As the center of the global conflict is now clearly moving to Syria, the focus of this blog will move as well. Barring new plots and provocations from NATO, I think that the Ukraine conflict is frozen. The war was over on a military level after the glorious winter surprise offensive, and with the waves of refugees from NATO’s wars threatening to topple European governments, Europe’s stomach for Humanitarian Adventurism is gone, and with it the political alliance behind the war in Ukraine.
(We will of course cover the bloody collapse of the Kiev Junta’s police state, and the metastasizing terrorist threat from the demobilizing neo-Nazi militias as NATO’s chickens come home to roost.)
The burning question is what does this new Russian deployment in Syria actually mean?
Russia has a long-standing alliance with Syria that goes back to the cold war. Syria’s military and intelligence officers were trained in Russia and the Syrian military was built on the lines of the Soviet model. This long history of close cooperation and the similarity of doctrine and training is a critically important factor in the alliance, much more important than new shipments of exotic weapons, no matter how powerful.
While this long-term alliance is a critical foundation for the Russian mission in Syria, the actual presence of Russians in Syria up to this point has been wildly exaggerated. The “Russian Naval Base” at Tartus is a dock with some buildings attached. The small number of Russian technicians and specialists have been on a purely support mission to train and assist the Syrian military and intelligence services.
Recalling the multiple “Iranian Armies” that have supposedly landed in Syria only to mysteriously disappeared into the same black hole that ate the “Moderate Jihadists”, we should be very suspicious of Liberal war propaganda and Liberal hysterics about a Russian “Invasion”. At the same time Russia has a very real commitment to prevent a salafist genocide in Syria and a very real strategic imperative to destroy the Islamic State. I believe we are watching the beginning of a new mission in Syria, although the full extent of it is unclear.
What we have evidence of in Syria:
A major increase in the delivery of arms and material from Russia, in the form of two massive cargo planes a day and about one military cargo ship a week. The expansion of an airport in Latakia to receive the massive Russian military cargo planes, and a similar expansion of an airport in Tartus.
The arrival of the 810th Naval Infantry, first reported at 200, now as high as 1,000, with quarters erected for at least 2,000. Six or more T-90 main battle tanks, 35 or more new BTR-82A/B wheeled armored-fighting vehicles (AFVs) with 30 mm cannon turrets, and an unknown number of Russian Humvee equivalents. These are elite special forces. The armored vehicles and helicopters at the Damascus airport are consistent with their kit. The simplest explanation is that these forces are a defensive force to protect the air bridge, very similar to the US forces protecting the Baghdad airport. These are also excellent troops for a train and equip mission, as this unit is fresh off of an exceptionally successful deployment of that type in Donbass.
12 Su-24 ground attack jets
12 Su-25 ground attack jets
unknown number of Pchela-1T UAVs
15 Hip transport helicopters & 5 Hind attack helicopters
In addition to the cargo ships, We have also seen a movement of Russian warships culminating in major military exercises off of the Syrian coast. A number of submarines are undoubtedly present, but the reports of the last typhoon class ballistic missile sub being deployed is Debka bullshit (unless it has been completely re-quipped with some new secret weapon). The Russians are conducting extensive naval surveys, and there are reports that they intend to build a new naval base on the coast of Latakia.
The forces we can currently document in Syria are completely consistent with the Russian explanation of an accelerated support mission, in line with the new defense agreement recently signed in Moscow. They are also completely consistent with the beginning of a major deployment of Russian forces. The increased naval presence and the expansion of airports seem to suggest the latter.