Russia And The USA: Coordinating Air Strikes And Wider Consequences
Long may it waive without wavering.
Russia will not be willing to admit targets other than ISIS.
While Russia may indeed coordinate their air strikes in Syria against ISIS targets the USA and its allies may also be targeting, Russian coordination will stop short of coordinating their other targets.
The reason is simple. Russia will not want to allow the Americans and their allies to warn anti-Assad forces that they are about to be hit by Russian pilots.
With the lack of that needed coordination in the air war, the risks to the several participating air forces can lead to tragic events we can already foresee.
When that happens, Russia will deny not coordinating and blame the west for callousness in each incident. Enough such incidents will add to hostile feelings between the two sides trying to deal with the complexities of the Syrian tragedy.
How then should the USA and its allies proceed?
Russia claims the legal high ground of acting at the request of "the only legitimate government of Syria," namely the Assad regime which invited their Russian ally to help fight "destabilizing forces" in Syria.
By supporting those determined to oust Assad, excluding ISIS and Al Queda, America and its allies are in the weak position of protesting Russian air strikes against the insurgent elements the US and its allies favor and support.
The result is likely to be that Russia assumes a free hand in striking all anti-Assad forces, just as they have started doing.
While the Russians will occasionally strike ISIS targets, they are likely to concentrate their strikes on other insurgents and leave the bulk of ISIS targeting to the Americans and their allies.
With that strategy, Russia visualizes the end game as the elimination of all significant threats to the viability of the Assad regime and a sufficiently strengthened Syrian force loyal to Assad that can crush remaining pockets of resistance.
In the Russian view, the Americans and their allies become partners to an unacceptable outcome the west and its allies are unable to avoid.
If that is the outcome, Putin is an even bigger hero at home and likely to be even more bellicose in dealing with Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and the Ukrainian government.
What is America's counter move in this high stakes game of international chess?
Some possibilities with dangerous consequences are strengthening NATO further to protect the countries the Americans are committed to defend, and giving financial and military logistical support to the Ukrainian government.
Doing so could escalate East-West tensions more than incidents in the air over Syria.
Putin has demonstrated his decisiveness. President Obama and a European Union in political turmoil from an immigrant crisis which likely includes ISIS operatives, have not shown a willingness to stand up to Putin with the exception of some economic sanctions which Putin has so far survived.
Talk is cheap when confronting a bully. Something more is needed to make Putin abandon his adventurism.
© 2015 Demas W. Jasper All rights reserved.
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