment to using electronic warfare (EW) to its advantage.

It is becoming quite a common theme for the drones flown by the international conflict-monitoring group Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to experience problems. Every time they enter the southeastern parts of Ukraine, the drones bump into the same problem: on-the-ground Russian troops jam them into virtual blindness.

However, all this should not come as a huge surprise considering that for years, the Russian army has been performing extensive research on making full use of EW when it comes to having the edge over the enemy. Equipment such as the Krasukha04, which jams radar and aircraft, has been used perfectly during operations in Ukraine and Syria, leading American military officials to admit that they’re scrambling to catch up with the Russians.

According to the commander of U.S. Army units in Europe, Lt. General Ben Hodges, Russia’s EW capabilities in Ukraine are “eye-watering,” while Ronald Pontius, deputy to Army Cyber Command Chief Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, once said, “You can’t but come to the conclusion that we’re not making progress at the pace the threat demands.”

Supreme electronic warfare capabilities

Russia has shown off its electronic warfare capabilities since the onset of its incursion into Crimea in the spring of 2014. Just hours after Russian EW equipment crossed the Ukrainian border, Ukrainian troops began to find that they could not use their radios and phones for hours at a time. Moreover, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has kept reporting that every single drone that has been observing the conflict in eastern Ukraine, has been “subjected to military grade GPS jamming.”

The U.S., for its part, is trying to bring its electronic warfare capabilities to the forefront under the leadership of Col. Jeffrey Church, who is the Army’s chief of electronic warfare. However, it is not going to be a very easy task considering the fact that falling budgets and a clear lack of EW equipment is a serious challenge. Moreover, Church has revealed that he has only been able to train a few hundred soldiers, which is a very small amount compared to the EW forces boasted by both Russia and China.

“They have companies, they have battalions, they have brigades that are dedicated to the electronic warfare mission,” Church said in an interview with Foreign Policy. Those units are deploying “with specific electronic warfare equipment, with specific electronic warfare chains of command,” he said. 

U.S. coming up short on the EW front

As things stand, the U.S. Army’s EW mission has only 813 soldiers, which isn’t a great number, considering the fact that both Russia and China boast a much bigger force than this. Moreover, other army units are resolute against Church’s attempts to peel away soldiers from their ranks to join his.

This is coupled with the fact that the staffing squeeze is likely to get worse. During the peak years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army had around 570,000 soldiers, but that number is going to come down to 450,000 by the end of 2017, and for the next several years, it could go below 420,000 if Washington chooses to slash the long-term budget deal in the coming months. For now, U.S. Army battalions usually assign two soldiers for an EW mission and have to work for 24 hours in battle against sophisticated enemies. It is a tedious task, one that involves planning and coordinating with other units while also ensuring that their own jammers and advanced communication gadgets are working.

“There’s too much to do for those guys in a battalion,” Church said. “So how do you maintain in a high-intensity environment against a peer enemy?”

Over the past decade, a major chunk of the EW equipment was paid for with supplemental wartime funding accounts. Now the equipment is lying on shelves, awaiting repair and reconditioning without any budget funding to keep it up to date.

Russia and its professionalism towards electronic warfare

The case is completely opposite with Moscow where the Kremlin realizes the importance of such warfare. According to the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office, Russia boasts a growing EW capability that’s motivated by political and military support, which is why it is able to blind or disrupt digital communications in a bid to level the playing field when it is fighting a conventional foe that is superior to its military.

Ukraine’s electronic systems have been easily jammed by Moscow’s EW prowess, and according to a senior research scientist at CAN, Dmitry Gorenburg, these attempts were never aimed at Ukraine but were aimed at a more serious adversary in the shape of NATO. In March, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work created an EW executive committee led by Frank Kendall, who is the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics. According to the committee, the Defense Department has “lost focus on electronic warfare at the programmatic and strategic level.”

For now, the Army is playing a catch-up game in order to integrate EW capability to its offensive apparatus. Church has emphasized the importance of soldiers training for new kinds of wars in light of recent events that have shown Russia’s EW capabilities to be miles ahead of Washington’s. Indeed, it is high time for the United States military to start thinking out of the box if it really wants to make any sort of headway in improving its EW capabilities because as things stand, the EW arsenal it has is not enough to counter the capabilities of the likes of Russia and China have at their disposal.

Electronic Warfare: What US Army Can Learn From Russia

The US military has for weeks been training Ukrainian forces in US tactics, but the commander of US Army Europe says Ukrainian forces, who are fighting Russian-backed separatists, have much to teach their US trainers. Ukrainian forces have grappled with formidable Russian electronic warfare capabilities that analysts say would prove withering even to the US ground forces. The US Army has also jammed insurgent communications from the air and ground on a limited basis, and it is developing a powerful arsenal of jamming systems, but these are not expected until 2023.

"Our soldiers are doing the training with the Ukrainians and we've learned a lot from the Ukrainians," said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges. "A third of the [Ukrainian] soldiers have served in the ... combat zone, and no Americans have been under Russian artillery or rocket fire, or significant Russian electronic warfare, jamming or collecting — and these Ukrainians have. It's interesting to hear what they have learned."

Hodges acknowledged that US troops are learning from Ukrainians about Russia's jamming capability, its ranges, types and the ways it has been employed. He has previously described the quality and sophistication of Russian electronic warfare as "eye-watering."

Russia maintains an ability to destroy command-and-control networks by jamming radio communications, radars and GPS signals, according to Laurie Buckhout, former chief of the US Army's electronic warfare division, now CEO of the Corvus Group. In contrast with the US, Russia has large units dedicated to electronic warfare, known as EW, which it dedicates to ground electronic attack, jamming communications, radar and command-and-control nets.

Though Ukrainian troops lack the materiel to protect themselves from this form of attack, the Ukrainian military's institutional knowledge as a former Soviet republic will help it understand how Russia fights, and its troops will have trained to operate while being jammed, Buckhout said. That's something US ground forces can learn.

"Our biggest problem is we have not fought in a comms-degraded environment for decades, so we don't know how to do it," Buckhout said. "We lack not only tactics, techniques and procedures but the training to fight in a comms-degraded environment."

It's not hard to see why EW is an attractive option for Russia while the eyes of the world are on it. Not only is it highly effective, but as a non-kinetic form of attack, it is harder to trace and less likely to be viewed as overt aggression, and as such, less likely to incite the ire of the international community, Buckhout said. In a fight, Russia's forces can hinder a target's ability to respond to, say, an artillery attack, allowing them to fire on an enemy with impunity. Ukrainian forces would be unable to coordinate a defense against incoming rockets and missiles, or release counter battery fire.

"If your radars don't see incoming fire, you can't coordinate counterfire," Buckhout said. The US, Buckhout said, lacks a significant electronic attack capability. "We have great signals intelligence, and we can listen all day long, but we can't shut them down one-tenth to the degree they can us," she said. "We are very unprotected from their attacks on our network."

Multifunctional EW

Col. Jeffrey Church, the Army's electronic warfare division chief, acknowledged that since the Cold War, adversaries have continued to modernize their EW capabilities, while the Army began reinvesting its capabilities for Iraq and Afghanistan. Church called the fielding of Army electronic warfare equipment the "No. 1 priority" of his job. "The  Army must have electronic warfare capabilities that could be used to dominate key terrain on the electromagnetic spectrum against any adversary," Church said.

A developing Army program, Multifunctional Electronic Warfare (MFEW), is intended to provide an offensive electronic attack capability, able to jam cell phone, satellite and GPS signals, said Lt. Col. Gregory Griffin, chief of the Electronic Warfare Division's programs and requirements branch. However, the focus had been until recent years on "defensive electronic attack," namely counter-radio-controlled-IED devices that create bubbles of protective jamming around vehicles and people, and signals collection for intelligence purposes.

The Army has demonstrated some ability to counter enemy communications, not under formal acquisitions programs but as quick-reaction capabilities. In Afghanistan, the Army used a handful of C-12 aircraft equipped with Communications, Electronic Attack, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CEASAR) jamming pods to jam insurgent push-to-talk radios, and two fixed-site systems — Ground Auto Targeting Observation/Reactive (GATOR) jammer and Duke V2 EA — to jam radios and repeater towers. On an ad hoc basis, troops in Afghanistan used GATOR — conceived to protect forward operating bases — to suppress repeater towers while on patrol or training Afghan forces, providing themselves the freedom to maneuver while denying communications to potential enemies, Griffin said.

"It was unlimited capability, limited by the number of systems," Griffin said. "Honestly, we just did not have enough to support the demand that was in the Army."

The Army's electronic warfare cadre, which totals 813 officers, warrant officers and noncommissioned officers,  has wielded more theory than hardware, except when deployed. In garrison, it was common for these troops to be assigned other jobs, leading to the joke that EW stands for "extra worker" — though this is changing as the Army ramps up its electronic warfare materiel strategy, Griffin said.

MFEW, due to reach initial operating capability in 2023 and full operating capability in 2027, is intended to offer a suite of powerful, sophisticated sensors and jammers for in the air, on ground vehicles and in fixed locations. The Army is due to consider a capability design document for the "air large" capability, akin to Caesar, potentially for a C-12 or a MQ-8 Fire Scout drone. Last year it tested the Networked Electronic Warfare Remotely Operated (NERO), a jamming pod attached to the Gray Eagle drone. The Defense Department in March set up a panel to address its electronic warfare shortfalls, which, Griffin said, has generated discussion about accelerating the timeline for MFEW.

'Future of War Is in the Ukraine'

Forces with US Army Europe have for the last 10 weeks been training three battalions of Ukraine Ministry of the Interior troops, known as Ukraine's national guard. The second cycle of that training was paused so that troops could participate in a combined multinational exercise, underway through early August, and it will resume and conclude with the third battalion in August. The Ukrainian military — which is in the midst of a reform and modernization effort even as it wars with Russia — has shown interest in creating a noncommissioned officer corps modeled after that of the US, Hodges said. Ukrainian military officials charged with reform efforts visited Washington in recent weeks and, in a press conference, acknowledged the challenges of corruption and shoddy soldier equipment, which they sought to correct.

But Konstiantyn Liesnik, an adviser to the Defense Ministry's reform office and head of its working group for logistics and procurement, noted the US military's experience in recent years has concerned insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, not a powerful, organized and well-equipped adversary like Russia. "The future of war is in the Ukraine, and I think in this case our experience is very important to US personnel how war should be in this century and next century," Liesnik said. Beyond electronic warfare, Russian anti-aircraft rockets have prevented Ukrainian forces from using their airplanes, and it has had to consider personal armor that can protect against artillery. Ukrainian forces interacting with US soldiers have spoken frankly about their difficulties, something Hodges said he saw firsthand when the chief of the Ukrainian Army, at an event attended by senior leaders from other countries, discussed with a group of officers  his force's battlefield experiences and shortcomings.

"I have been very impressed with the earnestness of the Ukrainian military to fix their shortcomings and improve their capabilities," Hodges said. "It was one of the most professional things I have ever seen of any army, and they were very candid: We were not prepared to do this, and here's how we adapted."

Ukrainian troops have not only had to adapt to Russian electronic warfare, but its artillery and unmanned aerial systems. The Ukrainian Army official, Hodges said, also detailed how unprepared Ukrainian troops have been for the number of casualties and their treatment. The US provided Ukraine with lightweight counter-mortar radars in November 2014, which Hodges said its troops have "used in ways we have not used it ourselves, and made it more effective than we thought was possible." These troops, he said, would be savvy enough to operate a more advanced radar with a wider range — which the Pentagon is reportedly in talks to send.

An official at the US State Department said the administration believes there is no military resolution to this crisis, but Ukraine has the right to defend itself. To that end, it announced a $75 million Defense Department aid package in March that includes 30 armored Humvees, 200 other Humvees, radios and unarmed surveillance drones, night-vision devices and medical supplies. The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Vicenza, Italy, had been training Ukrainian troops in western Ukraine, in battlefield medicine, casualty evacuation, and tactical tasks such as anti-roadside bomb techniques and basic battlefield movement.

Saber Guardian, a command post exercise which rotates between Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, this year was linked to Rapid Trident, an annual field training exercise held in Ukraine, according to the US Army. The combined exercise, which includes roughly 1,800 soldiers from 18 different nations, is meant to focus on defensive operations to ensure a safe and secure environment within the operating environment. This year's scenario consists of a host nation that comes under attack. The nation is able to defend itself at great cost. A multinational force is sent to assist the host nation and the challenge is to bring together and train a multinational brigade, which would then be sent to assist the host nation in its defense. 

Russia develops secret 'superweapon' capable of switching off foreign satellites and enemy weapons

  • Krasuha-4 system can suppress cruise missile's guidance systems
  • Ground tests expected to begin within months
  • Weapons will be mounted on jets and warships
Russia has claimed to have built a revolutionary new weapon system that can render enemy satellites and weapons useless. Its Russian makers say it is a 'fundamentally new electronic warfare system' which can be mounted on ground-based as well as air- and sea-borne carriers. However, it has refused to reveal how the system works.

It is described as 'a fundamentally new electronic warfare system capable of suppressing cruise missile and other high-precision weaponry guidance systems and satellite radio-electronic equipment.' 'The system will target the enemy's deck-based, tactical, long-range and strategic aircraft, electronic means and suppress foreign military satellites' radio-electronic equipment,,' Russia's Radio-Electronic Technologies Group (KRET) Deputy CEO Yuri Mayevsky told Russian news agency TASS.
To comply with international weapons laws, the system will be mounted on ground-based, air-and seaborne carriers and not on satellites. 'It will fully suppress communications, navigation and target location and the use of high-precision weapons,' said adviser to the KRET first deputy CEO Vladimir Mikheyev. 'The system will be used against cruise missiles and will suppress satellite-based radio location systems.

'It will actually switch off enemy weapons.' The system's ground component will be tested soon, he claims. 'Ground tests are now going on in workshops. ' At the end of the year, the system's component will leave the factory gates for trials at testing ranges,' he said.  Earlier this month, the Russian military test-fired a short-range anti-missile system, which successfully destroyed a simulated target at the designated time. 'The launch was aimed at confirming the performance characteristics of missile defense shield anti-missiles operational in the Aerospace Defense Forces,' the Russian defense ministry said at the time. 

New U.S. Stealth Jet Can’t Hide From Russian Radar 

IN AIR, NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, MD - FEBRUARY 11:  (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been received by U.S. Military prior to transmission) In this image released by the U.S. Navy courtesy of Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Navy variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, conducts a test flight February 11, 2011 over the Chesapeake Bay. Lt. Cmdr. Eric "Magic" Buus flew the F-35C for two hours, checking instruments that will measure structural loads on the airframe during flight maneuvers. The F-35C is distinct from the F-35A and F-35B variants with larger wing surfaces and reinforced landing gear for greater control when operating in the demanding carrier take-off and landing environment. (Photo by U.S. Navy photo courtesy Lockheed Martin via Getty Images),Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Edwards Air Force Base, 461st FLTS, JSF,
AF-1 & AF-2 Arrival at Edwards Air Force Base

America’s gazillion-dollar Joint Strike Fighter is supposed to go virtually unseen when flying over enemy turf. But that’s not how things are working out. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—the jet that the Pentagon is counting on to be the stealthy future of its tactical aircraft—is having all sorts of shortcomings. But the most serious may be that the JSF is not, in fact, stealthy in the eyes of a growing number of Russian and Chinese radars. Nor is it particularly good at jamming enemy radar. Which means the Defense Department is committing hundreds of billions of dollars to a fighter that will need the help of specialized jamming aircraft that protect non-stealthy—“radar-shiny,” as some insiders call them—aircraft today. 

These problems are not secret at all. The F-35 is susceptible to detection by radars operating in the VHF bands of the spectrum. The fighter’s jamming is mostly confined to the X-band, in the sector covered by its APG-81 radar. These are not criticisms of the program but the result of choices by the customer, the Pentagon. To suggest that the F-35 is VHF-stealthy is like arguing that the sky is not blue—literally, because both involve the same phenomenon. The late-Victorian physicist Lord Rayleigh gave his name to the way that electromagnetic radiation is scattered by objects that are smaller than its wavelength. This applies to the particles in the air that scatter sunlight, and aircraft stabilizers and wingtips that are about the same meter-class size as VHF waves.

The counter-stealth attributes of VHF have been public knowledge for decades. They were known at the dawn of stealth, in 1983, when the MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory ordered a 150-foot-wide radar to emulate Russia’s P-14 Oborona VHF early-warning system. Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth division—makers of the F-35—should know about that radar: they built it. Making a plane VHF-stealthy starts with removing the target’s tails, as on the B-2 bombers. But we did not know how to do that on a supersonic, agile airplane (like the F-35 is supposed to be) when the JSF specifications were written

Neither did the technology to add broadband-active jamming to a stealth aircraft exist in 1995. Not only did stealth advocates expect jamming to fade away, but there was an obvious and (at the time) insoluble problem: To use jamming you have to be certain that the radar has detected you. Otherwise, jamming is going to reveal your presence and identify you as a stealth aircraft, since the adversary can see a signal but not a reflection. We can be sure that onboard jamming has not been added to the F-35 since. Had the JSF requirements been tightened by one iota since the program started, its advocates would be blaming that for the delays and overruns.

What the JSF does have is a jamming function—also known as “electronic attack,” or EA, in militaryese—in the radar. It also has an expendable radar decoy—BAE Systems’ ALE-70. Both are last-ditch measures to disrupt a missile engagement, not to prevent tracking. JSF’s planners, in the mid-1990s, were close to correct when they calculated that low-band stealth and limited EA, combined with passive electronic surveillance for situational awareness, would be adequate at service entry. But they expected that the F-35 would reach squadrons in 2010, and China’s military modernization was barely imaginable.

The threats of the late 2010s will be qualitatively different. Old VHF radars could be dealt with by breaking the kill chain between detection and tracking: they did not provide good enough cueing to put analog, mechanically scanned tracking radars on to the target. Active electronically scanned array (AESA), high-power VHF radars and decimeter- and centimeter-wave trackers are more tenacious foes.

Last August, at an air show near Moscow, I talked to designers of a new, highly mobile counterstealth radar system, now being delivered to the Russian armed forces. Its centerpiece was a 100-foot-wide all-digital VHF AESA, but it also incorporated powerful higher-frequency radars that can track small targets once the VHF radar has detected them. More recently, however, it has emerged that the U.S. Navy is worried because new Chinese warships carry the Type 517M VHF search radar, which its maker says is an AESA.

None of this is to say that stealth is dead, but it is not reasonable to expect that the cat-and-mouse game of detection and evasion in air combat has stopped, or that it ever will. EA and stealth still do not coexist very comfortably on the same platform, but offboard EA and stealth are synergistic: the smaller the target, the less jamming power is needed to mask it. But the threat’s demonstrated agility drives home the lesson that there is no one winning move in the radar game. Excessive reliance on a single-point design is not a good idea, and using fictitious secrecy to quash the debate is an even worse one.

 Pentagon Worries That Russia Can Now Outshoot U.S. Stealth Jets

A Sukhoi SU-35 fighter aircraft participates in a flying display during the 50th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 23, 2013.  REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol (FRANCE - Tags: BUSINESS TRANSPORT MILITARY) - RTX10Y40

High flying and fast, the F-22 Raptor stealth jet is by far the most lethal fighter America has ever built. But the Raptor—and indeed all U.S. fighters—have a potential Achilles’ heel, according to a half-dozen current and former Air Force officials. The F-22’s long-range air-to-air missiles might not be able to hit an enemy aircraft, thanks to new enemy radar-jamming techniques. The issue has come to the fore as tensions continue to rise with Russia and a potential conflict between the great powers is once again a possibility—even if a remote one.

“We—the U.S. [Department of Defense]—haven’t been pursuing appropriate methods to counter EA [electronic attack] for years,” a senior Air Force official with extensive experience on the F-22 told The Daily Beast. “So, while we are stealthy, we will have a hard time working our way through the EA to target [an enemy aircraft such as a Russian-built Sukhoi] Su-35s and our missiles will have a hard time killing them.”

The problem is that many potential adversaries, such as the Chinese and the Russians, have developed advanced digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) jammers. These jammers, which effectively memorize an incoming radar signal and repeat it back to the sender, seriously hamper the performance of friendly radars.

Worse, these new jammers essentially blind the small radars found onboard air-to-air missiles like the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM, which is the primary long-range weapon for all U.S. and most allied fighter planes. That means it could take several missile shots to kill an enemy fighter, even for an advanced stealth aircraft like the Raptor. “While exact Pk [probability of kill] numbers are classified, let’s just say that I won’t be killing these guys one for one,” the senior Air Force official said. It’s the “same issue” for earlier American fighters like the F-15, F-16, or F/A-18. Another Air Force official with experience on the stealthy new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter agreed. “AMRAAM’s had some great upgrades over the years, but at the end of the day, it’s old technology and wasn’t really designed with today’s significant EA in mind,” this official said.

Like boxers, every missile has a reach, a range, a limit to how far it can hit. In the not-too-distant future, the AMRAAM might also be out-ranged by new weapons that are being developed around the world.  Particularly, Russia is known to be developing an extremely long-range weapon called the K-100 that has far better reach than anything currently in existence. The problem is not a new one. Historically, the Pentagon has always prioritized the development of new fighters over the development new weapons—it’s a uniquely American blind spot. During the 1970s, the then brand new F-15A Eagle carried the same antiquated armament as the Vietnam-era F-4 Phantom II. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the F-15 received a weapon in the form of the AMRAAM that could take full advantage of its abilities. The same applies to short-range weapons—it wasn’t until the early 2000s with the introduction of the AIM-9X that the U.S. had a dogfighting weapon that could match or better the Russian R-73 Archer missile.

The Air Force officials all said that some of the American missiles would get through during a fight—there is no question of that—but it would take a lot more weapons than anyone ever expected. The problem is that fighter aircraft don’t carry that many missiles. The Raptor carries six AMRAAMs and two shorter range AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles inside its weapons bays. At the moment, the F-35 carries only four AMRAAM missiles inside its weapons bays, but that might be expanded to six in the future. Older fighters like the Boeing F-15 Eagle carry no more than eight missiles—while the F-16 usually carries no more than six weapons. That means that if a fighter has to fire—for instance—three missiles to kill a single enemy fighter, the Pentagon is facing a serious problem.

“Getting a first shot is one thing,” said a former Air Force fighter pilot with extensive experience with Russian weapons. “Needing another shot when you have expended your load is another when your force structure is limited in terms of the number of platforms available for a given operation.”

There are some potential solutions, but all of them mean spending more money to develop new missiles. former Air Force intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula said it’s “critical” that the U.S. and its allies move “air-to-air weapons into a future where they can effectively deal with adversary electronic attack.”
One relatively simple fix would be to develop a missile that picks out its targets using radars with a completely different frequency band. Current fighter radars and missiles operate on what is called the X-band, but they don’t necessarily have to. “Getting out of X band is on option,” said one senior Air Force official.

The Pentagon could also develop a new missile that combines multiple types of sensors such as infrared and radar into the same weapon—which has been attempted without much success in the past. Right now, the Defense Department—led by the Navy—is working to increase the range of the AIM-9X version of the Sidewinder by 60 percent to give the Pentagon’s fighter fleet some sort of counter to the jamming problem. But even with the extended reach, the modified Sidewinder won’t have anywhere close to the range of an AMRAAM.

The other option is to stuff fighters like the F-22 and F-35 with more missiles that are smaller. Lockheed Martin, for example, is developing a small long-range air-to-air missile called the “Cuda” that could double or triple the number of weapons carried by either U.S. stealth fighter. “Look to a new generation of U.S. air-to-air missiles, like Cuda, to neutralize any potential numerical advantage,” one senior industry official said.

The industry official said that despite the small size, new weapons like the Cuda can offer extremely impressive range because it doesn’t have an explosive warhead—it just runs into the target and destroys it with sheer kinetic energy. But the senior Air Force official expressed deep skepticism that such a weapon could be both small and far-reaching. “I doubt you can solve range and the need for a large magazine with the same missile,” he said. This official added that future weapons would be far better at countering enemy jamming—so much so that future fighters will not need to have the sheer speed and maneuverability of an aircraft like the Raptor. “I think top end speed, super cruise, and acceleration will all decline in importance as weapons advance in range and speed,” he said.

For a military that’s committed hundreds of billions of dollars to such advanced fighters, such developments might not exactly be welcome news.


Meet The Russian "Avtobaza" - Iran's Possible Drone Killer

Speculation is running rampant after Iran claimed to have shot down a US RQ-170 surveillance drone Sunday, and while Tehran has yet to show proof, it appears their announcement coincides with the delivery of this piece of equipment. Stephen Trimble from Flight Global reports Russia delivered the Avtobaza ground-based electronic intelligence and jamming system to Iran six-weeks ago. While most weapons deliveries to Iran are blocked, a jamming system like the Avtobaza is allowed because it's a passively defensive machine "designed to jam side-looking and fire control radars on aircraft and manipulate the guidance and control systems of incoming enemy missiles." Possibly what NATO regulators didn't plan on was the jammer's potential as a communications link allowing UAVs to be controlled remotely. Whether that's how it was used Sunday is another matter.

Russia Develops 'Microwave Gun' Able to Deactivate Drones, Warheads

Russia has developed super-high-frequency gun capable of deactivating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and the warheads of precision weapons

Russia has developed super-high-frequency gun capable of deactivating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and the warheads of precision weapons at an impact range of ten kilometers which ensures 360 degrees of perimeter defense.Russia’s United Instrument Manufacturing Corporation (UIMC), part of Rostec Corporation, has announced that it developed a super-high-frequency gun for BUK missile systems. The newly-developed equipment is capable of deactivating the radio electronics of UAVs and the warheads of precision weapons, according to a representative of the corporation. The equipment, informally named the microwave gun, has been developed for the needs of Russia’s Defense Ministry and will be demonstrated during the closed part of Army-2015, an international event organized by the Russian Defense Ministry, the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and state technology corporation Rostec, which will be held on June 16-19. The UIMC representative has not revealed all the technical characteristics of the equipment but has mentioned that the impact range of the equipment is ten kilometers and that its defense perimeter is 360 degrees. “The new system is equipped with a high-power relativistic generator and reflector antenna, management and control system, and a transmission system which is fixed on the chassis of BUK surface-to-air missile systems. When mounted on a special platform, the ‘microwave gun’ is capable of ensuring perimeter defense at 360 degrees,” the representative said. The system is capable of out-of-band suppression of the radio electronic equipment of low-altitude aircraft and the assault elements of precision weapons. The gun is able to deactivate the equipment of aircraft and UAVs, and neutralize precision weapons. There are currently also plans to use the system for testing Russian military radio electronic systems against the impact of powerful super-high-frequency emission.


Two armed US Predator drones "crash" in Iraq, Turkey

The US Air Force recently lost control of two armed Predator drones in separate incidents in Turkey and Iraq, a US military official said Wednesday. The Predators were both carrying air-to-surface Hellfire missiles when they crashed, but these were safely recovered along with the aircraft. In the first case on October 17, a Predator crew reported a "lost link and subsequent crash while the Predator was flying southeast of Baghdad," military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said. Local Iraqi police recovered the drone in the vicinity of Al-Kut. They returned the aircraft to US control and there were no injuries, Warren said. Then on October 19, a different Predator "crashed" in southern Turkey, Warren said. Local media have said it came down in Hatay. "The aircraft experienced mechanical failure. The Air Force in this case maintained positive control of the aircraft and brought it down safely in an unpopulated area," Warren said. Again, the aircraft was returned to US control. Both incidents are under investigation. The United States is leading a 60-plus member coalition targeting Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria and has been carrying out frequent warplane and drone raids for more than a year. Turkey has permitted the United States to use a base at Incirlik in southern Turkey to conduct strikes against IS.


The Week: This tiny Russian warship just shocked the world

n Oct. 7, four warships of the Russian navy's Caspian Sea flotilla fired 26 SS-N-30A land-attack cruise missiles at rebel forces in western Syria, a thousand miles away. The raid shocked foreign observers — not the least because the ships involved were so … tiny. "One of the biggest surprises for Russia-watchers was the small size of the ships that launched the missiles — 1,000-ton ships," said Eric Wertheim, author of Combat Fleets of the World. "That's really small." According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the attacking ships were Dagestan, Grad Sviyazhsk, Veliky Ustyug, and Uglich. The latter three are Buyan-class missile boats, 203 feet long and displacing 950 tons of water. Dagestan is a 335-foot, 1,900-ton Gepard-class frigate. All four ships entered service in just the last few years. For perspective, bear in mind that the smallest U.S. Navy surface warship to possess an equivalent weapon, the Tomahawk cruise missile, is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that's 500 feet long and displaces 9,000 tons. And America's Littoral Combat Ship frigates, which displace 3,000 tons, carry only small, short-range missiles. According to Wertheim, Russian naval design philosophy has always emphasized firepower. But it's worth noting that the four ships that launched the cruise missiles are all in the landlocked Caspian Sea. They don't deploy anywhere, so they don't need fuel and living spaces for long voyages.

Russia’s New Mega-Missile Stuns the Globe

On Oct. 7, Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired 26 high-tech cruise missiles at rebel targets in Syria—a staggering 1,000 miles away. The missiles in question, which the Pentagon calls SS-N-30s, were mostly unknown to the outside world before the Oct. 7 raid. Even close watchers of the Russian military were surprised to see them. The missile attack was also highly visible. In many ways, it was an announcement to the world, and America in particular, that the once-dilapidated Russian navy is back in action—and that Putin’s missileers are now among the planet’s most advanced. Planning for the missile attack began on Oct. 5, six days after Moscow’s warplanes conducted their first bombing runs on rebel holdouts in western Syria. Russia is intervening in Syria ostensibly to help the Damascus regime defeat the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS, but the Russian attacks seem to be hitting ISIS’s enemies more than the terror army itself. What’s more, critics point out, Syria provides Moscow strategic access to the Mediterranean Sea.

“Russian reconnaissance had discovered a number of important objects of militants, which were to be destroyed immediately,” the Russian Defense Ministry explained in a statement. Drones, surveillance satellites, radio interception, and human spies on the ground helped planners select the targets, the ministry added. “The strikes engaged plants producing ammunition and explosives, command centers, storages of munitions, armament, and [oil], as well as a training camp of terrorists on the territory of Raqqa, Idlib, and Aleppo,” according to the ministry. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the missiles struck all 11 planned targets. The Russian military celebrated the raid with a press release and an official video, and Shoigu went on national TV to praise the operation. Kurdish militiamen shot video they claimed depicted the missiles flying over northern Iraq. And the U.S. military apparently closely tracked the rocket-powered, guided munitions—and later claimed that several malfunctioned and crashed in Iran.

The media coverage was at least as important as the destruction of the alleged rebel facilities, U.S. defense officials told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “This is Russia demonstrating on a global stage that it has a lot of reach,” one official explained. Eric Wertheim, an independent U.S. naval analyst and author of the definitive Combat Fleets of the World, a reference guide to warships and their weapons, agrees, saying of the missile volley: “I think it was a demonstration to the world.” Wertheim and other foreign analysts were familiar with an earlier version of the SS-N-30 called the SS-N-27, but the latter is an anti-ship missile and the analysts assumed it could only fly 150 miles or so—a fraction of the roughly thousand miles the rockets traveled during the recent raid.

The SS-N-30 obviously boasts a much greater range than its predecessors and can also strike targets on dry land. That makes it broadly similar to the American Tomahawk missile, which the U.S. military traditionally fires in large numbers from ships and submarines in order to wipe out enemy air defenses before conducting aerial bombing campaigns. The U.S. Navy fired Tomahawks to hit the most heavily defended ISIS targets at the beginning of the American-led air war over Syria in September 2014. Very few countries posses Tomahawks or similar munitions—and only the United States and Great Britain have ever successfully used them in combat. Now Russia has joined that exclusive club of global military powers. And that should worry the Pentagon, Wertheim said: “It should be a wakeup call that we don’t have a monopoly on the capability.” What’s particularly striking is that Moscow has been able to build this long-range naval strike capability with much smaller vessels than anyone thought possible. In the U.S. Navy, large destroyers, cruisers, and submarines carry Tomahawk cruise missiles—and those vessels are typically at least 500 feet long and displace as many as 9,000 tons of water.

The four brand-new warships that launched the SS-N-30s were much, much smaller—ranging in length from 200 to 330 feet and displacing no more than 1,500 tons of water. “Small ships, big firepower,” Wertheim commented. That matters because, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s shipbuilding industry suffered a long period of deep decline that the Kremlin has lately struggled to reverse. That has had a profound effect on the Russian navy. “There are relatively few new warships in service at present and the ones that have been commissioned in recent years are all relatively small,” Dmitry Gorenburg, from Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, wrote in a recent analysis. But the October barrage proves that even the small warships that Russia is building can strike hard and far—something that, once upon a time, only the United States and its closest allies could do. Moscow’s missile raid helps re-establish Russia as a global military power. “They’re very serious about this,” Wertheim said.

‘Drop-and-Forget’: Russia Develops Supersonic Smart Bomb

The KAB-250 laser-guided bomb on display at the Russian Defence Ministry Innovation Day 2015

The KAB-250 is a follow-on to the larger KAB-500 PGM, which made its combat debut in September in Syria. There are two versions of the 250-kilogram KAB: a laser-guided version and a satellite-guided version. Based on the “drop-and-forget” principle, the KAB-250 guided aerial bomb incorporates the latest advances in science and technology, including the experience of its KAB-500 predecessor. The inertial guidance system directs the bomb towards the target area. Two to three kilometers from the target the bomb’s onboard computer commands the thermal homing head to acquire the designated target. The KAB-250’s thermal homing head then compares the acquired image with the reference picture laid down in its memory before discharge, and corrects the trajectory so that the radius of the deviation does not exceed three meters. The KAB-250 has a fragmentation warhead designed to destroy lightly vulnerable materiel, thin-skinned vehicles, and other enemy installations. The bomb can be dropped individually or in salvoes. The KAB-250 is 10.5 feet long, weighs a total of 565 pounds, with a 365 pound warhead and a 200-pound explosive. It has a complex, compact tail design and is fitted with four long-chord, short-span wings to increase its glide range. It falls from an aircraft at a rate of 655-1,150 feet per second. The KAB-250 can be used in all weather conditions and time of day, with different trajectories and speeds of several Mach number. The aerodynamic wings and close to neutral alignment munition provide high maneuverability and greater range.


Russia's Newest Cruise Missiles Make Combat Debut in Syria

Russia's latest cruise missile has been used for the first time in the Syria conflict. Introduced in 2013, the Raduga Kh-101 has been spotted on Russian Tu-95MS heavy bombers (pictured above) lobbing salvos of cruise missiles at Islamic State targets. The Kh-101 is a subsonic, conventionally armed cruise missile that flies at low level to avoid enemy radar. Compounding the difficulty of detecting the Kh-101 is that the missile is low-observable—not quite stealthy, but still designed with radar evasion in mind.

The missile is large, 24.4 feet long and with a launch weight of 5,060 pounds. A turbofan engine propels the missile at high subsonic speeds, thought to be around .77 Mach. Armed with an 880 pound conventional warhead, Kh-101 packs twice as much punch as its predecessor. The missile takes advantage of Russia's GLONASS satellite guidance system to achieve accuracy within 30 feet, making it two to three times as accurate as the previous cruise missile.

The truly astounding feature about the Kh-101 is its intercontinental range. The missile has a claimed range of 6,000 miles, meaning it could be launched from Moscow and hit nearly any part of the United States. Low observable and capable of flying under many air defense radars, the Kh-101 is very useful for so-called "day one" surprise attacks, especially on well-defended targets. A nuclear version of the missile, the Kh-201, is thought to carry a 250 kiloton warhead. And that's what worries the Pentagon.

The prospect of a Russian nuclear cruise missile threat—launched from thousands of miles away—has set the Pentagon on edge. The threat of a surprise attack on Washington DC, a so-called "decapitation strike" that would eliminate the civilian and military leadership in one sudden stroke, is the driver for LENS aerostat network deployed around the nation's capital. The aerostats, one of which broke free and crashed last month, sit at an altitude of 10,000 feet and use radar to scan for incoming cruise missiles.

The choice of the Kh-101 is an odd one. The Kremlin could have attacked undefended Islamic State targets equally well with older, obsolete missiles. Using the latest, most expensive cruise missiles seems like a waste—unless the real intent of the missile bombardment was to show off the Bear's newest claws.


Russia’s New Ray Gun To Blind Enemies In Syria

Russia visual optic jammer

The new dazzling weapon, a ‘visual optical jammer’ called Grach, was unveiled at a military expo in Russia last week. It was earlier reported that the Russian Navy is poised to conduct military tests with a new prototype of the ray gun on the frigate Admiral Gorshkov as well as other vessels. “It [the new ray gun prototype] can save lives and hardware and causes a strong psychological effect on the enemy,” deputy director of device creator OPK Sergey Skokov said, as quoted by The Sunday Express. Skokov added that the new weapon will be used only against terrorists such as ISIS as well as pirates, and will not be limited to only the Russian military, which means the Kremlin plans exporting this weapon. “Not only foreign navies, but also border guards and law enforcement agencies fighting against piracy on the seas may find it useful,” Skokov said. The ray gun features four projectors, with the capacity to be controlled remotely. It is expected to be attached to defense vehicles such as hovercrafts, amphibious vehicles and hydrofoils in order to provide allied troops with cover by blinding enemies with strong light. 

Russia uses Syrian conflict to test its weapons in the battlefield

The new weapon is expected to be used by Russian forces in Syria against ISIS targets. However, there have been numerous indications that Russia also targets U.S.-backed rebels, who oppose against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime. Last week, it was reported that Russian jets bombed 27 hotspots believed to be held by ISIS. However, it was also reported that Russian jets have bombed 9 Syrian hospitals in the last month, according to the American Thinker. Russian defense ministry recently reported that the Russian military campaign in Syria has destroyed a total of 71 armored vehicles, 30 other types of vehicles, 19 command facilities, 2 communications facilities, 23 depots with fuel and supplies, 6 plants manufacturing car bombs as well as several artillery units and training camps. Russia’s military campaign in Syria thus presents a unique opportunity for the Russian military to test the effectiveness of its new weapons and see how they operate in the battlefield. Russia has not had an opportunity to test its weapons in actual combat zones ever since the war in Afghanistan, while the U.S. and its Western allies have tested many of its tactics and weaponry in such military confrontations as Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. 

Russia builds a significant force in Syria 

The weapons that Russia is using in the Syrian military campaign include the Kh-25 laser-guided missile and the KAB-500S Glonass satellite-guided bomb. According to reports, these weapons are used in moderation. Meanwhile, it was reported that Russia has 30 fixed-wing aircraft as well as 20 jets currently operating in Syria, all of which are deployed in the coastal city of Latakia. Russia has conducted a total of 669 sorties in Syria, 115 of which were launched at night, which indicates that Russia has been working on its armed forces’ night vision capabilities, according to Russian media. The last month of Russian aerial campaign in Syria indicates that Russia is focusing mainly on precision strikes, rather than more traditional Russian air-ground cooperation operations. However, there have been several operations, in which Russia provided air support for advancing Syrian army. 

Military comparison: Post-Soviet Russia vs. Modern Russia 

The West has not seen what the Russian military is like in actual combat since the war in Afghanistan, and now Russia shows off its modernized and new military capabilities, which differ greatly from the Soviet forces. Russian military is now capable of effectively using drones and precision weapons, while constantly advancing its aircraft and naval technologies. The post-Soviet Russia relied largely on nuclear weapons, while now the Russian military might is capable of presenting a great challenge to enemies with its conventional forces. By using a few small corvettes deployed in the Caspian Sea, Russia managed to carry out the launch of brand new Kalibr NK cruise missiles at targets located nearly 1,000 miles away. This kind of missiles provides Moscow with the kind of strike capabilities even the U.S. does not have.


The U.S. Navy's Worst Nightmare: Super Advanced Russian Submarines

In recent years, the Russian navy has started to slowly recover from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. While the Russian surface fleet still faces quite a few challenges, the country’s submarine force has been more active than ever since the end of the Cold War. Though not near as large or as capable as the once mighty Soviet submarine fleet, some of the most advanced late Soviet-era designs are starting to enter service.

The best example is Russia’s Project 885 Yasen-class nuclear attack submarine K-329 Severodvinsk, which started construction in 1993 but only entered service in 2014. The massive cruise missile-carrying SSGN’s construction had been repeatedly delayed because of post-Soviet Russia’s budgetary woes. During the intervening years, many of the vessel’s components were rendered obsolete and the follow-on Project 885M vessels—starting with Kazan—will have many refinements. Nonetheless, Severodvinsk is by far the most capable submarine in the Russian fleet.

“We’ll be facing tough potential opponents. One only has to look at the Severodvinsk, Russia’s version of a [nuclear guided missile submarine] (SSGN). I am so impressed with this ship that I had Carderock build a model from unclassified data.” Rear Adm. Dave Johnson, Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) program executive officer (PEO) submarines said last year during the Naval Submarine League’s symposium [4] in Falls Church, Va. “The rest of the world’s undersea capability never stands still.”

Severodvinsk leverages many of the automation technologies the Soviet Union invested in during the 1970s and 1980s with the Project 705 Lira-class boats—better known by their NATO-code name as the Alfa-class. The Alfa-class submarines—which were built with a titanium hull and liquid-metal cooled reactor—were the fastest and deepest diving operational submarines ever built—save for the lone Soviet Project 661 Anchar-class (NATO: Papa-class) boat. As such, the 13,800-ton, 390-foot long, submarine is highly automated vessel with a crew of only 32 officers and 58 enlisted submariners.

The U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World [5] noted that some reports suggest the vessel might have a maximum speed of between 35 and 40 knots. It is far quieter than previous Russian submarines and has a maximum “silent” speed of about 20 knots. Like most new nuclear submarine designs, Severodvinsk reactor is designed to last for the life of the boat. According to the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), while the new Russian submarine is quieter than the Improved Los Angeles-class boats, the new vessel is not quite as silent as the Seawolf or Virginia-class. However, the Russians were always only lagging slightly behind the U.S. in quieting technology according to Navy sources.

Unlike most Soviet submarine designs, the Yasen-class boats do not make use of a double-hull—instead it has hybrid design with a lighter structure over the vessel’s pressure hull according to Russian media reports. Another unique feature for a Russian vessel is that it incorporates a spherical bow sonar called the Irtysh-Amfora for the first time. As a result, Severodvinsk has its torpedo tubes located at about mid-ship like U.S. submarines. The vessel has eight torpedo tubes, four of which are 650mm tubes while the rest are 533mm tubes. Combat Fleets of the World estimates that the Yasen-class may carry as many as 30 torpedoes.

But the Russians are well aware that time has not stood still since 1993 when Severodvinsk was laid down. The Russian navy is set to take delivery of an improved [6] Project 885M Yasen-class attack submarine in 2016 according to Russian state media, which is named after the city of Kazan. The new Project 885M boat incorporates many improvements over Severodvinsk. Kazan is expected to have improved sensors and weapon systems compared to Severodvinsk. It is also likely to be quieter than Severodvinsk.

The Russian navy hopes to procure a minimum of eight Yasen-class attack boats. Four boats have been ordered thus far with a third vessel, Novosibirsk, having been laid down in July 2013.

While the Project 885M is an impressive and very capable vessel, it is not quite an equal to the latest American boats in terms of acoustical or sensor performance. In terms of raw performance, the Severodvinsk and her sisters are likely more similar to the U.S. Navy’s three Seawolf-class attack boats, which according to Navy sources were designed specifically to counter late generation Soviet vessel like the Project 941 Akula—also known more commonly as the Typhoon— Project 971 Shchuka-B (oddly code-named Akula by NATO) and the Project 945 Sierra-class boats.

The Yasen-class boats are fast, heavily armed and deep diving—and ideally the United States would have more Seawolf-class vessels to handle them. But while the Virginia-class subs don’t have the deep diving, high-speed open ocean performance of the Seawolf-class, it should be more than adequate to handle the handful of Project 885s that Russia builds.

Russia may be planning to develop a nuclear submarine drone aimed at 'inflicting unacceptable damage'

Russia may be planning to develop a nuclear submarine drone aimed at 'inflicting unacceptable damage'

During a regular meeting with defense officials on November 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed methods of countering NATO's missile-defense shield, which the Kremlin worries could neutralize the country's nuclear deterrent. Putin's come up with a possible countermeasure, boasting that the Kremlin would develop "strike systems capable of penetrating any missile defenses." Footage of the meeting includes a clear view of a document that defense officials were looking over. The document looks at one type of "strike system" that Putin was talking about.

The document, according to the Russian Forces blog, includes plans to develop an underwater drone that could be launched from submarines in order to carry out nuclear strikes at key coastal areas. The project is known as "Ocean Multipurpose System 'Status-6.'"

According to a translation by Russian Forces, this weapons system is aimed at "damaging the important components of the adversary's economy in a coastal area and inflicting unacceptable damage to a country's territory by creating areas of wide radioactive contamination that would be unsuitable for military, economic, or other activity for long periods of time." The drone, according to the project documents, will be launched from two new models of submarine that Russia has started developing over the past three years. The drone will also reportedly have a maximum range of 5,400 nautical miles (10,000 kilometers) while traveling at a depth of 1,000 meters.

Bill Gertz, writing for The Washington Free Beacon, notes that Pentagon officials have determined that Russia is developing a "drone submarine" that would be capable of delivering a nuclear weapon with a yield of multiple megatons. The drones could destroy port cities in the event of a war. And since they'd be delivered underwater, they'd be immune to the NATO missile shield. Still, there is the possibility that Russia leaked details of the project for propaganda purposes. Since the end of the Cold War, the Russian military has suffered a series of setbacks that are continuing to hamper the country's development of high-end hardware.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia lost a good portion of its military-industrial base. US-led sanctions against Russia and falling oil prices have compounded earlier problems and led to a number of procurement difficulties for the Kremlin. A new fifth-generation bomber, the PAK DA, was intended to enter service in 2023. The plane's development has been pushed back and Russia will instead focus on production of an updated version of the Soviet-era Tu-160 supersonic nuclear bomber. And the Kremlin is also having problems financing its hulking third-generation Armata tank. Dmitry Gorenburg of Harvard University estimates that Russia will only be able to field a maximum of 330 Armata tanks by 2020, a fraction of the 2,300 originally planned.

In light of Russia's recent history of not being able to deliver on ambitious defense projects, the submarine drone may be nothing more than an attempt to bolster the Kremlin's image, rather than a weapons system that Russia actually intends to build.


Russia's Armour Revolution

Paraded uncovered for the first time on 9 May in Moscow, Russia's new range of armoured vehicles represent not only the biggest change in the country's armoured vehicle families since the 1970s but also a new design ethos. While the vehicles' designs partly involve radical rather than revolutionary innovation, the scale and ambition of the change they embody is nothing short of a revolution. Together, the Armata, Kurganets, Boomerang, and Koalitsiya and other vehicles on show will replace nearly all Russia's existing vehicle families as, remarkably, Russia is attempting to replace all its main armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) families at the same time.

Additionally, the new vehicles display radical changes in design ethos and incorporate multiple previously unseen active protection systems (APSs). The reported weight and the apparent size of all the vehicles indicates a shift in armoured vehicle design philosophy away from the Soviet emphasis on manoeuvrability and low vehicle profile towards the Western focus on armour protection and crew survivability. While many details of the vehicles had already been known, and were covered in depth by JDW in April, the full unveiling of the vehicles has revealed many fascinating new details and added greatly to our understanding of the vehicle family designs.

T-14 Armata main battle tank (MBT)

The T-14 is Russia's first truly new tank design since the T-72, designed in the early 1970s. Based on the Armata Universal Tracked Platform, the T-14's most attention-grabbing feature is its unmanned turret, with all of the MBT's three crew (commander, driver, gunner) seated in a well-protected crew compartment at the front of the hull.

Russia's T-14 Armata MBT (IHS/Andrey Kryuchenko/Russian MoD)

Seven T-14s took part in the parade and the type is slated to replace the Russian Ground Forces' T-72M3 and T-90 main battle tanks (MBTs) currently in service. Notably, the unveiled turret dispels suggestions the MBT would be armed with a coaxial 30 mm cannon, in addition to its 2A82A 125 mm main gun. Indeed the pre-production vehicles paraded by Russia feature neither a 30 mm cannon nor a coaxial machine gun (MG) armament as expected, although the production vehicles might eventually feature the dual 30 mm cannon/7.62 mm MG.

Although the T-14's turret features a large bustle, it remains unclear whether this features the autoloader/weapon-handling system for the MBT's main gun or serves another purpose (meaning the T-14 would retain the vulnerable hull-mounted carousel system present in previous Russian MBTs). Some reports also indicate Russia has not entirely abandoned its ambitions to arm Armata with a 152 mm main gun. If this is the case, it could explain why the T-14's unmanned turret has an unusually high profile relative to the position of the 125 mm main gun, with the turret possibly designed to incorporate growth potential up to the 152 mm calibre.

T-14 is armed with a remote-controlled turret (RCT) armed with a 7.62 mm PKTM MG, with the unit also functioning as the commander's independent sight. The gunner's sight is mounted to the left side of the main gun and shielded by a two-piece armoured door to protect it from small arms fire. A barrel reference unit is mounted above the base of the 2A82A main gun, which notably lacks a fume bore extractor (which would be superfluous given the turret is unmanned). Metrological, satellite communications, GLONASS, datalink, and radio communications antennae are fitted on the roof of the turret.

The MBT's turret is literally covered in a variety of launcher and sensor systems understood to be linked to a new APS system, which some reports call 'Afghanit'. At the base of each side of the turret are five large and fixed horizontally arrayed launch tubes covering the 120° frontal arc of the turret. These bear a strong resemblance to the launchers for the earlier Drozd and Drozd-2 APS, which fired a hard-kill 107 mm unguided projectile armed with a high-explosive-(HE) fragment warhead to defeat incoming anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs).

The T-14 is also fitted with four sets of smaller-calibre launchers, with each unit armed with 12 launch tubes. Two horizontally trainable launcher units are fitted on either side of the top of the turret, while two apparently fixed and vertically facing launcher units are recessed into the top of the tank's turret.

It is unclear whether this second system fires hard-kill (ie warheads) or soft-kill (ie anti-infrared/laser-obscuring smoke) munitions, or a combination of the two. It is also unclear if the vertically mounted units are fireable, or simply storage for reload units for the two trainable launchers. One limitation of the Drozd systems were that they provided no protection against threats emanating from above the tank, so mounting the fixed launchers vertically could be one way to provide protection against top-attack threats.

Providing warning and guidance for the APS system are two types of sensors mounted around the T-14's turret. Two large sensors, believed to be electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR)-based laser warning receivers, are angularly mounted on the front of the turret providing 180° coverage, while four smaller sensors (covered but believed to be radars) are mounted around the turret providing 360° coverage.

Armata features a notably different hull design to the T-72/90. One striking difference is the road wheels, which are of a different design to the T-72/90's, while the Armata features seven road wheels, to the six of the previous MBT designs, with the drive wheel at the rear. This is similar to the T-80 MBT family, which also has chassis with seven smaller road wheels.

It is not known whether Armata is equipped with a gas-turbine or a diesel engine, but the T-14's powerpack is mounted at the rear of the MBT, with two internal fuel tanks mounted on either side, and exhausts also mounted on either side. Day/night cameras are mounted around the T-14's turret to provide situational awareness, while a forward-looking EO/IR (FLIR) system is mounted on the front of the hull for the driver. The driver's hatch has no periscopes. When driving buttoned-down, the driver may be in a reclined position, using a set of periscopes mounted on a second hatch directly behind him.

NII Stali is understood to have designed a new form of steel armour for the Armata family. Speaking to TASS, a NII Stali representative said the "steel armour alloy, named 44S-sv-Sh [44S--], is approved by the Armata's developer. The alloy's operational testing has been started and it can be used in prospective vehicles' parts". The use of the 44S-sv-Sh steel in Armata is intended to provide protection at a similar level to STANAG 4569 (first edition) Level 5. The high level of 44S-sv-Sh's protection is ensured by the short-grained material structure, the optimised legation process and the special heat processing. The steel has also been designed to maintain its characteristics in very cold conditions.

The Armata design is also understood to utilise explosive reactive armour (ERA) within its base design (rather than the appliqué ERA tiles seen on previous Russian MBTs), with views from above the MBT showing a distinctive tiled pattern indicative of ERA on the top of the vehicle's chassis and turret. Although what appear to be ERA tiles are present on the turret roof, much of the sides of the turret appears to be just a thin cladding covering the various APS and sighting systems rather than armour. Appliqué armour (unclear if passive or ERA, or both) is fitted to the forward two thirds of the T-14's sides, while the rear third is protected by bar armour to provide clearance for the T-14's exhausts.

T-15 Heavy Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)

Also based on the Armata universal platform and fully unveiled during the 9 May parade is the T-15 Heavy IFV.

Russia's T-15 Armata Heavy IFV. (IHS/Andrey Kryuchenko/Russian MoD)

For the creation of the T-15 the Armata chassis has been reversed in its entirety to create a compartment to accommodate dismounts at the rear of the IFV. Accordingly, the T-15's powerpack is mounted at the front of the vehicle, with the drive wheel also at the front and the exhausts now on the forward sides of the vehicle. This swap has necessitated relocating the vehicle's fuel tanks, while to protect the normally weaker armour of the rear of the Armata chassis a distinctive arrowhead-shaped armour package extends around the forward sides of the vehicle. To accommodate the vehicle's exhausts the side armour is overhanging rather than arrowhead. The overall effect of this is to give the vehicle an odd, bulbous appearance. The top of the vehicle's chassis appears to be protected by integrated ERA tiles.

T-15 Armata heavy infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) take part in the Victory Day Parade in Moscow. (PA Photos)

The T-15 is armed with a KBP Instrument Design Bureau Epoch Almaty-designed RCT at the rear of the vehicle equipped with a 30 mm 2A42 cannon, 7.62 mm coaxial MG, and a bank of two Kornet-M ATGWs on either side. The RCT features a gunner's sight to the right of the main gun and an independent commander's sight on the top of the turret on the left-hand side. The heavy IFV is also fitted with an advanced armour package on the side of the vehicle. The T-15 appears to feature the same APS sensors and launchers as seen on the T-14, although mounted on the hull of the vehicle rather than its turret. A three-man crew (commander, gunner, driver) are located in the centre of the vehicle, behind the engine, with the rear of the vehicle's hull raised to accommodate the troop compartment and turret. Egress from the crew compartment is made via a power-assisted door at the rear of the vehicle. The front/underside of both the T-14 and T-15 is fitted with what appears to be a small entrenching/counter-mine system.


The lighter, 25-tonne, Kurganets-25 was present in two variants at the 9 May parade: IFV and armoured personnel carrier (APC). The new vehicle family appears significantly wider and taller than BMP series of vehicles it is slated to replace.

Russian Kurganets-25 IFVs take part in the 9 May 2015 Victory Day Parade in Moscow. (PA Photos)

The IFV variant is armed with the same 30 mm cannon/Kornet ATGW armed turret as the T-15. Uralvagonzavod has also created its AU-220M turret armed with a 57 mm cannon, which is understood to be in contention to be fitted to the IFV variant, although this was not fitted to the Kurganets-25 IFVs taking part in the parade. Much like the Armata vehicles, the Kurganets-25 IFV appears to feature two types of APS sensor and effector, although these appear subtly different to those on the Armata vehicles. Fixed launchers are placed all around the vehicle hull, providing 360° coverage. While these resemble the launches on the Armata vehicles, they appear to be of a much smaller calibre. A two-part sensor system, similar to the laser-warning receivers on the Armata vehicles, is also located around the hull. Oddly, three sensors are located on the left-side of the vehicle, but only two on the right-side. Given both sets of sensors and effectors are located on the hull, it would appear the two systems are linked.

Russia's Kurganets-25 armoured personnel carrier (APC) takes part in the Victory Day Parade in Moscow. (Nikolai Novichkov)

Three two-part sensors (covered during the parade) are also mounted around the turret, along with four sets of effectors on the front of the turret and two mounted sidewise on the rear of the turret. It is unclear what these effectors are, but they appear similar to an unknown system seen mounted on the turret of the earlier T-95 (Object 195) prototype MBT. On the IFV, each set has a pair of what are either round windows or frangible covers. If they are windows, this system could be a new APS interference emitter similar to a greatly slimmed-down version of the soft-kill Shtora system present on the T-90. Alternatively, each set could contain two of the effectors from the smaller-calibre launchers on the Armata vehicles. Given that the coverage provided by the location of the effectors appears to intermesh, the latter option seems more likely.

Kurganets-25 IFV. (IHS/Andrey Kryuchenko)

The APC version, meanwhile, is fitted with a much smaller RCT armed with 12.7 mm MG. The APC lacks the hull-mounted sensors or effectors seen on the IFV variant, and instead features solely the second APS type present on the Kurganets-25 IFV. While the sensor configuration is the same for this APS on both the APC and IFV variants, the configuration of the effectors differs. On the APC vehicle, the effectors are located only on the front of the turret and instead of six sets of paired effectors, there are four sets of paired effectors, and four sets of single effectors.

Kurganets-25 APC. (IHS/Andrey Kryuchenko)

Both the APC and IFV variants are otherwise identical, with a forward-mounted powerpack and seven road wheels. Commander and driver's hatches are present in front of the turret, with access to the troop compartment via a rear door. Unlike in previous Russian IFV designs, there are no other hatches for troops carried inside, apart from the rear door. Neither variants feature any obvious ERA, although ERA has not typically been fitted to Russian IFVs. Both feature a large appliqué kit to the sides of the vehicle, although whether this is principally for armour or flotation purposes is unclear. Amphibious capability has been designed into the Kurganets family, with both featuring a bow plane and waterjets installed within the rear of the hull.


The Boomerang 8x8 vehicle also made its full debut at the 9 May parade, and is intended to replace the BTR-family of vehicles, the most recent variant in Russian service being the BTR-82A.

Russian Ground Forces Bumerang (Boomerang) 8 x 8 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). (Nikolai Novichkov)

The 8x8 is armed with the same turret as both the T-15 and the Kurganets-25 IFV, although the examples taking part in the parade were fitted with no APS systems. An APC variant fitted with an RCT with a 12.7 mm MG is also understood to be planned.

Boomerang 8x8 IFV. (IHS/Andrey Kryuchenko)

Boomerang's powerpack is located in the front right-hand side of the vehicle, with the driver at the front-left side of the vehicle. Neither the vehicle's commander nor gunner have their own hatch, although unlike the Kurganets vehicles there are two roof-hatches for the troop compartment. With the engine located in the front of the vehicle, troops can egress via a door at the rear of the vehicle, unlike the awkward side doors of the BTR series (which had their engine at the rear). Also designed to be amphibious, Boomerang is equipped with a bow plane at the front of the hull and shrouded propellers at the rear of the 8x8.


Also shown off on the 9 May parade was the 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV (Coalition-SV) self-propelled artillery (SPA) system, which will replace the 2S19 MSTA-S SPA in Russian Ground Forces service.

Russia's Koalitsia-SV (Coalition-SV) self propelled artillery system (SPA) takes part in the Victory Day Parade in Moscow. (PA Photos)

This is understood to feature a new 152 mm ordnance utilising a modular charge system. This main gun features notably different muzzle brake and recoil dampeners to the earlier SPA. An RCT armed with a 12.7 mm MG is mounted on the roof of the turret. There are two bundles of 902B Tucha smoke grenade launchers mounted on either side of the cabin and no other APS effectors, although four warning receivers are located on the SPA's turret. The main turret, understood to be unmanned akin to the T-14's turret, is significantly longer than the 2S19's.

Koalitsiya 152 mm SPA. (IHS/Andrey Kryuchenko)

Although Koalitsiya-SV was slated to be based on the Armata universal chassis, the pre-production vehicles appear based on a modified T-72/90 chassis. The general layout and roadwheels appears to be identical to those on the T-72/90 chassis, although the front of the chassis has been heavily modified to create positions for the commander and gunner on either side of the driver. Unlike on Armata, where the driver is located on the right side of the vehicle, the driver on Koalitsiya is located in the centre of the vehicle (as seen in the T-72/90 and 2S19). According to Georgy Zakamennih, chief director of TsNII Burevestnik, the developer of the 2S35, Coalition-SV has a maximum range of 70 km when firing advanced shells. He added that its ammunition load is larger than Western analogues. There is a unified command-and-control panel on which all the actions are displayed. The system's pneumatic loader is billed as increasing Coalition-SV's rate of fire. 2S35 can automatically choose the appropriate type of shell and fire it. Coalition-SV is therefore not a classic self-propelled gun but an innovative robotised complex, autonomous to a high extent, he said. 


Revealed: Russia's Shadowy 'SEAL Team 6' Operates in Syria

When it comes to wars, nations like to have insurance policies in case things go bad. Russia isn’t an exception. The Kremlin’s ground-attack planes in Syria are not there by themselves, but have cover from high-tech fighter jets in case anyone, namely the United States, tries to challenge the Russian air force. But Russia has another and far more shadowy insurance policy in Syria. To enact that policy, Russia can call on agents with Zaslon, or “Screen,” an ultra-secret group of special operatives long rumored to operate in the country.

Like their American counterparts, the public glamorizes Russia’s various “Spetsnaz” units, which are often willing to play along with the portrayals. But Zaslon doesn’t do that, as it doesn’t officially exist. But evidence for Zaslon’s presence in Syria grew stronger with the recent publication of a new (paywalled) article by authors Mark Galeotti and Jonathan Spyer in Jane’s Intelligence Review. Galoetti, a professor at New York University and an expert on Russian special operations forces, wrote the section on Zaslon and excerpted it on his blog. 

Zaslon, which operates under the Kremlin’s Foreign Intelligence Service, conduct its affairs in Syria separately from the Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU. While GRU agents work in the Syrian defense ministry in Damascus, Zaslon is a “small special forces team … reporting neither to the GRU or to regular military cells, but instead to the Russian embassy on Omar Ben Al Khattab Street,” Galeotti wrote. What does Zaslon do? It could be serving in an advisory role to Syrian military and government officials, in addition to feeding intelligence back to Moscow. But another job could be—in the event of a regime breakdown—to protect, rescue or seize Russian nationals, assets and intelligence documents in the country. Or whatever else needs doing.

Russian marines fight Isis along with Hezbollah in Syria, says report

A group of Russian marines have been reportedly engaged in a battle with the Islamic State (Isis) terrorists. The Russian soldiers, along with the Hezbollah fighters and the Syrian army, fought the Isis in Aleppo province in northern Syria. It is reported that this was the first time that the Russian soldiers from its Marine Brigade 810 fought in a battle in Syria, an Israeli website that reports on military intelligence said. According to DEBKAfile, the Russian forces carried out a joint operation along with the Lebanese militant group and Syrian forces in an attack on the Isis at the Kweiris airbase located east of Aleppo.

Kweiris airbase is believed to be controlled by the Isis fighters from Chechnya. However, the Russians are focused on reclaiming the second largest Syrian city from the rebels, it is reported. By retaking the area around Kweiris airbase, Russians can once again open the roads between Aleppo and Damascus, which could then help the Syrians to bring in reinforcements and military equipment. Even as the United States is still mulling over the Russian proposal, which asks countries to fight extremists "in coordination with the governments of the affected states", Kremlin has expanded its military presence in Syria. Russia is believed to be building a military base to house 2,000 military personnel near the coastal city of Latakia.

Russia has stationed at least 48 military aircraft and attack helicopters at the Latakia airbase. The sudden spurt in the Russian presence in Syria took many by surprise as Kremlin literally sneaked in several fighter jets over the weekend. A US official told CNN that Russian fighter jets switched off their transponders while flying into Syria to avoid detection. The official said the fighters flew in trailing a Russian transport plane that had its transponder functioning.


Activist Says Russia Using 'Hybrid Warfare' In Syria

The head of a team of Russian cybersleuths who have uncovered what they argue is a much more robust Russian military role in Syria than officially claimed, says the Kremlin seems to be following the "hybrid warfare" playbook perfected in eastern Ukraine. Activists from the Moscow-based Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) said in a report released on November 8 that Russia's military is taking an active role in ground operations of the Syrian army's fight against the opposition, contradicting Kremlin claims that its intervention is limited to air strikes and providing military advisers and equipment.

Ruslan Leviev, who heads CIT, said the scenario is similar to the one the Kremlin used in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has been accused of directly backing separatists fighting Ukrainian forces with arms, weapons, and regular troops, while admitting only that Russian volunteers were taking part.

"There is the 'official part' which no one denies: In Syria it is the bombing campaign; in Ukraine it was the 'volunteers'," Leviev explained in an interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service. "Then there is the 'unofficial part', which the authorities vehemently deny, but which is obvious: the participation (of Russian forces) in ground operations, the deployment of various heavy weapons. It's this type of "hybrid warfare," where there is the official, open part, and the hidden, unofficial part," Leviev said.

Russia's deployment to Syria -- its largest outside the former Soviet Union in two decades -- has included advanced fighter jets, antiaircraft missile systems, tanks, and armored-personnel carriers. But much of the Russian weaponry has been positioned -- officially anyway -- at the Latakia air base in western Syria. Russia first launched air strikes to support President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's four-year civil war on September 30, but has repeatedly stated it has no intention of launching a ground offensive. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refused to comment on the CIT finding, the latest to leave the Kremlin squirming.

In the past, CIT has used its social-media investigative skills to uncover information about Russian military deaths in Ukraine. In late October, CIT was first to report the first confirmed death of a Russian soldier in Syria. In its latest report, CIT said three serving or former Russian soldiers had been geolocated by photographs on social media in Syria, including locations near Hama, Aleppo, and Homs. Russia's military jets are based at the base in Latakia, far from where the three men were geolocated.

CIT published screenshots from a social-media account belonging to Ayas Saryg-Ool, a soldier it said served in Russia's 74th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, and from an account belonging to Vladimir Boldyrev, who it suggested was a Russian marine from the 810th Separate Marine Brigade. It showed both of them had recently posted pictures with geolocation tags in Hama Province. Saryg-Ool's page, which had previously shown him posing with a heavy machine gun and in the cab of what CIT said was an artillery tow truck, was not available as of November 8, the same day CIT issued its report. CIT also published screenshots from the Instagram page of Ilya Gorelykh, who it said had served in Russia's GRU special forces in the past.

In late October it showed he had uploaded pictures from Aleppo, one of which showed him holding an assault rifle while wearing civilian clothes. Another image of him posing in camouflage with three other armed men was apparently taken in Homs. The pictures were not available on his account on November 8. The CIT report follows statements by U.S. security officials and independent experts on November 4 to the Reuters news agency that Russia's military force in Syria has doubled to 4,000 troops. Leviev told RFE/RL's Russian Service that the growing number of Russian military personnel was being deployed beyond the air base in Latakia, in small groups numbering between 20 and 30.

"It's obvious, the contingent is being increased at other places as well -- for example, the air base in Hama, where, as we've seen, there's been an increase in Russian military jets. All of this is still officially dismissed and denied," Leviev explained.

"We are seeing that our columns of military hardware and soldiers are appearing more and more in those provinces in Syria where [Russia], in principle, should not be very close to sites where heavy fighting is taking place. We've sighted our soldiers and our military hardware in the cities of Hama, Homs, Aleppo, those parts of Latakia Province, where heavy fighting is taking place," Leviev told RFE/RL.

The CIT report seems to reinforce statements by a top U.S. State Department official that Russia had deployed heavy artillery and other ground forces near Homs and Hama. Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, also said Moscow's air campaign in Syria was costing between $2 million and $4 million a day. She described the effort, which has reportedly hit civilian areas, as immoral. While Moscow insists it is hitting Islamic State group targets, U.S. officials said on November 4 that up to 90 percent of Russia's targets have, in fact, been moderate Syrian rebel groups -- including some that have been trained and supplied weaponry by the United States.

This Helicopter Is Putin’s Weapon of Choice in Syria

Soon after Moscow began its air campaign in Syria, both supporters and opponents of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began posting videos of attacks by Russian Mi-24 attack helicopters, a hybrid transport aircraft and gunship unique to the Russian military. And it is the low-flying Mi-24, not warplanes flattening the Syrian landscape from thousands of feet up, that has the potential to hand Assad’s beleaguered military some much-needed battlefield wins. The videos show the Mi-24s, also known as Hind helicopters, flying close to the ground — sometimes just above the treetops — and often in pairs, firing off barrages of rockets at nearby rebel positions.

Syrian pilots have long flown Russian helicopters, so there’s no way to conclusively tell who’s in the cockpit. But close observers of the conflict say it’s likely that Russians are piloting the aircraft because of the technical skill of the pilots and the fact that the specific models being flown are newer versions of the Mi-24s known to be in the Syrian arsenal. The helicopters shown in the recent videos, for instance, have two 30 mm guns instead of the single, smaller gun found on older models, according to Nick de Larrinaga, the Europe editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly. Christopher Harmer, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War and a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, said a video of a pair of Mi-24s flying low to the ground and firing rockets showed a “top shelf, highly trained, very courageous, and highly aggressive Russian helicopter crew.”

“When you see higher quality airmanship and precision fires coming from helicopters, that’s 100 percent Russian pilots,” he said.

The skill of the Mi-24 pilots may be doubly important to Russia if the aircraft also happens to be carrying Russian troops. The Russian helicopter combines the attack capabilities of an American Apache helicopter with the troop-carrying capabilities of a U.S. Huey helicopter; Harmer said Washington has no exact parallel of the Mi-24 in its arsenal. Since the Mi-24s combine heavy weaponry with a transport hull, they can ferry teams from Russia’s special operations divisions to the front line. That, in turn, could allow the Russian forces to focus on “directing airstrikes, calling in helicopter gunship support, and directing long-range air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missile fire,” Harmer said.

The entrance of Russian helicopter pilots into the Syrian theater of war could also help address what Harmer says is one of the Assad regime’s most worrisome problems: a steady loss of foot soldiers. The recent videos, said both Harmer and de Larrinaga, indicate a shift in helicopter tactics, whereby pilots are getting much closer to the ground than before and more precisely hitting targets in support of the allied troops doing the heavy fighting. The finesse of the Russian pilots is “a qualitative technical advantage that the Syrian military just doesn’t have; it’s going to significantly reduce Assad’s casualties,” Harmer said.

The rebels’ best defense against Russia’s favorite tool to mow them down? Man-portable air-defense systems, otherwise known as MANPADS, a weapon that Saudi Arabia has offered to rebels despite U.S. objections. They have proven “highly effective against helicopters” like the Mi-24, de Larrinaga said. Mi-24 pilots are trying to close off that vulnerability by flying at incredibly low altitudes, which can fool the targeting systems of the MANPADS with what Harmer calls “ground clutter.” It’s not a fail-safe tactic; the MANPADS remain, at least for the moment, the rebels’ best hope for making Russia bleed for its actions in Syria. Insurgents are already claiming to have downed one of the attack helicopters. Whether the pilot inside was Russian or Syrian is unclear.


Russian Ships Near Undersea Data Cables Are Too Close for U.S. Comfort

Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict.

The issue goes beyond old worries during the Cold War that the Russians would tap into the cables — a task American intelligence agencies also mastered decades ago. The alarm today is deeper: The ultimate Russian hack on the United States could involve severing the fiber-optic cables at some of their hardest-to-access locations to halt the instant communications on which the West’s governments, economies and citizens have grown dependent.

While there is no evidence yet of any cable cutting, the concern is part of a growing wariness among senior American and allied military and intelligence officials over the accelerated activity by Russian armed forces around the globe. At the same time, the internal debate in Washington illustrates how the United States is increasingly viewing every Russian move through a lens of deep distrust, reminiscent of relations during the Cold War.

Inside the Pentagon and the nation’s spy agencies, the assessments of Russia’s growing naval activities are highly classified and not publicly discussed in detail. American officials are secretive about what they are doing both to monitor the activity and to find ways to recover quickly if cables are cut. But more than a dozen officials confirmed in broad terms that it had become the source of significant attention in the Pentagon.

“I’m worried every day about what the Russians may be doing,” said Rear Adm. Frederick J. Roegge, commander of the Navy’s submarine fleet in the Pacific, who would not answer questions about possible Russian plans for cutting the undersea cables.

Cmdr. William Marks, a Navy spokesman in Washington, said: “It would be a concern to hear any country was tampering with communication cables; however, due to the classified nature of submarine operations, we do not discuss specifics.” In private, however, commanders and intelligence officials are far more direct. They report that from the North Sea to Northeast Asia and even in waters closer to American shores, they are monitoring significantly increased Russian activity along the known routes of the cables, which carry the lifeblood of global electronic communications and commerce.

Just last month, the Russian spy ship Yantar, equipped with two self-propelled deep-sea submersible craft, cruised slowly off the East Coast of the United States on its way to Cuba — where one major cable lands near the American naval station at Guantánamo Bay. It was monitored constantly by American spy satellites, ships and planes. Navy officials said the Yantar and the submersible vehicles it can drop off its decks have the capability to cut cables miles down in the sea.

“The level of activity,” a senior European diplomat said, “is comparable to what we saw in the Cold War.”

One NATO ally, Norway, is so concerned that it has asked its neighbors for aid in tracking Russian submarines. Adm. James Stavridis, formerly NATO’s top military commander and now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said in an email last week that “this is yet another example of a highly assertive and aggressive regime seemingly reaching backwards for the tools of the Cold War, albeit with a high degree of technical improvement.”

The operations are consistent with Russia’s expanding military operations into places like Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Syria, where President Vladimir V. Putin has sought to demonstrate a much longer reach for Russian ground, air and naval forces.

“The risk here is that any country could cause damage to the system and do it in a way that is completely covert, without having a warship with a cable-cutting equipment right in the area,” said Michael Sechrist, a former project manager for a Harvard-M.I.T. research project funded in part by the Defense Department. “Cables get cut all the time — by anchors that are dragged, by natural disasters,” said Mr. Sechrist, who published a study in 2012 of the vulnerabilities of the undersea cable network. But most of those cuts take place within a few miles from shore, and can be repaired in a matter of days.

What worries Pentagon planners most is that the Russians appear to be looking for vulnerabilities at much greater depths, where the cables are hard to monitor and breaks are hard to find and repair.

Mr. Sechrist noted that the locations of the cables are hardly secret. “Undersea cables tend to follow the similar path since they were laid in the 1860s,” he said, because the operators of the cables want to put them in familiar environments under longstanding agreements. The exceptions are special cables, with secret locations, that have been commissioned by the United States for military operations; they do not show up on widely available maps, and it is possible the Russians are hunting for those, officials said.

The role of the cables is more important than ever before. They carry global business worth more than $10 trillion a day, including from financial institutions that settle transactions on them every second. Any significant disruption would cut the flow of capital. The cables also carry more than 95 percent of daily communications. So important are undersea cables that the Department of Homeland Security lists their landing areas — mostly around New York, Miami and Los Angeles — at the top of its list of “critical infrastructure.”

Attention to underwater cables is not new. In October 1971, the American submarine Halibut entered the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan, found a telecommunications cable used by Soviet nuclear forces, and succeeded in tapping its secrets. The mission, code-named Ivy Bells, was so secret that a vast majority of the submarine’s sailors had no idea what they had accomplished. The success led to a concealed world of cable tapping.

And a decade ago, the United States Navy launched the submarine Jimmy Carter, which intelligence analysts say is able to tap undersea cables and eavesdrop on communications flowing through them. Submarines are not the only vessels that are snooping on the undersea cables. American officials closely monitor the Yantar, which Russian officials insist is an oceanographic ship with no ties to espionage. “The Yantar is equipped with a unique onboard scientific research complex which enables it to collect data on the ocean environment, both in motion and on hold. There are no similar complexes anywhere,” said Alexei Burilichev, the head of the deepwater research department at the Russian Defense Ministry, according to in May 2015.

American concern over cable cutting is just one aspect of Russia’s modernizing Navy that has drawn new scrutiny. Adm. Mark Ferguson, commander of American naval forces in Europe, speaking in Washington this month said that the proficiency and operational tempo of the Russian submarine force was increasing. Citing public remarks by the Russian Navy chief, Adm. Viktor Chirkov, Admiral Ferguson said the intensity of Russian submarine patrols had risen by almost 50 percent over the last year. Russia has increased its operating tempo to levels not seen in over a decade. Russian Arctic bases and their $2.4 billion investment in the Black Sea Fleet expansion by 2020 demonstrate their commitment to develop their military infrastructure on the flanks, he said.

Russia is also building an undersea unmanned drone capable of carrying a small, tactical nuclear weapon to use against harbors or coastal areas, American military and intelligence analysts said. Admiral Ferguson said that as part of Russia’s emerging doctrine of so-called hybrid warfare, it is increasingly using a mix of conventional force, Special Operations mission and new weapons in the 21st-century battlefield.

“This involves the use of space, cyber, information warfare and hybrid warfare designed to cripple the decision-making cycle of the alliance,” Admiral Ferguson said, referring to NATO. “At sea, their focus is disrupting decision cycles.”


Joint Russian-Armenian Air Defense Shield to Cover Middle East

S-300PM missile system

A joint Russian and Armenian air defense system project was launched long ago and is not connected to the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the crisis in the region proves the necessity of such measures, political analyst Sergei Minasyan said. Russia President Vladimir Putin ordered to sign an agreement on the creation of a joint air defense system of Russia and Armenia. The decree was published Wednesday. The system will allow for protecting the airspace far to the south of the Russian borders, political analyst Sergei Minasyan said. "The system will comprise air defenses and Russian combat jets deployed to the Southern Military District. This would allow for monitoring the airspace far from the Armenian borders. The system will also help modernize Armenian air defenses and improve their operational range," Minasyan told Sputnik Radio.
The deployment of air defense missile systems, radio-radars and jet fighters to Armenia will allow for protecting the airspace far from the Russian borders, including in the Middle East, he pointed out.
According to him, the initiative was launched long ago. "It has been in the development for over 10 years. And now it’s just a coincidence with the Syrian conflict. The situation in the so-called Greater Middle East just proves that the measures are effective," the analyst said. Minasyan underscored that Moscow and Yerevan laid groundwork for the project back in the 1990s. "From political and strategic points of view there have been no significant changes. The system still works. Russia and Armenia coordinate their actions in patrolling the airspace. The new joint air defense system would just be more effective," he said.


Russian military mission in Syria brings history full circle

Valery Anisimov and his fellow Russian servicemen were smuggled out of the Black Sea hiding below the decks of their ship, they grew their hair long so they could pass as tourists, then landed at a Syrian port to join up with government military units. Their trip took place in January 1983, 32 years before Russia's military again joined a Syrian conflict with its launch last month of air strikes on militant groups opposed to the Damascus government. As Anisimov's story shows, even if Russia's entry into the Syrian conflict may have caught Western countries off guard, it is the continuation of a long history of involvement in the Middle East.

 That role declined after the collapse of the Soviet Union left Russia broke and in chaos, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has now restored what, in the Kremlin's eyes, is business as usual in the region. "We moved away from supporting the Arabs," said Pogos Akopov, a retired diplomat who served as Soviet ambassador to Egypt, Libya and Kuwait. "It was temporary. And it was corrected by whom? By Putin." Western governments take a different view, seeing Putin's intervention as an opportunistic attempt to grab influence and enhance his reputation at home as someone who is ready to thumb his nose at the United States.

For decades before the end of the Cold War, Moscow was an influential player in the Arab world. It financed infrastructure projects like Egypt's Aswan dam and provided weapons and military training. Former Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad, the father of President Bashar al-Assad, studied at a military flying school in the Soviet Union. These relationships also involved Moscow sending its soldiers to Syria - though for the most part these missions were not publicly acknowledged because the Kremlin did not want to be an official party to the region's armed conflicts.


Back in 1983, Anisimov was serving as a conscript in the Moscow region with an anti-aircraft unit. At the time, Israeli troops had invaded Lebanon and taken control of most of its southern half, while Syrian forces had taken control of the north. The Syrians were suffering losses from Israeli aviation, and the Soviet leadership wanted to shore up its Syrian allies. Anisimov was sent to the Black Sea port of Nikolayev in Ukraine, now known as Mykolaiv. He joined up with about 1,000 other servicemen who were ordered to paint their equipment in desert camouflage colors.

 They boarded a cruise line called the Ukraina, and set off. They were not told where they were going, he recalled in an interview. On the day of their departure, a local newspaper reported the ship was taking students who had won a Socialist competition on a cruise of the Mediterranean. Once on board, they were told to wear civilian clothes and ordered to let their military haircuts grow out. Announcements over the ship tannoy were addressed to "Comrade tourists," according to Anisimov. Sailing through the Dardanelles, the narrow sea passage linking the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, the ship had to pass an American warship.

Anisimov said launches approached the Ukraina, with listening devices directed towards the Russian ship. "We were shut up inside our cabins and they forbade us to speak," he said. A few days later, they docked at the Syrian port of Tartous, which, three decades later, is now the unloading point for much of the Russian military equipment being deployed in Syria.

"They said to us: 'You're in Syria,' and they handed out our weapons," Anisimov said. "We didn't call each other 'Comrade Major' or 'Comrade Colonel.' We greeted each other by name and patronymic, so no one would know we were Soviet officers."


Anisimov's new unit, the 220th anti-aircraft regiment, set up its batteries of S-200 anti-aircraft missiles. Their role was to track Israeli aircraft flying into Syria, and, if necessary, shoot them down. That order was never given, Anisimov said, but the presence of the Russian missile batteries acted as a deterrent to the Israeli air force, which had found out they were there. A decade later, even after the Soviet Union collapsed, Russian service personnel were again serving on clandestine missions in Syria, though on a smaller scale.

Oleg Popikov, now the 53-year-old chairman of a military plant in Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek, was a captain in the Soviet military when, in 1990, he was first sent to Syria. For four years, he served as a military advisor to the Syrian armed forces, based in the city of Deraa, in south-west Syria. He stayed on in the role after the Soviet Union ceased to exist a year after his arrival. His role, he said, was to train a Syrian missile defense unit equipped with Soviet-made missiles. He said he was decorated with a Syrian military medal, but did not see action. At home, his mission was not publicly acknowledged, but was described as a "special mission."

"But I don't begrudge it," said Popikov, who retired from the military with the rank of colonel. "Besides, my pay was not bad." He said ordinary Syrians saw Russia's military contingent as their protectors from outside threats. "If you went to a bazaar, they would give you fruit and vegetables for free." Popikov said he had kept close touch with friends from his time in Deraa, including two he said had been killed this month fighting against Islamist militants.


Akopov, the former diplomat, said the Soviet Union's doctrine of close cooperation with Arab countries was a response to its Cold War confrontation with the United States. Moscow was barred from trading with the West, and sought out new trade partners in the Middle East instead. And the Kremlin provided weapons to Arab governments to persuade them not to allow Western countries to set up bases there, he said. That doctrine was dropped when Boris Yeltsin, Russian's first post-Communist leader, took power and Moscow believed the era of confrontation with Washington was over.

But Akopov said the doctrine has become relevant again as Cold War tensions have resurfaced and Russia again finds itself isolated internationally. "Putin understood this. He did not seek confrontation with the West but he believed you have to be strong so that people reckon with you," said Akopov. During the fallow period for Russian-Arab relations after the Soviet Union collapsed, Akopov published a newspaper called Bil-Amal, Arabic for "With Hope." The name, he said, referred to the hope that one day the old ties would be restored. Now, said Akopov, that hope has been realized, "because we returned."

The 120-year-old war that never ended

"What the darkness cannot possess, it seeks to destroy"

You've probably read all sorts of theories that seek to explain the causes of the 'new cold war' in which we find ourselves. From the embarrassingly simplistic "Putin's a Hitler" offered by the Western press to the more nuanced idea of an 'energy war' between US-Europe-Russia. The truth about why we are where we are right now, as a species, however, is actually fairly simple. But to understand it you'll have to ditch the idea of a 'new cold war' and replace it with 'the 120-year-old war that never ended'. If you like your history condensed and relevant to current events, then read on.

Over 100 years ago, in 1904, one of the founding fathers of both geopolitics and geostrategy, Oxford University graduate and co-founder of the London School of Economics, Sir Halford Mackinder, proposed a theory that expanded geopolitical analysis from the local or regional level to a global level. Geopolitics is the study (by people in positions of power) of the effects of geography (human and physical) on international politics and international relations. In layman's terms, this means the study of how best to control as much of the world - its resources, human and natural - as possible. When you or I think about the world, we think of a big, complicated place with billions of people. When the 'elite' think of the world, they think of a globe, or a map, with nation states on it that can, and should, according to them, be shaped and changed en masse. Mackinder separated the world into just a few regions.
  • The 'world Island', an area roughly comprising the interlinked continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
  • The offshore islands, including the British Isles and the islands of Japan.
  • The outlying islands, including the continents of North America, South America, and Australia.
The most important of these, by far, was the 'world island' and in particular what he called the 'heartland', which basically means Russia. Mackinder said that whoever controls the 'heartland' (Russia) controls the 'world island' (Eurasia and Africa), and whoever controls that, controls the world. It's a fairly self-evident analysis of the situation because the great majority of the world's population and resources are on the Eurasian continent, and holding a vast northern position on that landmass - with your rearguard protected by an impassable frozen ocean - gives you the prime vantage point, or 'higher ground' if you will.

Mackinder's geostrategic map of the world

Mackinder probably arrived at this conclusion as a result of the British experience of Empire. The British had a large empire on which 'the sun never set' (and the blood never dried), and while the British elite made a lot of money, and caused a lot of suffering, by expropriating the resources of other peoples, they were never able to truly 'rule the world' because the 'heartland' (Russia) was not conquered and made a subservient state of Western powers, largely due to its massive size and the fact that Russia had long since been an Empire itself. In 1904, Mackinder's ideas (shared by his contemporaries) were already common currency among the anglo-American elite of the day, who sought global domination by way of the prevention of any competitor to the United States. Russia was that natural potential competitor, again due to its size, resources and imperial history. So even before the turn of the 20th century, the US elite, in league with their British co-ideologues, were busying themselves with the task of 'neutralizing' Russia as a threat to their plans for global hegemony. As Mackinder published his ideas, US and British political, industrialist and banker types had already embarked on the process of 'regime change' in Russia by way of one of the 'offshore islands', specifically, Japan.

First War, Then Revolution

In 1898, Russia had agreed to a convention with China that leased the Chinese port of 'Port Arthur' to Russia. At the time this was Russia's only warm water Pacific seaport (and it was as strategically important as Crimea is to Russia today). Both the British and Americans were concerned about the close relationship between Russia and Germany (Tsar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany were cousins) and the possibility that France might join them in a triple anti-British alliance. To the British and Americans this was a clear "threat to the international order".1 To thwart Russian intentions in Asia, in 1902, Great Britain and Japan signed the 'Anglo-Japanese alliance' which stipulated that if either Japan or Great Britain were attacked by more than one enemy they would support each other militarily. This was effectively a green light from the British for Japan to go to war with Russia if necessary, safe in the knowledge that neither France nor Germany (Russia's allies) would intervene and risk war with Britain. From this point on, Japan effectively acted as a protector of British interests in East Asia.
A Russian propaganda print from 1905 showing Russian sailors smoking Japanese shells provided by 'John Bull' (England) as the US looks on.

From February 8th 1904 to September 5th 1905 the first 'great war' of the 20th century was fought between Japan and Tsarist Russia, largely over access to 'Port Arthur'. The British government supplied the Japanese navy with war ships and during the war itself passed intelligence to the Japanese. Perhaps the most significant aid to the Japanese government came in the form of loans from British and American banks and financial institutions that totaled $5 billion at today's value, including a $200 million 'loan' from prominent Wall St. banker Jacob Schiff.2 During World War I, Schiff and other Wall Street bankers would also extend loans to the Central Powers, despite officially being enemies of their adopted homeland, the USA. Russia fielded over one million soldiers and sailors against Japan's 500,000, but Russia still lost the war, largely due to support from the British and the Americans. The decisive battle occurred on 27-28 May 1905 when the Russian and Japanese navies met at the Tsushima strait. Two thirds of the Russian fleet was destroyed. Russia's defeat was underlined by the Treaty of Portsmouth, which confirmed Japan's emergence as the pre-eminent power in East Asia and forced Russia to abandon its plans to develop the Siberia-Pacific region and launch Far East trade routes. Japan also became the sixth-most powerful naval force and the war costs dealt a significant blow to the Russian economy.

A 1905 depiction of the disastrous (for Russia) battle of Tsushima where 2/3 of the Russian fleet was destroyed.

Even before the war officially ended, it was Russia's dire financial straits, the defeat at Tsushima, and pressure from the British that led the Tsar to ultimately back away from the 1905 Treaty of Bjorko he had signed with Kaiser Wilhelm (and, by implication, France). As soon as the British government and their network of anglophiles in Russia found out about the secret deal signed on the Kaiser's yacht in the Baltic sea - a deal that would have threatened 'world order' by aligning Russia with Germany - they threatened to cut off funding to Russia and marshaled the Russian press, which they apparently controlled, to launch an anti-German propaganda campaign. The Kaiser wrote to the Tsar: "The whole of your influential press, have since a fortnight become violently anti-German and pro-British. Partly they are bought by the heavy sums of British money, no doubt".3 With Russia isolated and economically broken, and the threat of Eurasian integration removed, the next logical step was to get rid of the Tsar altogether and transform Russia into a controlled, retarded and 'captive' market for Western finance. But to achieve that goal, Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany would first have to be decisively dealt with, and that meant war. To prepare the ground for that war, the British signed the anglo-Russian entente in 1907 and then later added France to the 'triple entente', allying the world's most powerful militaries against Germany.

Between 1903 and 1914, the British public was gradually whipped into an anti-German frenzy and assaulted with countless newspaper articles, books and pamphlets (falsely) warning of Germany's aggressive rearmament and intentions to invade Britain and take over the world. British newspaper and publishing magnate at the time Alfred Harmsworth, who was intricately linked with the British political and banking elite, exerted enormous influence over the British public through his newspapers. In an interview with the French newspaper Le Matin, Harmsworth said: "The Germans make themselves odious to the whole of Europe. I will not allow my paper to publish anything which might in any way hurt the feelings of the French, but I would not like to print anything which might be agreeable to the Germans".3 The anti-German hysteria culminated in the passage of the UK's Official Secrets Act of 1911, which effectively established the British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6. It is fitting that these agencies, tasked today with manufacturing terrorist threats to scare the British - and global - public into supporting war, had their foundation in a manufactured threat from Germany.

The chosen 'flash point' for an anglo-American war to destroy Germany, weaken the European powers and make the whole of Europe subservient to Western banking interests was the Balkans. In November 1912, a telegram from the Russian ambassador in Bulgaria to the Russian foreign minister (Isvolsky) identified a representative of the British newspaper The Times who claimed that "very many people in England are working towards accentuating the complication in the Balkans to bring about the war that would result in the destruction of the German fleet and German trade".4 This Times journalist was most likely James David Bourchier, a member of the English aristocracy who was deeply involved in the Balkan League, an organisation set up in 1912 by the Russian ambassador in Belgrade, Nicholas Hartwig, to lobby for the independence of Balkan states from the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Nicholas Hartwig was an agent of the English monarch, Edward VII, and, thereby, of the British elite5. Independence for the Balkan states was fully in line with the British elite's aim of dismantling competing empires.

The assassination of arch-duke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 is recorded as the spark that ignited the First World War. But this is a distortion of the facts. As mentioned, British plans for war against Germany were at least a decade old by that point. In any case, assassinations of royalty and nobility were fairly common at that time in Europe, and the death of Ferdinand was not something that would necessarily have provoked a world war. Certainly, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was only interested in quieting the Serbs, and Germany, Austria-Hungary's ally, was decidedly against the crisis spiraling out of control.

Two patsies of the Western elite. Archduke Ferdinand and his assassin, Gavrilo Princip.

After the assassination, the British government deceptively announced to Austria-Hungary and Germany that they accepted Austria-Hungary's right to compensation from Serbia. When Austria delivered its July Ultimatum on July 23rd to the Serbs - a series of demands that were intentionally made unacceptable - it expected a local war to result, but Russian foreign minister Sazonov (another British agent)6 responded by mobilizing Russian forces on July 28th against the wishes of the Tsar. The British also quietly mobilized their own troops in anticipation of a German move against Belgium, which occurred on August 4th. That neither Germany nor Austria-Hungary realised was that the assassination - the casus belli - had been orchestrated by the Serbs with the encouragement of British agents in the Russian government. In the 1917 court case on the assassination, Serbian colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević confessed that he hired Ferdinand's assassins and that the murder was planned with the knowledge and approval of the Russian ambassador in Belgrade - Nicholas Hartwig - and the Russian military attaché in Belgrade, Viktor Artamonov. Both Hartwig and Artamonov were effectively in the pay of the British government. If it had been widely revealed at the time that the Russians were directly involved in the assassination, the British government could not have justified the war to the British public, who held strong anti-Tsarist opinions, thanks to being systematically fed anti-Russian propaganda during the 'Great Game' of the 19th century. If anything, they would have called for war against Russia.

Kaiser Wilhelm II (left) and Tsar Nicholas II wearing each others military uniforms.

Even as the Russian and German armies were marching out of their barracks on July 1st, the Tsar and the Kaiser were exchanging telegrams in a futile attempt to avert disaster. In a note he wrote later that day, the Kaiser finally understood the depth of British perfidy:
"I have no doubt about it: England, Russia and France have agreed among themselves to take the Austro-Serbian conflict for an excuse for waging a war of extermination against us... the stupidity and ineptitude of our ally is turned into a snare for us ... the net has been suddenly thrown over our head, and England sneeringly reaps the most brilliant success of her persistently prosecuted purely anti-German world policy against which we have proved ourselves helpless. We are brought into a situation which offers England the desired pretext for annihilating us under the hypocritical cloak of justice." 7
It should come as no surprise that during this 'great' war to protect the free world, British and American arms manufacturers, many with links to City of London and Wall Street banks, were arming all sides in the conflict. For just one example, the British-owned Armstrong-Pozzuoli Company, headquartered on the bay of Naples, employed 4,000 men and was the chief naval supplier to Britain's enemy, Italy, and a high-level English naval officer, Rear Admiral Ottley, was a director!8 During the war, Labour MP Philip Snowden angrily told the House of Commons that "submarines and all the torpedoes used in the Austrian navy are made by the Whitehead Torpedo works in Hungary... they are making torpedoes with British capital in order to destroy British ships."9 The same torpedoes were being used by German U-boats to sink British, and later American, ships.

Talk about a revolution

The disastrous effects to Russia of the British-inspired Russo-Japanese war provoked the 1905 Russian 'revolution' that lasted until 1907. That revolution paved the way for the overthrow of the Tsar and the coming to power of the nihilistic Bolsheviks in the October revolution of 1917. The event would define Russia's history for the next 70 years. Far from being an impediment, the fact that Tsarist Russia was a British ally in the middle of WW1 appears, at the time, to have been seen by the British and American governments as an opportunity to stab the Tsar in the back when, and from where, he least expected it.  Like the first World War, the plan for the overthrow of the Tsar and revolution in Russia was years in the making. In fact, it seems that the 1905 Russo-Japanese war was used by the aforementioned Jacob Schiff and Co. to sow the seeds of that 1917 revolution 12 years in advance. In her book, Jacob H. Schiff: A Study in American Jewish Leadership, prolific Jewish-American author Naomi Wiener Cohen states:
"The Russo-Japanese war allied Schiff with George Kennan in a venture to spread revolutionary propaganda among Russian prisoners of war held by Japan (Kennan had access to these). The operation was a carefully guarded secret and not until the revolution of March 1917 was it publicly disclosed by Kennan. He then told how he had secured Japanese permission to visit the camps and how the prisoners had asked him for something to read. Arranging for the 'Friends of Russian Freedom' to ship over a ton of revolutionary material, he secured Schiff's financial backing. As Kennan told it, fifty thousand officers and men returned to Russia [as] ardent revolutionists. There they became fifty thousand "seeds of liberty" in one hundred regiments that contributed to the overthrow of the Tsar."
While Schiff was a strident opponent of the Russian Tsar for his treatment of Russian Jews, it's difficult to tell if sympathy for his co-religionists in Russia was the motivation for Schiff, and other Jewish Wall Street bankers and industrialists, to finance the Bolshevik revolution. After all, they all also reaped massive financial rewards as a result.
Cartoon by Robert Minor in St. Louis Post-Dispatch (1911). Karl Marx surrounded by an appreciative audience of Wall Street financiers: John D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, John D. Ryan of National City Bank, and Morgan partner George W. Perkins. Immediately behind Karl Marx is Teddy Roosevelt, leader of the Progressive Party.

Russian General Arsene de Goulevitch, who witnessed the Bolshevik Revolution firsthand, stated: "The main purveyors of funds for the revolution were neither the crackpot Russian millionaires nor the armed bandits of Lenin. The 'real' money primarily came from certain British and American circles which for a long time past had lent their support to the Russian revolutionary cause... I have been told that over 21 million rubles were spent by Lord [Alfred] Milner in financing the Russian Revolution".10 Milner was perhaps the preeminent agent of the British Empire at that time. As High Commissioner for Southern Africa, German-born Milner pioneered concentration camps and ethnic cleansing during the Boer War to expand British control of Africa. Milner was also the chief author of the Balfour Declaration, despite it being published in Arthur Balfour's name. In his book on Milner, Edward Crankshaw summed up Milner's 'ideology':
"Some of the passages [in Milner's books] on industry and society... are passages which any socialist would be proud to have written. But they were not written by a socialist. They were written by "the man who made the Boer War." Some of the passages on Imperialism and the white man's burden might have been written by a Tory diehard. They were written by the student of Karl Marx." 11
Milner's ideological bi-partisanship - and utter indifference to his German roots - mirrored that of the Wall Street bankers. Speaking to the League for Industrial Democracy in New York on 30th December 1924, Otto H. Kahn, who was Jacob Schiff and Felix Warburg's partner in Kuhn, Loeb & Co. and director of American International Corp., said: "what you radicals, and we who hold opposing views differ about, is not so much the end as the means, not so much what should be brought about, as how it should, and can, be brought about".

Lord Alfred Milner: Arch imperialist and 'color revolution' aficionado

De Goulevitch cites reports from local observers and journalists in Petrograd in 1917 of British and American agents handing out 25-rouble notes to soldiers of the Pavlovski regiment just before they mutinied and joined the revolution.5 De Goulevitch also named Sir George Buchanan, the British Ambassador to Russia at the time, as one of the main players in financing what was effectively an early 'color revolution' in Russia.As Jennings C. Wise has written, "Historians must never forget that Woodrow Wilson... made it possible for Leon Trotsky to enter Russia with an American passport."12

With the Tsar gone and the Western-backed Bolsheviks in power, US and other Western governments and corporations had succeeded not only in destroying Russia's economy and industry, but breaking off parts of the Russian empire.The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk is a testament to the fecklessness of the Bolsheviks in that, in order to withdraw Russia from the war, they were forced to cede territory to Germany and Austria-Hungary. The first round of negotiations stalled because the mad-cap revolutionaries believed that Germany and Austria-Hungary were on the brink of revolution themselves. When Lenin and Co. finally came to their senses, they were forced to sign an even more punitive agreement with the Central Powers. While Russia regained much of this lost territory after WWII, it lost it all again in 1991. In fact, Russia's post-1991 western border bears a marked similarity to that imposed by the Brest-Litovsk treaty. Under Lenin and Trotsky, the Bolshevik 'revolution' had effectively shut down the Russian economy and its industry, allowing Western bankers to step in to 'rebuild'. Consider the words of American journalist, labor organizer, and publicist, Albert Rhys Williams, who was both a witness to - and participant in - the October revolution, as he testified at the Senate Overman Committee:
Mr. Williams: [...] it is probably true that under the Soviet government industrial life will perhaps be much slower in development than under the usual capitalistic system. But why should a great industrial country like America desire the creation and consequent competition of another great industrial rival? Are not the interests of America in this regard in line with the slow tempo of development which Soviet Russia projects for herself?

Senator Wolcott: So you are presenting an argument here which you think might appeal to the American people, your point being this; that if we recognize the Soviet government of Russia as it is constituted, we will be recognizing a government that cannot compete with us in industry for a great many years?

Mr. Williams: That is a fact.

Senator Wolcott: That is an argument that, under the Soviet government, Russia is in no position, for a great many years at least, to approach America industrially?

Mr. Williams: Absolutely.
When the Bolsheviks started their first bank, Ruskombank, in 1922, one of its directors was Max May of Guaranty Trust. Guaranty Trust was a J.P. Morgan company. On joining Ruskombank, May stated:
"The United States, being a rich country with well developed industries, does not need to import anything from foreign countries, but... it is greatly interested in exporting its products to other countries, and considers Russia the most suitable market for that purpose, taking into consideration the vast requirements of Russia in all lines of its economic life."13
J.P. Morgan's Guaranty Trust also raised loans for the German war effort while simultaneously funding the British and French against the Germans, and also the Russians, both under the Tsar against Germany, and then the Bolsheviks against the Tsar and for the "revolution".14

Two world wars, courtesy of the anglo-American elite.

Via Wall Street bankers, the US government under Woodrow Wilson broke with international convention after WWI and refused to forgive debts from the massive war loans it pumped to its allies, primarily Britain and France.15 Germany was in an even worse position because of the reparations demanded by the extremely harsh Treaty of Versailles. None of these countries were in a position to pay back the money owed, so the 'Dawes Plan' was enacted whereby the US government would loan money to Germany so that it could pay reparations to France and Britain, who would then give the money back to the US to pay off their war debt. That's how 'funny money' works. Nevertheless, World War I was a boon for the USA. It went from owing foreigners $4.5 billion in 1914 to being owed $25 billion by foreigners in 1928, including Europe's war debt. As a result, much of Europe's gold also ended up in Fort Knox. Professor of economics Michael Hudson claims that the motivation for massive US government financial claims on Europe was political rather than economic. Germany paid off the final tranche of its debt to the US government in 2010. The UK is still paying. The debt to the US and allies from WWI was the primary cause of the collapse of the German economy in the early 1930s that gave rise to Hitler and the Nazis... who were also financed by the same cabal of Wall Street bankers.16

A Brave New World

In 1925, a European theorist of imperialism, Gerhart Von Schulze-Gaevernitz, suggested that history would show that the most important result of World War I was not "the destruction of the royal dynasties that ruled Germany, Russia, Austria and Italy", but the "shift in the world's center of gravity from Europe, where it had existed since the days of Marathon, to America". This new era of 'superimperialism', he said, had turned traditional imperialism on its head because now "finance capital mediates political power internationally to acquire monopolistic control and profits from natural resources, raw material and the power of labor, with the tendency towards autarky by controlling all regions, the entire world's raw materials."17

Russian author and critic of Soviet totalitarianism Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn estimated that 66 million people died under the Western-imposed Soviet regime.

During the 1920s Russian industry was effectively rebuilt by US corporations, with several of Lenin's five-year plans financed by Wall Street banks. The aim was to prepare Russia for WWII, where it effectively won the war for the allies but was largely ruined (again) in the process and, like the other European powers, incurred massive debt to Wall Street and London bankers. As revealed by Antony Sutton, the extent of Western influence and control inside Soviet Russia is exemplified by the fact that, during the Vietnam war, the military vehicles being used by the North Vietnamese military to fight American soldiers were produced in a Soviet factory, the Kama River Truck Plant, owned by the US Ford corporation. By imposing the Bolshevik Revolution on Russia, Wall Street ensured that it could not compete with the USA. For the next 70 years, the 'managers of the world' in the US and Western Europe expanded their global domination through the use of a bogus "Communist threat" (which they created). In the late 1980s, the Western banking elite decided that their global power was sufficient to allow them to pull back the 'iron curtain' and, once again, open Russia up, but this time for some 'free market', 'open society' neo-liberal plunder. All was going to plan for most of the 1990s until Vladimir Putin arrived on the scene and began to spoil the Western elites' 'we rule the world' party. So what's the point of this little history lesson? I hope it serves to highlight two things. That over 100 years ago the Western banking/corporate/political elite - the type of people who think, and say, things like...
"To think of these stars that you see overhead at night, these vast worlds which we can never reach. I would annexe the planets if I could; I often think of that. It makes me sad to see them so clear and yet so far ... I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race."

~ Cecil Rhodes
...understood clearly that the only way they were going to rule the world was to ensure that Russia never emerged as a competitor to their center of operations - London, and then the USA. From a practical perspective, to achieve that goal they were going to have to perpetually marginalize Russia on the Eurasian continent and prevent European nations, in particular Western European nations, from ever forming an alliance with Russia. That task began in earnest in the late 1890s. It continues to this day, but it is failing.

The Best Laid Plans...

Since coming to power Putin has made moves to do to Russia precisely that which the Western banking elite spent over 100 years trying to prevent: make it a strong independent country, free (to the greatest extent possible) of the Western bankers' toxic influence. Even worse, Putin's plan does not seem to be limited merely to freeing Russia, but includes the idea of using Russia's influence to establish a new 'new world order', based not on the hegemony of the few, but on multipolarity, real national sovereignty, mutual respect, and genuinely fair trade among nations. In their 15 short years at the helm in Russia, Putin and his friends have gone a long way towards achieving their goals. The response from the Western elite has been interesting to watch. From NATO's attempts to encircle Russia in Eastern Europe, to economic sanctions imposed on the basis of trumped-up charges, to sabotaging Russia-EU economic relations, to staging a coup in Ukraine in 2014, to manipulating the price of oil and assassinating 'opposition figures' inside and outside Russia; the anglo-American elite are resorting to increasingly desperate and hysterical measures to maintain the global imbalance they worked so hard to achieve. But nothing they do seems to phase Russia or divert it from the path it has chosen.

So what can we expect next from the Western elites? Short of all-out nuclear war with Russia (which is not and never was an option, contrary to Cold War propaganda) what scurrilously duplicitous maneuvers are left to be made? Not many, to be sure. Perhaps the only weapon left in their arsenal is the one that, more than any other, has allowed them to dominate the globe for so long: the almighty US dollar, its position as the world's reserve currency, and the 'petrodollar'.

For decades, these two financial 'instruments' have forced all other countries to hold large reserves of the American currency, thereby providing the US economy with a 'free ride' and securing its position as the world's largest economy. If the US dollar were, for some reason, to collapse, it would create massive panic in the world economic system, and result, quite possibly, in the collapse of governments around the world. This is likely the reason that both Russia and China are wasting no time in establishing the basis for a new economic order that is not dollar-based. If that initiative progresses far enough, there may come a time in the near future when the dollar can be safely 'ditched' and replaced with another reserve currency, or basket of currencies, thereby avoiding or mitigating the systemic threat to the global economy (if not the US economy) of a dollar collapse, and forcing the Western elite, with their base of operations in the USA, to accept a more humble and justified position among the nations.

Fat cat feeding time almost over?

Anyone who has investigated and understood the nature of these "elites" of which I speak, knows that they are not the type of people who simply accept defeat, even when it is staring them in the face. They're like a highly narcissistic chess player who, seeing that 'check mate' is almost upon him, opts to knock all the pieces off the board (and maybe burn it... and the room) rather than suffer the ignominy of defeat. It can then be claimed, 'see, you didn't win, we'll have to start again'. The chess analogy is appropriate given that one of the main exponents of Mackinder's theories of Eurasian strategy is Zbigniew Brzezinski, author of The Grand Chessboard, where he wrote "it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America." With the US debt currently running at over 104% to GDP (and rising), and the US unable or unwilling to reduce that debt or to increase GDP, the USA is effectively insolvent, a 'failed state' in all but name. The only thing preventing its economic collapse is the dependency, for now, of so many other nations on the US not collapsing. Is it possible that, facing the almost certain end to their reign as rulers of the world, the Western psycho-elite will chose the 'financial nuclear option' of 'doing an Enron' and collapsing the American dollar in a last, insane and futile effort to avert defeat by bringing the whole house of cards down... so they can 'rebuild' from scratch? As my opening quote asserts: "what the darkness cannot possess, it seeks to destroy."