The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Is Russia About to Send a Thousand Troops to Syria?


Russia is building a military base in Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s heartland, according to American intelligence officials, in the clearest indication yet of deepening Russian support for the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The anonymous officials say Russia has set up an air traffic control tower and transported prefabricated housing units for up to 1,000 personnel to an airfield serving the Syrian port city of Latakia.

Why would they do that?

Syria is already home to Russia’s only base outside the former Soviet Union – a naval station in Tartus.

The humorous part is that Russia is claiming that they want to expand their role to “fight terrorism” and “ISIL.” Everyone claims whatever they’re doing in Syria is to fight ISIL and terrorism, of course, including the Turks, who are bombing the Kurdish forces who are the only people to consistently win against ISIL.

Of course what Russia is really doing is supporting its interests, which don’t include allowing a loyal client state to be overthrown by Islamic forces which are hostile to Russia and supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Or to lose a warm water port it cannot easily replace.

Or to be shown to let down a loyal ally.

Everyone else seems to think they have the right to bomb Syria in the guise of “bombing ISIL,” why not the Russians?

As for the morality of it, well, I see no “good” actors in Syria. However, it is a simple fact that Syria was a better place to live before the civil war and those who have encouraged that civil war either: a) shouldn’t have, or; b) should have applied the necessary force to end it quickly. (At which point, Syria would have probably become a failed state, like Libya.)

As anyone was unwilling to do either, and then rebuild properly (which, again, no one is willing to do), perhaps Assad, as nasty as he is, should have been left alone?

Just a thought.

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  1. Jeff Wegerson

    Hari Seldon. Psycho-history. The Mule. (So what if Krugman does this too. But I’ll do it slightly differently.)

    It’s about oil and gas say some. Pipelines from either the Sauds or Qatar on the one hand or Iran on the other. Any in theory could go through northern Syria depending on who controls the route west. The goal for the west is to trump Russian oil/gas. For Russia to keep their hold on Europe.

    But that’s yesterday’s history. It matters only if there is a demand for oil/gas rather than a glut. A glut caused at least partly by crumbling economies all over the world. And remember these are future pipelines yet to be built sometime in that future.

    A future inhabited by the “Mule.” A future where the old paradigms no longer fit.

    Oil and gas that are on their way to becoming stranded assets.

    Russia and the U.S. are both still playing the oil/gas pipeline game.

    Interestingly one important economy not playing that game is Germany. Germany where BMW is on course to have an electric model of every one of its cars. A Germany on course to shut down its nuclear power. Of course, a fat lot of good it does them if their insistence on neo-liberal economics is destroying their natural export markets of Europe and Russia.

  2. Lisa

    I’ve been expecting them to do something with a lot going on behind the scense.

    The Coaltion of Terminally Insane (US, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabai and the minnows like Qatar and the UK) have got the bit between their teeth now, with the US ‘going all in’ and they scent victory in Syria.

    Of course the CoTI all want different things and hence, is doomed in the end. Plus their ‘puppets’ IS (in particular) and AN have got their own agendas as well, which may not coincide with the CoTI one little bit.

    Somehow I cannot see IS/AN doing all the heavy lifting then meekly standing back to let Turkey and Israel grab the territory they want. Plus the CoTI all want IS/AN to do different things after Syria falls.
    Israel obvioulsy wants them to exterminate the southern Lebanon Shiites so Israel can finally get the Litini River it has so long coveteted, plus more of the Golan.
    Turkey wants a big slice of Northern Syria and wants IS/AN to go and exterminate the Kurds.
    The US wants them to start attacking up through Caucus to get at Russia.
    Saudi Arabia will want them to go for the Kurds too and Lebanon, clearing the last Christians, Shiites, ect. Then also the Shiites in Iraq. Basicially they want a Sunni Wahabbi only peninsula.
    And so on.

    So many big dreams. So many deaths they all want.
    The non-US CoTI ideally want the US to do the heavy lifting, ideally with forces on the ground.

    Russia has little choice but to get involved on way or another, it does not want an IS moving into its southern areas so better to eliminate them there. Plus it wants the Turkish Govt changed..soon. Erdogan has shafted them badly on a number of fronts and, after vasciliatng, has now itself gone ‘all in’ in the NATO aggression towards Russia (and the AMD systems).
    Its ideal world would be for IS to take a hammering in Syria forcing them to go southward giving SA a real hard time (no love lost there) or even north into Turkey. Erdogen gone and a more friendly Govt in place.

    Yes oil and gas are factors but not the only ones by any means. Saudi Arabia and Israel and Turkey are not motivated by that, for them it is land and religion. They all have different ideas for the ‘New Middle East’ and are trying to make them happen.

    The US is as much being forced into things by the incredble Israeli and SA poltical influence as having any coherent startegy (with the usual neo-con crap coming out). They have moved backwards and forwards over this but seem now to have fully signed up with the CoTI, throwing the Kurds under a bus.

    The CoTI nearly fell apart over the Kurds when IS went for it, because of the Israeli and US interests there. Hence the US ‘slap across the face’ to IS to get them back on track in Syria. But, for whatever reason. both of them seem to have decided that they are expendable now.

    My speculation is that Turkey is getting close to sending troops into Syria hence the US/Israeli willingness. Perhaps even a Turkish/Israeli two pronged attack? US/Turkey declared ‘no fly’ one?
    Who knows what deals have been done between them all, Turkish help for Israel to grab southern Lebanon?

    Their trouble is their ‘puppets’, while AN is playing the party line for the moment (and as a result seeing attempts to rehabilitate it politically as well as the money, arms, etc) as I said before, IS has its own agenda. Which I suspect doesn’t not mean meekly handing thngs over to others after they have done the fighting, dying, ethnic cleansing and mass killing.

    But mass war is happening, it will get worse and millions will die. If the EU thinks it has a refugee crisis now, just wait……

  3. V. Arnold

    Acording to RT, Fort Russ, Sputnik, and Russia Insider; no. Russia is not sending troops.
    Those who listen/read/believe western media are idiots.
    Which means the majority of westerners are idiots.
    May the gods help; or not; the western mediaphiles…

  4. Lisa

    V. Arnold Russia is already involved as Syria’s biggest arm supplier.

    The question is are they increasing their support? The answer seems to be yes.
    But it will be focussed and minimalist, rather than some massive effeort. It will be misison specfic to some perceived (or known) threat.

    One specualation for this is at Sic Semper Tyrannis, where they see it as a countermove to a just about to be declared ‘no fly’ zone over Syria by he US, etc (heck even France is getting in on this).

    The CoTI (after that earlier wobbly perdiod) seems pretty united now. I was interested/amused about Paetreus and his AN support comments, but they have been raised before by other neo-cons and those related. Plus some attempts at ‘rehabilitating’ AN publically. IS is a much bigger PR challenge of course, but no doubt some are probably wondering how to do it.

    Though they all have different ideas about what happens after Syria falls, the CoTI are determined that it will fall and are ramping up their efforts

    The key element in this is Turkey, without who’s support IS and AN would whither on the vine. Erdogen’s mad ‘Calphate’ dreams are incoherent even by the low standards of the CoTI. What does he want? To be the leader of a new militant (if not quite Wahabbi) Sunni power, with large chunks og Syria and Iraq under control? Kurds, Shiites, Christians, Alawites ‘ethnically cleared’ finishing up the job started long ago?
    After Syria what next? Turkish/Syrian/Iraqi Kurdish areas? Lebanon?
    Who knows. But we do know there is considerable internal oppostion, hence his (second?) cleaning out of the army/intelligence/police/etc.

    We also know that Russia is not happy with him. Erdogen’s decison to join the NATO ‘rapid reacion force’, the stalling over the pipeline deal and the ok for the US put in an AMD radar system (with the prospect of later missles on Turkish soil) have not endeared him to Putin.
    China is not happy either, given their Uyghur support. Erdogen is piling up enemies at a very fast rate.

    Who knows what murky deals behind the scenes deals have been done. US ok for Turkey to grab chuncks of Syria, or them throwing the Kurds under a bus in return for all that?
    From a US point of view, ending Russian oil/gas sales to Europe has been and is one of their highest geo-political priorities that they have not wavered from. If they can block the Russia/Turkey pipeline deal then the gas flow stops in 2019.

    Disasterous (on a massive scale) for Europe of course (except Germany), but the ‘leadership’ there seems quite happy to fall on their sword for the US. Or to be more accurate the German leadership seem happy for the rest of Europe to fall on its sword for the US, while they have their own pipeline which they assume will be safe.

    So a lot of stuff in play right now. Wih lots of people trying to be ‘clever’. Isn’t Armageddon located in Syria?

  5. V. Arnold

    @ Lisa
    Yes, I know Russia is the major arms supplier and their navel base in Syria.
    I’m addressing the western media’s reporting on actual troops on the ground (thousands) and an active, major, combat role.
    Even the Saker says no way.
    I’m just so bloody sick and tired of American butchery in the M.E., and the shit stirring in Ukraine.

  6. V. Arnold

    Shit; naval.

  7. Lisa

    If they do any major military actions (and I suspect they will) they will be carefully targetted and almost certainly effective.

    Russia is not going expend massive numer of troops, that’s Iran’s job….
    But doing/coordinating/etc massive firepower where needed?
    As a check to a ‘no fly’ one, oh yes they will do all that and I suspect there will be fair numbers of their ‘special forces’ involved all over the place.

    The one that wuld be interesting to watch is if Al Nasra’s artillery force ..sorry the Israeli artillery …. suddenly get a huge amount of counter battery fire on them sometime….

    Given the Russian’s record to date what expect they will do will be cautious, well planned, tightly targetted, clever and effective.

  8. V. Arnold

    @ Lisa
    September 7, 2015

    According to my readings from numerous non-western reportage; it’s likely the only place there will be Russian troops, oops, I mean “security forces”, will be their naval station in Tartus. Spetnaz? Probably for details and thoroughness…
    Lets hope the S-300’s will be activated as well.
    Agree with your closing paragraph. Putin is one of the only competent “leaders” on the planet, IMO.

  9. V. Arnold

    @ Lisa

    You might like this example of western media’s “accurate” reporting;

    Michael Weiss of The Daily Beast does a bang-up job of lazy reporting and very bad translations of video dialogue. Criminally, IMO, and oh so typical…

  10. Peter*

    Putin is no fool and only a fool would send troops into the middle of the mess in Syria. The US may be pushing this meme to justify the recent increase in sanctions against Russian oil co Gazprom. Even Iran is sending mostly proxy forces to do the fighting ,dying and losing of this war.

    It’s strange that some Assad supporters here and elsewhere would think that Putin, someone they admire, would be so stupid even if it might help the failing Assad regime. Syria is a money pit for Russia that is why they are moving on and making alliances and profitable deals with the Saudis.

    The other wish that keeps reappearing is that US and or Israel will begin attacking Assad’s forces directly, which hasn’t happened except for a few Israeli reprisal strikes and probably won’t but it would make a great excuse for the Assad and Iranian forces losing the war. It appears that Syrian rebel forces will finish off Assad eventually or he will be shuffled out in some deal.

  11. kissmygrits

    Assad is better than Al Qaeda or ISIS you schmuck. We told you this before the west started to intervene. No one likes Assad, and no one can deny that Putin is an autocrat. But the question is, why is Putin an autocrat? Go ask Jeffrey Sachs.

  12. Peter*


    Please tell us how Assad is ‘better’, is he better at rounding up and torturing dissidents or is he better at barrelbombing his citizens, trapped in rebel held territory or is he just a better all around guy?

    I didn’t mention the IS and who is this ‘we’ ? Al-Nusra is Syrian and is leading mostly Syrian rebel forces against a minority Assad regime and their Lebanese, Iranian, Iraqi and even Afghan foreign troops. Syrians are moving to finish this stage of the conflict and even when the Islamic State moves to consolidate its power it will be with mostly Syrian manpower.

    I don’t judge Putin because he is an Autocrat, he saved Russia from total collapse and his Rule was necessary but I will judge what he does now especially his alliances with al-Sisi, the House of Saud and Israel. He’s stuck in Syria but is looking for some deal to escape without abandoning an ally.

  13. ?

    Of course what Russia is really doing is supporting its interests, which don’t include allowing a loyal client state to be overthrown by Islamic forces which are hostile to Russia and supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

    The irony for Turkey and Saudi Arabia is that it’s just a matter of time until all this blows back on them in spades. When you dance with the devil…..

    Neither seems to have a clue about the long game or to even care about it. They’re going the expedient route and getting what they can get today at the expense of any tomorrow. Just like Wall Street.

  14. Lisa

    “Something we are not told about is happening at the Turkish-Syrian border. Is that the reason why the Russians, despite U.S. efforts to hinder them, prepare air fields for the delivery of new air assets to the Syrian army?”

    I agree something big is building up. Turkish troops in mass numbers attacking? No fly zone?
    Who knows right now, but there is definately something in the air (or on the ground).

  15. karenjj2

    I think this is the start of Turkey’s annexation of the 60 mile swath of Syria along its border to which the US agreed in exchange for the US airbase in Turkey. The intervening attacks on the Kurds’ portion of that border has just distracted attention from the plan to clear the remaining length of the border.

    Russia may be bolstering Syria’s air defense to protect its leased port as well as helping its allie. It is also in Russia’s best interest to keep the US occupied in the Mideast as long as possible since it seems to be keeping Ukraine on the back burner for now.

  16. Peter*


    I don’t think the Turks have any permanent desire to own a piece of stinking desert in Syria. They do have good reasons to control this buffer zone including using it as an area to house refugees.

    Two battalions of Turk Special Forces did invade Northern Iraq yesterday in hot pursuit of PKK terrorists but I doubt they will be staying there either.

  17. V. Arnold

    You buy the bullshit: The PKK are not terrorists.
    You are uninformed to the point of ignorance…

  18. Peter*


    Sorry V, I should have put the ‘T’ word in quotes. The PKK is a guerrilla army but they do occasionally use terrorist tactics just as most other armies and many countries do. Using suicide bombers against civilian police or killing civilians for political reasons will get a group labeled as being terrorists most anywhere in the world.

  19. Lisa

    The diffirence between a guerrilla and a terrorists comes down to ‘we like them’ and ‘we don’t like them’.

    The diffirence between a conventional military force and a terrorist is (nowadays) …well not much actually…. Hard to see the diffrence between a ‘double tap’ drone strike and a suicide bomber from the victims point of view.

  20. Peter*

    Any group or country that attacks known civilians to intentionally induce terror is Terrorist.

    Any group or country that brands another group or country as Terrorists while they terrorize civilians are hypocrites and terrorists.

  21. V. Arnold

    @ Lisa

    It’s only vague if one doesn’t know the details/history…

  22. Lisa

    Looks like details about the Russian intervention is firming up now. Seems like a counter to a US/Turkish ‘no fly’ zone that seems to be in the air (sorry).

    Well, well, might get to some interesting dog fights yet.

  23. Peter*

    It looks to me more like a final desperate attempt to prop up the Assad regime using the Islamic State threat even though it is the Army of Conquest that is threatening Assad’s homeland. Lavrov’s begging for other countries to arm and support Assad is pathetic and I doubt many if any will agree.

    I don’t think the Russians are stupid and contesting Coalition controlled airspace over Syria would be suicidal.

  24. Lisa

    Peter: “Lavrov’s begging for other countries to arm and support Assad is pathetic and I doubt many if any will agree. ” yep no weapons left over after sending hem all to IS & AN…lol…..

    ‘Coalition’ (of the Terminally nsane) ‘airspace”?

    Thought is was actually Syrian airspace…..

  25. V. Arnold

    Possibly Russia will bring down the interventionist insanity and actually rout ISIS.
    With its long relationship (and a naval base) with Syria; Russia has legitimate “interests” seriously lacking by all other parties.

    I came across the speech by Allen Dulles to the US National Security Council on Aygust 18, 1948. A fascinating bit of history from the horses mouth, so-to-speak.
    If one is interested in understanding America’s “attitude” towards Russia today; this is a must read. It’s a very long speech laying out in detail, America’s view and policies regarding Russia.
    Dulles refers to Russia repeatedly, even though the Soviet Union was very much in existence.
    The more things change, the more they stay the same; and so it goes…

  26. Lisa

    I have an awful suspicion that part of Russia’s calcultions is that a another military showdown (after the one 2 years ago) is inevitable with the US. So better to have it in Syria than in the Ukraine.

    A conflict in Syria can be contained, one in the Ukraine with NATO means the nukes fly within a few days.

  27. V. Arnold

    ^ I for one, hadn’t thought of that. On the other hand, the F-22 needs vetting…
    Gods be good, that’s a scary thought, but entirely in character, no?
    The U.S. is too ready to go to war to get what it wants; damn the costs.

  28. Peter*


    Russia routing the Islamic State? Will it be like the rout of the Mujahedeen and AQ in Afghanistan?

  29. V. Arnold

    At this juncture; the Kurds have been the most effective in battling ISIS (they just took back 9 cities in northern Iraq). So, it can be done.
    As to your question; no.
    Russia is not the west; so, you need to get out of your western-centric mindset.
    Russia has a huge investment in Syria; so, do not underestimate their presence there.
    The U.S. military is so broken by the last 14 years of failed missions; they must demand fealty from their subordinates. Thus, today’s butchery by the minions of the U.S.; not to mention the refugee crisis hitting Europe.
    IMO, the blow back will be immense and the U.S will be increasingly isolated into insignificance or all-out war.
    We live in interesting times, no?

  30. Peter*


    Most of the small arms used in the ME come from Russia and China but the Islamic State did take a large cache of US arms from the Iraqis.

    The US and Russia have avoided direct conflict for over 60 years because direct conflict will immediately escalate to MAD and both sides know this fact even rhetoric can increase the DEFCON.

    There seem to be too many commenters, not just here, who crave this direct conflict and seem to want the Deathlands that it will bring.

  31. Lisa

    Pater:” The US and Russia have avoided direct conflict for over 60 years because direct conflict will immediately escalate to MAD”.

    Though it got awfully close in ’62 & ’83……

    That was before the neo-cons took over foreign policy though, many of whom are pushing for a good ‘smackdown’ on Russia (followed by regime change). You read some of their stuff and it is scary. Watching Samaha Power at the UN screaming at the Russian ambassador at the top of her lungs a few years ago tells you these people are not rational.

    Right now we depend on the Russians being rational and cautious to avoid a showdown, it sure isn’t going to be General ‘precious bodily fluids’ Breedlove. Right now there are a lot in the US military and State dept and the administration that want a confrontation.

    I have long argued (for about 10 years now) that we are in a race between nuclear annihalation and the economic collapse of the US. The very ‘logic’ of neo-conservatism means that it has to happen.

    Hence the sight of the US heading towards military confrontations with both Russia AND China at the same time.

  32. Lisa

    Sorry meant to add this link:

    Right-Wingers Lead Simulated Global Politics Game. Guess How Many Virtual People They Killed.

  33. Peter*

    Lisa, the Republican neocons only controlled foreign policy for 8 of the last 23 years with the other 15 years under Democrat R2P, Liberal Interventionist control. These Liberal Hawks and their actions may mirror those of the Neocons but their rationales for war and aggression are cloaked in Human Rights and other pseudo humanitarian distractions.

    The WOT and especially the Drone War are accelerating under this ideology, the justification for the air-assault against the Islamic State was R2P to save the poor Yazidis in Iraq and the Kurds in Syria. The neocons never bothered with such superficial moral cloaks for their aggression, they used Responsibility to Punish and Shock and Awe Crusade as their War Banners.

  34. Lisa

    As the old Scottish saying goes ‘there is a ba hair’s difference between the Liberal Hawks and the neo-cons”. The main difference seems to be that Liberal Hawks seem to smile a bit more often on camera and use a slightly different rhetoric (lies?) at times.

    But ideologically and especially is terms of desired outcomes there is no difference between them.

    Shows how clever the neo-cons have been at infiltrating the US establishment, there is no organised resistance in any branch of Govt or the political parties. As bureaucratic infighters they have no equal.

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