Putin’s moving of Russian military resources into Syria to help stabilize the Assad regime is a master foreign policy power play but at the same time very dangerous. He has put himself in a great negotiating position by thrusting Russia into a situation in Syria which the United States doesn’t want him. It gives Russia the leverage to minimize U.S. and NATO pressure in the Ukraine. In addition, it also may allow Russia to get out from under the Western imposed economic sanctions. At the same time, it creates a situation where too many major military powers are operating in too small an area. This makes it very easy for a possible major military standoff to occur; which may have just happened due to NATO member Turkey’s shoot down of a Russian fighter jet.
The military powers operating in Syrian airspace include the United States and many of its NATO allies. Various Arab allied nations, the Israeli air force, and now Russia. By any standard of military conduct it is a situation which is a tinderbox. In theory, is Putin wrong for being there? No. Syria has been a long time military client state and their strategy to stop ISIS and return Syria to a pre-war situation or negotiated settlement would certainly be preferable to the current situation. It may be able to stop the migration millions of refugees. The overthrowing of dictators like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Honsi Mubarak and possibly Assad is understandable but not necessarily realistic or better for their people. Those dictators are horrible but the extremists who have stepped into the voids they leave are arguably worse.
The United States obviously has made the largest mistakes in the region in terms of regime change but they have also made mistakes when it concerns Russia in the region. During the George H.W. Bush Presidency the United States worked with Russia in the Middle East. It was very sensible to do so since Russia has always had allies in the region. In fact, James Baker, Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush, basically asked permission from Russia before the First Gulf War to throw Iraq out of Kuwait. Russia gave its quiet support. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the United States convinced Russia not to send two paratroop divisions to Cairo and Damascus to potentially fight the Israelis. Since George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the United States has been pulled to a militaristic, hegemonic, neo-con extreme right wing foreign policy strategy. The United States has been willing to go it alone if necessary to push their aims and has not even attempted to include Russia into the equation. This has been a recipe for disaster in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. Even more scary is the fact that many extreme foreign policy hawks in the United States believe they can dictate term to Moscow and anything less is appeasement. They are living in a dream world. They have convinced some Americans that Russia can be defeated in a war. Obviously, Russia cannot be defeated and war would lead to a nuclear holocaust.
It is time for the United States to engage Russia. It shouldn’t be difficult since the United States was willing to work with Iran on a nuclear agreement. Remember Russia was helpful with that agreement because they don’t want Muslim extremists to possibly be able to get nuclear material. Russia also has the same issues we have with citizens heading to the Middle East to fight with ISIS and then possibly returning home. There are many issues these two nations can work on and come up with common ground. The past rivalry shouldn’t matter and the world needs these two nuclear superpowers to work together.
© Chip Hodgkins
Chip Hodgkins is a graduate of Boston University's College of Communications with a B.S. in Print Journalism with emphasis on Foreign/War Coverage. He is especially proud of a paper he wrote "NATO vs the Warsaw Pact" from his Soviet Military Policy class. He is currently President and C.O.O of WBRK-AM/FM radio stations in Pittsfield Ma. He was a member of the Rotary Club of Pittsfield for 15 years. He has won the statewide Presidents Award from Gun Owners Action League. He has been a board member of the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association. In 2010 he was sworn in as a Berkshire County Deputy Sheriff under Sheriff Carmen Massimiano. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Hillcrest Educational Centers. He has covered and interviewed many famous national and international political figures. In addition to others including actors and famous sports figures.
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