"Russia's venture has been remarkably economical in terms of time and resources"by Robert Fry / March 24, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more by Robert Fry: a very unChinese standoff in the South China Sea
Kremlinology is a pastime for consenting adults in private. Trying to divine Russian motives and objectives is a speculative game for anyone other than the deep specialist and usually ends with a Churchillian reference to riddles wrapped in a mysteries inside enigmas. So let’s try a different approach. Let’s take the universal principles of strategic calculus, apply them to Russian actions and see what we can come up with in terms of both short and longer term aims.
During their recent intervention in Syria, the Russians deployed around 4,000 personnel to facilitate the operations of an expeditionary airgroup of about 80 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. They maintained a consistently high sortie rate because the Khmeimim airbase, south east of Latakia, a city on the western coast of Syria, allowed a short and convenient commute to work in sharp contrast to the long transits and air to air refuelling of western aircraft operating out of bases in the Gulf, Cyprus and from aircraft carrier decks. At the same time, they maintained a small flotilla of ships and submarines in what has become a virtual standing maritime force in the Eastern Mediterranean, operating out of the naval base of Tartus.
And what have they achieved? They have bombed the Syrian opposition to the negotiating table, a table at which Russia is a prominent actor. They have given the Assad regime the strategic depth that comes from the recapture of 4,000 square miles of territory, facilitated by close air support. From strategic space Assad can derive strategic time and get ahead of his enemies. They may or may not have deliberately exacerbated the refugee crisis in order to create further tension in Europe, as NATO’s senior commander in Europe claims. But they won’t care; a little inconvenience to the EU and NATO is a…