The Unz Review • An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewMike Whitney Archive
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War with the US
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

“The shooting down of the Syrian SU-22 is another demonstration that the US is prepared to resort to the most reckless means to defend its footholds in Syria and lay the basis for the broader war that is being prepared.”

— Peter Symonds, World Socialist Web Site

The downing of a Syrian warplane by a US F-18 Super Hornet on Sunday proves that Washington’s real objective in Syria is not to defeat ISIS but to topple the government, carve up the country and install a puppet who will follow Washington’s directives. ISIS doesn’t have an airforce nor is there any chance that the lumbering Soviet-era SU-22 was mistaken by the American pilot before it was shot down. No, the Syrian plane was positively identified on a clear day flying over Syrian territory. The US ignored the normal protocols, failed to communicate their activities on the “de-confliction” hotline (as per their agreement with Moscow) and –BAM– the Syrian warplane was taken out with two missiles over Ja’Din in the western part of Raqqah province. The attack was a clear provocation.

The downing comes on the heels of three other similar incidents in which Syrian troops were attacked by US-coalition forces in the area around al Tanf near the Jordanian border. All four of these provocations have taken place within the last month suggesting that Washington intends to prevent the Syrian army from liberating its cities and territory in the east where US-proxy militias are operating.

In late May, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) launched Operation “Grand Dawn” which combined the 800th Battalion of the Republican Guards, Hezbollah, Iranian combat troops, and Russian Special Forces (to assist in an advisory capacity.) Grand Dawn, which is the biggest operation of the war, is aimed at clearing the eastern border, liberating ISIS-held cities and territory east of the Euphrates, and reopening the corridor between Damascus to Baghdad. The campaign is an attempt to reestablish the central government’s control over its land, its resources and its population centers in the East.

So far, the operation has made great strides as two main Syrian armies have pressed ahead on parallel tracks killing or routing jihadist fighters on the way. Sunday’s attack (on the Syrian warplane) may have been a desperate attempt to slow the forward-progress of loyalist troops rapidly advancing on the cities of Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Abu Kamal, all located on the banks of the Euphrates.

The surge of Syrian troops poses a clear threat to Washington’s operational strategy called Plan B which is aimed at (a) splintering the state into smaller, US-controlled enclaves, (b) blocking the critical landbridge between Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran, and (c) establishing a secure base for training Sunni militants to reenter Syria-proper and engage in future regime destabilizing operations. Seen in this light, the downing of a Syrian SU-22 might have been an attempt by coalition leaders to wave off the Syrian assault which is undermining Washington’s fallback strategy.

The Russian response to the attack was fast and ferocious. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov condemned the action as “a massive violation of international law and military aggression.”

He said: “This strike has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law….(It is) an act of aggression… designed to help to the very terrorists the US says it is fighting.”

Not surprisingly, the Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) announced it would end its cooperation with the US military under the terms of the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria. In practical terms, that means that Moscow will terminate the use of a military hotline for preventing accidents in Syrian airspace. So while media giants like the Wall Street Journal applaud the reckless attack as “signaling an increased willingness by the Trump administration to directly challenge President Bashar al Assad and his allies”, more sober analysts anticipate that the move will only ratchet up the tensions increasing the probability of a clash between the two nuclear-armed superpowers.

The Russian MoD statement added that, “any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles of the [US-led] international coalition, located to the west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by Russian ground and air defense forces as air targets.”

If the attack was intended to provoke a response, then it appears to have succeeded. If another Syrian warplane is shot down, Moscow will have to retaliate. Was that the intention?

Russia does not want to deepen its involvement in Syria. It’s primary goal is to defeat ISIS, preserve the elected government, and prevent the country from disintegrating into failed state anarchy. Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed this topic recently in an interview where he was asked: “Can you explain why you sent troops to Syria and what your objective was?”

Putin answered: “It’s very easy to explain. We saw what was happening to other countries in the region, particularly Iraq and Libya…. due to the forceful ousting of their governments. The governments were destroyed, not simply ousted from power, and their leaders were killed. We don’t want to see the same thing happen in Syria or the whole region will be plunged into chaos.”

There it is in black and white. Russia has no territorial ambitions in Syria nor does it have any designs on Syria’s resources , industry or pipelines. This isn’t about money, oil or land. It’s about Russia’s national security which has been greatly impacted by the scourge of terrorism. It’s also about defending “sovereignty”, which is the bedrock principle upon which global security rests. This is why Russia is in Syria.

That said, it’s not in Russia’s interest to shoot down American aircraft, intensify the war on coalition-proxies or take any action that would lead to a military escalation. Putin does not want to prolong or expand the war, he wants to end it.

Unfortunately, there are so many players sharing the same, crowded battlespace that even the slightest miscalculation could lead to a serious conflagration. It’s going to take enormous restraint to tip-toe through the Syrian minefield without triggering a Third World War. We’ll have to see if Putin is up to the task or not.

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 [email protected].

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Russia, Syria 
Hide 16 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. That said, it’s not in Russia’s interest to shoot down American aircraft, intensify the war on coalition-proxies or take any action that would lead to a military escalation.

    It is not in anyone’s interest for Russia to shoot down American aircraft. It is not in American interest too, despite US, indeed, spoiling for fight “within Syria only”–an idea floated by some US “strategists”. There is no real strategy behind it–it is mostly irrational and a result of accumulating frustrations of US and its military losing so long cultivated appearance of the “finest fighting force in history”, granted that this force was defeated already in Afghanistan, Iraq and its proxies have their asses handed to them in Syria. That is why it is dangerous, because it is all product of frustrated people throwing tantrums while still thinking that they can think rationally. Small Russian contingent in Syria is the last US chance to fight “peer”, whose military history dwarfs that of US, and the last chance to correct a rather abysmal US war record since WW II. Do not discount a deeply hidden but still manifesting itself complex of inferiority. As Sun Tzu stated: “Once you get mad–you lose”. Pentagon is mad as hell while US journos (most of them anyway) are warmongering lowlifes.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  2. Sean says:

    Having gone in to protect their chosen faction, America cannot stand by and let them be taken out by the Russians, it can’t.

    Yes, Russia does not want to fight America, so Putin will have to stop or face humiliation when his planes get shot out of the sky. Assad has no capability to advance without Russian help.

    • Replies: @paraglider
  3. washington does NOT want a conflagration with russia because it can not win, they know it and will not suffer the staggering losses russia will inflict upon them thereby destroying forever the myth of american military invinciblity.

    washington power and moral suasion is rapidly degrading. everyone can see it.

    what we are seeing are 2 things:

    like any spoiled child not getting their way they are acting out in a weak and embarrassing manner destroying things with no strategic value beyond the immediate tantrum

    second they hope to show the world russia can not be relied upon as a calm and thoughtful partner. the pentagon/neocons dumbells are goading the russians into rash flamboyant foolishness much like the strikes we are seeing from washington.

    every time the pentagon does something stupid like this and russia takes a deep breathe and goes about its business calmly its washington and the neocons who look like fools and everyone everywhere can see it.

    it was written centuries ago that a mans reputation arrives on foot and departs on horseback. a concept the neocons apparently never learned.

  4. @Sean

    you could not be more in error than if you are being paid to say this…. are you? lol

    putin whatever else he is or may be speaks his mind quite publicly in interviews, at the UN and countless other venues. his message is consistent and he walks the talk. his public goal to maintaining syrian sovereignty and territorial borders is well known among his friends and enemies.

    the syrian war is over. washington has lost and all washingtons allies in the overthrow assad assemblage know it. just pay attention who travels where the past 2 years.

    both americas allies in this effort and foes all travel to moscow. it is putin who will decide not washington.

    as for washington not being able to stand by let russia take them out. the blunt truth is washington has been outplayed at every turn since october 1 2015. the feckless overrated obama first and now his remnants in state/cia/pentagon not yet removed by trump.

    unless washington wants to go nuclear and end up destroying life on earth they will have to comes to terms with being norma desmond the past her prime silent screen star in sunset boulevard dreaming things were not as they are and go quietly into the night becoming just another important nation not the ONLY important nation.

    • Replies: @Sean
  5. one more thing Sean.

    all the bluster out of washington hides a profound systemic economic crisis brewing that may take down the entire usa economy. trumps voters sensed it which is why he won against the psychopathic harridan hillary.

    1. the underfunded pension system is about to implode. illinois is the canary on this but is by no means alone heading over the cliff.

    2 for several decades the usa economy has become habituated to the easy profits that come from pillaging other nations and their economies or bluntly intimidating them into paying protection.

    3. our economy may not be able to survive without imploding into crisis and eventual deeply unpleasant restructuring ……without keeping pillage going.

    4. on the home front our health care system is a rico style racket for the benefit of the insurance companies and healthcare providers like hospitals companies. without congress being paid off to allow this fraud based industry to get a pass on robinson-pattman act enforcement on pricing healthcare costs would never be in the sky as it is now.

    4. the true line in the sand was october 1 2015 when putin spoke at the UN and told the world he and russia would no longer accept america pillaging the planet at will leaving mass misery and death in their wake. china although politely diplomatic to the Nth degree is right behind putin and has his back.

    the days of american exceptionalism pillaging are all but over.

    over the for the pentagon the military industrial complex, the wall street banks and rakeoffs the bought conressman and senator obtain by doling it all out.

    • Replies: @Eustace Tilley (not)
  6. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Andrei Martyanov

    mostly irrational and a result of accumulating frustrations…

    Seeing this in emotional terms is naive. There’s always a plan. The reason why it looks senseless to you is because the US and Europe are obviously not working in their own interest. Their “elite” is mostly compromised.

  7. Miro23 says:

    It’s going to take enormous restraint to tip-toe through the Syrian minefield without triggering a Third World War.

    That makes it sound really close. For what it’s worth I think that the Neocon/Deep State alliance needs a real National Emergency to take power. They surely need a dictatorship. Their 9/11 attempted Coup failed on the domestic side, and information about their treason is leaking out faster than ever with fewer American every day believing the WTC “collapse by fire” story.

    So, in my view, they have no option than to shut down US Democracy – and soon – even if it risks WW3. All they care about is their own necks.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    True. There’s also a high probability of sabotage in the minefield. Trump is still disliked by the Deep State IMO. What’s stopping them from deliberately walking a bunch of American goyim soldiers onto mines?

    Both Trump and Russia could be held responsible in the MSM. Two birds with one stone.

  9. Putin is very Russian in that he has a Big Nation mentality. He takes time and works glacially. But he needs to be sharper.

    Stalin was a bad guy, but he got some things right. In a dog-eat-dog world, his Caucasus cutthroat bandit-mentality crept to the top. This Caucasus mentality was a combination of savvy, cunning, patience, brutality, ruthlessness. A kind of hot-blooded fury with icy determination as coolant.
    This mentality, plus intelligence and determination, enabled him to outmaneuver all other nationalities in the game of power. He beat Latvians, Ukrainians, Poles, Russians, and even Jews in the game of power.

  10. Dr. Doom says:

    The Amerikwan Empire is dying. These are its death throes. That “accident” where a US Navy destroyer was almost sunk by a Filipino Cargo Ship shows how weak this supposed “superpower” has become. It wasn’t a sneak attack. It was the Commitment to Diverskitty. That Diverskitty has pussified the US Military. Putin should go ahead and down a US Plane. These idiots are spread so thin its not even funny. The DMZ in Korea doesn’t seem to have anywhere near the force Bush, sr and Bush, jr put into Kuwait and Iraq. Bush jr and his snipe hunt has winnowed the forces down. Anti-White Akhenaten II has downsized the Military to a small and ineffective force. The combat readies have probably left. The downsizing which sent career officers onto the streets and the Horrible VA scandal has probably sent the Legions home. What is left is trash and theft. These clowns cannot whip eggs. That disaster at sea near Japan is a portent of Doom. If they push Putin, he should just shoot those old outdated F-18s down. That F-35 chickenhawk is a giant turkey. They have started grounding the F-22 because they don’t have enough certified pilots and the budget is bloated by welfare detritus best known for loafing, looting and sucking.
    They said it was the American Century. Its over now. Did you enjoy the Empire building? The Nintendo War? The Snipe Hunt? This forever war just hit the reality of the crash of diversity and debt.

  11. Munchen says:

    Putin should continue patience with childish Washington. Daily revelations of CNN and other liars will undermine their politician positions and force more accountability. Some heads should roll, some networks should reboot. The rest of the world expects more from the USA that it does of itself.

  12. Sean says:

    No matter how outplayed, the US has always had the military force to achieve regieme change in Syria, if that is important enough. I think the only ways to explain the US not battering its way in and smashing Assad is (1) the US is too stupid to realise they have been humiliated (2) the US has never had the objective you attribute to it (3) the US is scared of the Russians.

    being norma desmond the past her prime silent screen star in sunset boulevard dreaming things were not as they are

    Putin showed Oliver Stone a fake video
    Putin almost certainly didn’t know about the howler by his advisers, which humiliated him, but this kind of bull headed incompetence by oafish underlings shows that he rules a country remains backward as it has been has been for a half millennium . I mentioned a while back the at the big Moscow WW2 exhibition memorial the video it plays uses theme music from Dallas. Russia shows signs of being a country bereft of cultural ability (they steal from the West) technological vigor (ditto) , and rapidly loosing out to China as world number 2.

    go nuclear and end up destroying life on earth

    Given what we know about all other intelligent life forms in the Universe so far having extirpated themselves, destruction of life on Earth is inevitable within the lifetime of humans alive now. But pace Professor Brian Cox’s explanation for the Fermi Paradox, nuclear war seems a little obvious for something that no intelligent life form has managed to avoid so far.

    Everyone warns against militarism and war and it seems most unlikely that advanced alien civilizations that disappeared all failed to avoid such an obvious trap. No, the doom ineluctably closing on humanity and all its works is something that is thought to be a unalloyed good: technological progress itself. The Singularity in other words.

  13. There seems to be a lot of advice for Putin here but I’m thinking that there’s a long list of people ahead of Putin when it comes to needing advice, most of those being leaders of Western nations. Of all the people in positions of power, Mr Putin seems to be more than capable of doing his own thinking and I read his restraint as a sign of strength not weakness. I truly wish him and his people well.

  14. MarkU says:

    Re: “Given what we know about all other intelligent life forms in the Universe so far having extirpated themselves, destruction of life on Earth is inevitable within the lifetime of humans alive now. But pace Professor Brian Cox’s explanation for the Fermi Paradox, nuclear war seems a little obvious for something that no intelligent life form has managed to avoid so far.”

    What are you talking about? We have as yet no evidence of other intelligent creatures elsewhere in the Universe, let alone their fate. While I agree that the so-called Fermi paradox requires an explanation and that self destruction, quite possibly by nuclear warfare, might provide such an explanation. It is utterly nonsensical to elevate total speculation to the status of known fact, which is what you have just done. Perhaps you should get a job writing for the Daily Mail.

  15. @paraglider

    English apparently isn’t your native language, so I thank you for your learned commentary as it stands.

    We do have a stylistic faux pas (I’m sure it exists in other languages as well) called the mixed metaphor. Example: “illinois is the canary on this but is by no means alone heading over the cliff.”

    That’s so bad, it’s good!

  16. @Sean

    MarkU is correct. “Given what we know about all other intelligent life forms in the Universe so far having extirpated themselves,…”,? Indeed, we are given zero information and much informed, uninformed and misinformed speculation.

    The Fermi Paradox assumes that the Earth is typical “of Earth-like planets”. The book Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee demonstrates the startling claim that the Earth may well be the only planet in the galaxy harboring intelligent life. This view gets little publicity in the Mainstream Media.

    We must think and act on a precautionary principle: Earth may well be the only planet in the Universe with intelligent life, civilization, and high technology.

    I’m willing to bet that it’s the only planet with monarch butterflies. I haven’t seen many this summer (we keep a milkweed garden just for them and check it every day for monarchs).

    Maybe the Christians who forsee the imminent End of the World are right, but a long, slow dying by a “great loneliness of spirit”, as Chief Seattle warned, would be just as painful.

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments have been licensed to The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Commenting Disabled While in Translation Mode
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Mike Whitney Comments via RSS