Syria: Russians back off, but “the bear” has “other fish to fry”

No rush for Vladimir Vladimirovich or the Russian Federation, as things unfold very unfavorably for those who have inserted themselves in the Middle East inferno

On August 29 DEBKA published a report, whereby it is stated that Russians have evacuated Syria. According to Israeli Intelligence sources:

Russian naval vessels have unexpectedly departed the Syrian Mediterranean port of Tartus and Russian arms shipments to Syria have been suddenly discontinued. debkafile’s military sources reveal that those and other steps indicate that the Russians are rapidly drawing away from the Syrian arena to avoid getting caught up in the escalating hostilities expected to arise from military intervention by the US, Europe and a number of Arab states. Russian intelligence appears to have decided that this outside intervention is imminent and Moscow looks anxious to keep its distance for now…”

Let’s note once more how significant Tartus is for Russia. It is the only port left in the Mediterranean Sea. When ex Greek Prime Minister George Panadreou visited Moscow a couple of years ago, to receive the “Go to the IMF” advice from then President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin, sometime later Ivan Savvidis, a Greek-Russian Duma MP stated at “Epikaira” magazine (the one that had disclosed the plot to assassinate ex Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis, the so called “Operation Pythia”) that he himself had prepared the ground in order Russia to provide Greece with financial aid, so that it would not have to go to the IMF. According to Savvidis, Prime Minister Putin was expecting Papandreou to ask him for aid (just like Christofias had done in Cyprus), but to Putin’s utter surprise, Papandreou opened discussions related on common “environmental issues between Greece and Russia”. It was widely known back then that the Russians wanted a naval base in the Aegean and they were willing to offer a very strong financial aid plus the 4.5 and 5th Generation aircrafts, the Su-35 BM and the T-50 PAK FA respectively to Greece, in exchange for Agricultural products.

Schematic representation of the potential scenario of the RF-4E shot down

Bygones are bygones, but the bottom line is that the Russians were always eager to acquire an “exit” towards the Mediterranean sea since Peter the Great. As a matter of fact, when the military junta was installed in Greece, the first dictator, Georgios Papadopoulos had allegedly given the island of Thasos as an anchorage site to the Russians (that was one of the reasons actually behind his later fall from Greece, as he was approaching the Soviets too much). How come then that the Russians are so willing to give up on Tartus, especially after the forces and the armaments which were transferred there during this year. P-800 Yakhont coastal defenses, Pantsir and S-300 PMU-2 systems are some examples of the forces, which were installed there, not to mention the expenses for Tartus’s modernization, with the port being widened to accommodate ships in the future the size of “Admiral Kuznetsov” (Russia’s only aircraft carrier). Russian Spetsnaz fought side to side with the Syrian government forces and Russian military advisers made a tremendous contribution towards the step taken to eradicate the FSA presence both from Aleppo and Damascus. The Pantsir anti air defense system was the one, which allegedly shot down the Turkish RF-4E reconnaissance aircraft and now what? The game is suddenly over for the Russians?

What did Putin and Obama agree upon? Was it related to the Missile Shield in Poland or a potential war in Caucasus, whereby the Russians would clean up what was left of the Georgian influence in the area without any US interference? Yet still that would not be enough. Russians had threatened that if Iran was hit, then they would sell those S-300 to the Iranians, which the later never received (and as a result of that they demanded compensation from Russia). Dumping Iran is one thing, but dumping Syria and Iran is another. So once again we find ourselves in the extremely difficult situation to guess what’s inside Putin’s head.

The disputed pocket of Nagorno-Karabach, which both Armenia and Azerbaijan claim! Caucasus has been a very “surgical” matter for Russia since the fall of the USSR

The Russians are stubborn, but they are no fools! They know that an engagement in the Middle East now is “a fool’s errand”! There will be far too many casualties of Russian lives, not to mention the Geopolitical impact should Russians and NATO troops would clash in Syria. And what would the results of such a broader scale clash be? Minimum compared to the turbulence, which would spread from the Middle East to Caucasus before acquiring a broader global momentum of unimaginable consequences. So what was the alternative? Missile Defense shield, a promise from the American side not to intervene should the Russians choose to get rid of Saakashvili and consequently interfere to resolve the Naghorno Karabach enclave issue in favor of Armenia by strengthening their position there? We should note that as things have developed since the end of the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, the Russian troops stationed in Armenia are extremely hard to be supplied, at least by land. The only resupplying occurs by air transport means and this is not favorable at all. Thus a prospective continuation of the hostilities of the “Hot August of 2008” was always on the table as a scenario, which would solve many problems and settle down the last turmoils, which broke out when the USSR collapsed. It is a fine and “tidy” mentality to take care of the “neighborhood” first before expanding to “unknown seas”, but it’s something else as well.

As thing are developing in the Middle East, the future suggests that large zones of sectarian conflict will form up regardless of whether Assad stays or goes. As a matter of fact it is debatable whether this particular scenario makes any difference anymore, with the Arab Spring revolts spreading to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. As a consequence of the anarchy, which will be established, especially if the Israelis hit Iran and the Americans impose a no fly zone over Syria, Middle East will become a “no man’s land”, a broader area of violence, terrorism and chaos.

In that case, those who are involved in this-the least to say-“unfavorable” situation will be consumed in an attrition warfare, Israel included. And since the US can no longer provide the same guarantees for the protection of Israel, the later will seek Russia’s help, in return for-not one-but many naval bases in the Mediterranean sea. With that mentality, in the long run, who cares about Tartus?

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