Opinion: Russian Options Against US Attack on Syria

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Opinion: Russian Options Against US Attack on Syria

© Russian Defense Ministry / RIA Novosti

Written by TheSaker;

The tensions between Russia and the USA have reached an unprecedented level. I fully agree with the participants of this CrossTalk show – the situation is even worse and more dangerous than during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both sides are nowgoing to the so-called “Plan B” which, simply put, stand for, at best, no negotiations and, at worst, a war between Russia and the USA.

The key thing to understand in the Russian stance in this, an other, recent conflicts with the USA is thatRussia is still much weaker than the USA and that she therefore does not want war. That does not, however, mean that she is not actively preparing for war. In fact, she very much and actively does. All this means is that should a conflict occur, Russia you try, as best can be, to keep it as limited as possible.

In theory, these are, very roughly, the possible levels of confrontation:

  1. A military standoff à la Berlin in 1961. One could argue that this is what is already taking place right now, albeit in a more long-distance and less visible way.
  2. A single military incident, such as what happened recently when Turkey shot down a Russian SU-24 and Russia chose not to retaliate.
  3. A series of localized clashes similar to what is currently happening between India and Pakistan.
  4. A conflict limited to the Syrian theater of war (say like the war between the UK and Argentina over the Malvinas Islands).
  5. A regional or global military confrontation between the USA and Russia.
  6. A full scale thermonuclear war between the USA and Russia

During my years as a student of military strategy I have participated in many exercises on escalation and de-escalation and I can attest that while it is very easy to come up with escalatory scenarios, I have yet to see a credible scenario for de-escalation. What is possible, however, is the so-called “horizontal escalation” or “asymmetrical escalation” in which one side choses not to up the ante or directly escalate, but instead choses a different target for retaliation, not necessarily a more valuable one, just a different one on the same level of conceptual importance (in the USA Joshua M. Epstein and Spencer D. Bakich did most of the groundbreaking work on this topic).

The main reason why we can expect the Kremlin to try to find asymmetrical options to respond to a US attack is that in the Syrian context Russia is hopelessly outgunned by the US/NATO, at least in quantitative terms. The logical solutions for the Russians is to use their qualitative advantage or to seek “horizontal targets” as possible retaliatory options. This week, something very interesting and highly uncharacteristic happened: Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Chief of the Directorate of Media service and Information of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, openly mentioned one such option. Here is what he said:

“As for Kirby’s threats about possible Russian aircraft losses and the sending of Russian servicemen back to Russia in body bags, I would say that we know exactly where and how many “unofficial specialists” operate in Syria and in the Aleppo province and we know that they are involved in the operational planning and that they supervise the operations of the militants. Of course, one can continue to insist that they are unsuccessfully involved in trying to separate the al-Nusra terrorists from the “opposition” forces. But if somebody tries to implement these threats, it is by no means certain that these militants will have to time to get the hell out of there.”

Nice, no? Konashenkov appears to be threatening the “militants” but he is sure to mention that there are plenty of “unofficial specialists” amongst these militants and that Russia knows exactly where they are and how many of them there are. Of course, officially, Obama has declared that there are a few hundred such US special advisors in Syria. A well-informed Russian source suggests that there are up to 5’000 foreign ‘advisors’ to the Takfiris including about 4’000 Americans. I suppose that the truth is somewhere between these two figures.

So the Russian threat is simple: you attack us and we will attack US forces in Syria. Of course, Russia will vehemently deny targeting US servicemen and insist that the strike was only against terrorists, but both sides understand what is happening here. Interestingly, just last week the Iranian Fars news agency reported that such a Russian attack had already happened:

30 Israeli, Foreign Intelligence Officers Killed in Russia’s Caliber Missile Attack in Aleppo:

The Russian warships fired three Caliber missiles at the foreign officers’ coordination operations room in Dar Ezza region in the Western part of Aleppo near Sam’an mountain, killing 30 Israeli and western officers,” the Arabic-language service of Russia’s Sputniknews agency quoted battlefield source in Aleppo as saying on Wednesday. The operations room was located in the Western part of Aleppo province in the middle of sky-high Sam’an mountain and old caves. The region is deep into a chain of mountains. Several US, Turkish, Saudi, Qatari and British officers were also killed along with the Israeli officers. The foreign officers who were killed in the Aleppo operations room were directing the terrorists’ attacks in Aleppo and Idlib.

Whether this really happened or whether the Russians are leaking such stories to indicate that this could happen, the fact remains that US forces in Syria could become an obvious target for Russian retaliation, whether by cruise missile, gravity bombs or direct action operation by Russian special forces. The US also has several covert military installations in Syria, including at least one airfield with V-22 Osprey multi-mission tiltrotor aircraft.

Another interesting recent development has been the Fox News report that Russians are deploying S-300V (aka “SA-23 Gladiator anti-missile and anti-aircraft system”) in Syria. Check out this excellent article for a detailed discussion of the capabilities of this missile system. I will summarize it by saying that the S-300V can engage ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, very low RCS (“stealth”) aircraft and AWACS aircraft. This is an Army/Army Corps -level air defense system, well capable of defending most of the Syrian airspace, but also reach well into Turkey, Cyprus, the eastern Mediterranean and Lebanon. The powerful radars of this system could not only detect and engage US aircraft (including “stealth”) at a long distance, but they could also provide a tremendous help for the few Russian air superiority fighters by giving them a clear pictures of the skies and enemy aircraft by using encrypted datalinks. Finally, US air doctrine is extremely dependent on the use of AWACS aircraft to guide and support US fighters. The S-300V will forces US/NATO AWACS to operate at a most uncomfortable distance. Between the longer-range radars of the Russian Sukhois, the radars on the Russian cruisers off the Syrian coast, and the S-300 and S-300V radars on the ground, the Russians will have a much better situational awareness than their US counterparts.

It appears that the Russians are trying hard to compensate for their numerical inferiority by deploying high-end systems for which the US has no real equivalent or good counter-measures.

There are basically two options of deterrence: denial, when you prevent your enemy from hitting his targets and retaliation, when you make the costs of an enemy attack unacceptably high for him. The Russians appear to be pursuing both tracks at the same time. We can thus summarize the Russian approach as such

  1. Delay a confrontation as much as possible (buy time).
  2. Try to keep any confrontation at the lowest possible escalatory level.
  3. If possible, reply with asymmetrical/horizontal escalations.
  4. Rather then “prevail” against the US/NATO – make the costs of attack too high.
  5. Try to put pressure on US “allies” in order to create tensions inside the Empire.
  6. Try to paralyze the USA on a political level by making the political costs of an attack too high-end.
  7. Try to gradually create the conditions on the ground (Aleppo) to make a US attack futile

To those raised on Hollywood movies and who still watch TV, this kind of strategy will elicit only frustration and condemnation. There are millions of armchair strategists who are sure that they could do a much better job than Putin to counter the US Empire. These folks have now been telling us for *years* that Putin “sold out” the Syrians (and the Novorussians) and that the Russians ought to do X, Y and Z to defeat the AngloZionist Empire. The good news is that none of these armchair strategists sit in the Kremlin and that the Russians have stuck to their strategy over the past years, one day at a time, even when criticized by those who want quick and “easy” solutions. But the main good news is that the Russian strategy is working. Not only is the Nazi-occupied Ukraine quite literally falling apart, but the US has basically run out of options in Syria (see this excellent analysis by my friend Alexander Mercouris in the Duran).

The only remaining logical steps left for the USA in Syria is to accept Russia’s terms or leave. The problem is that I am not at all convinced that the Neocons, who run the White House, Congress and the US corporate media, are “rational” at all. This is why the Russians employed so many delaying tactics and why they have acted with such utmost caution: they are dealing with professional incompetent ideologues who simply do not play by the unwritten but clear rules of civilized international relations. This is what makes the current crisis so much worse than even the Cuban Missile Crisis: one superpower has clearly gone insane.

Are the Americans crazy enough to risk WWIII over Aleppo?

Maybe, maybe not. But what if we rephrase that question and ask

Are the Americans crazy enough to risk WWIII to maintain their status as the “world’s indispensable nation”, the “leader of the free world”, the “city on the hill” and all the rest of this imperialistic nonsense?

Here I would submit that yes, they potentially are.

After all, the Neocons are correct when they sense that if Russia gets away with openly defying and defeating the USA in Syria, nobody will take the AngloZionists very seriously any more.

How do you think the Neocons think when they see the President of the Philippines publicly calling Obama a “son of a whore” and then tells the EU to go and “f*ck itself”?

Of course, the Neocons can still find some solace in the abject subservience of the European political elites, but still – they know that he writing is on the wall and that their Empire is rapidly crumbling, not only in Syria, the Ukraine or Asia, but even inside the USA. The biggest danger here is that the Neocons might try to rally the nation around the flag, either by staging yet another false flag or by triggering a real international crisis.

At this point in time all we can do is wait and hope that there is enough resistance inside the US government to prevent a US attack on Syria before the next Administration comes in. And while I am no supporter of Trump, I would agree that Hillary and her evil cabal of russophobic Neocons is so bad that Trump does give me some hope, at least in comparison to Hillary.

So if Trump wins, then Russia’s strategy will be basically justified. Once Trump is on the White House, there is at least the possibility of a comprehensive redefinition of US-Russian relations which would, of course, begin with a de-escalation in Syria: while Obama/Hillary categorically refuse to get rid of Daesh (by that I mean al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, and all their various denominations), Trump appears to be determined to seriously fight them, even if that means that Assad stays in power. There is most definitely a basis for dialog here. If Hillary comes in, then the Russians will have to make an absolutely crucial call: how important is Syria in the context of their goal to re-sovereignize Russia and to bring down the AngloZionist Empire? Another way of formulating the same question is “would Russia prefer a confrontation with the Empire in Syria or in the Ukraine?”.

One way to gauge the mood in Russia is to look at the language of a recent law proposed by President Putin and adopted by the Duma which dealt with the issue of the Russia-US Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) which, yet again, saw the US yet again fail to deliver on their obligations and which Russia has now suspended. What is interesting, is the language chosen by the Russians to list the conditions under which they would resume their participation in this agreement and, basically, agree to resume any kind of arms negotiations:

  1. A reduction of military infrastructure and the number of the US troops stationed on the territory of NATO member states that joined the alliance after September 1, 2000, to the levels at which they were when the original agreement first entered into force.
  2. The abandonment of the hostile policy of the US towards Russia, which should be carried out with the abolition of the Magnitsky Act of 2012 and the conditions of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, which were directed against Russia.
  3. The abolition of all sanctions imposed by the US on certain subjects of the Russian Federation, Russian individuals and legal entities.
  4. The compensation for all the damages suffered by Russia as a result of the imposition of sanctions.
  5. The US is also required to submit a clear plan for irreversible plutonium disposition covered by the PMDA.

Now the Russians are not delusional. They know full well that the USA will never accept such terms. So what is this really all about? It is a diplomatic but unambiguous way to tell the USA the exact same thing which Philippine President Duterte (and Victoria Nuland) told the EU.

The Americans better start paying attention.

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  • Ted

    I enjoyed the article but where I think you miss is overthinking the US and its leadership. Syria in the US is a great unknown. Very few Americans have any idea of what is taking place. A man that could get 10% of overall votes for president of the united states did not know what an Aleppo was? Might I add he is still a candidate for President here.
    What you see as front page news is page fifteen here if it makes the paper at all.

    De-escalation I think it would serve the world and Russia better to openly state what is at risk. To show some cards so to speak. Americans would quickly start to ask why are we even involved in Syria. At the start of this mess the White house had the assets in place to attack Assad, but it was the American public that called it off. This was before Russia had become involved at any real level.
    I cant say if the powers that be are willing to risk WWIII over this, but I can assure you that the American public is not. I guess you Russian’s have to be asking yourselves the same question? Is it worth starting WWIII to hold together a broken Syria?

    Maybe that’s the out for both sides. Its pretty obvious neither wants to blink or appear weak. Let the populations of the US and Russia decide if its worth WWIII. I think we would all sleep better?

    Good read. Thanks

    • Random guy

      but wouldn’t US population opinion on Syria be relevant only if US was a democracy not a republic. I mean the decisions are not made people, and even the candidate promises often are not delivered, on top of that current candidates try to avoid any promise on syria.

      • We are not a Republic or a Democracy. We are a Zionist-state where we are subjects, subjected to our Zionist-overlords.
        You cannot have a Republic where the bank is a private Federal Reserve where congress has no power over money and we have debt slavery, even though our Founding Fathers outlawed “debt-slavery”
        http://www.constitutionparty.com/

    • john mason

      Well summarized Ted. Russia needs to stop what the US/NATO are doing, from Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, N. Korea and quite a few more like Somalia, Cuba, Ukraine etc., because who will be next?
      The other point of interest is China which was left out in the article and to a lesser extent Iran. You can be guaranteed they they will involve themselves with Russia.

  • cheetah88

    i have noticed a pattern from the saker’s writings. he continually claims that Russia is weak and cannot win a war with america nor fight a conflict more than a few hundred miles from its homeland. why, i dont know. but i advise taking his pieces as opinion more than gospel as some paragon. i for one, having studied Russian military capabilities, have complete confidence in Russia.

    • John Whitehot

      the author is essentially right – Russia can fight and win wars but lost the soviet ability to win them at any point in the world. What he ‘s saying though is that Russia may as well win wars with the US simply by making them pay a too high cost for them, something the US has not had in recent time and that its public won’t accept. And if I may add, a great danger for the US is to make Russia feel too threatened by its actions. In that case, Russia will very likely escalate to using tactical nuclear weapons to compensate the disadvantage in conventional means. That would be only one step away from strategic nuclear weapons deployment.

  • John Whitehot

    I believe this analysis is sound and have some questions I’d like this author to think about:
    first of all – normally, the US should not start any kind of military action without the approval of the commander in chief. As I know it, his advisors would provide him with several options over a certain issue, ranging from diplomatic moves all up to full-military action. Will Obama, who had promised not to start any wars in his presidency, start the most dangerous war he could think of, with Russia?
    imho, Obama is basically a man that strongly refutes military action, and even recently has commented that “if Russia uses military force it will weaken”, implying that the US will remain strong without using it. Of course this brings us to a certain doubt that the events in Deir-Ezzoir has brought: the idea that the US administration may not be fully in control of the military. This opens up scenarios which are all very dark and pessimistic.
    There is also another angle: This is a situation which could heavily influence the US elections in november. It could be very helpful having an insight on how the current US leadership may treat this issue as a function of the vote. Actually, it could be the most important factor the US takes into account on choosing which direction to take.,

  • Ronald

    Selling Syria S300’s would put the defensive position of Syria in a stronger light. In that way , Assad can declare Syria to be a “no fly zone” and any deployment is from Assad , already defined as the “bad guy” by Washington . The article clearly articulates the wisdom of non-escalation, as de-escalation is difficult . The coming American election is ripe for a created “situation” to gather votes . A time of caution.

  • Russia needs to step up the information war. Get the truth into the English and German and Norwegian languages. Because, it is in this arena where the war will be won or lost without ever firing a shot. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ff75a4c0fd8b151426d60417ba4577daaf634aab5e658bc373b3407a2d653862.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/05a951200e791546feb161a049900a8c20106e9373c105197cc30695339e8f35.jpg

  • Derapage

    You forgot two important weapons: propaganda and economic sanctions.
    Russian phobia in very high in the Western countries at each level (school, media, military, diplomacy, politic) and economic santions in open war can make the difference where the risk of instability is very high (Russia/Iran).

    • Xergoos

      Well i can tell you why, wwhen Russian soldier were getting rid of Nazis from poland all their soldiers were drunk they rape every person which had 2 legs – small girls too, then most of them just shoot them(the small girls too), if you will look at the map and learn some history you will know that the same was done for russian tribes for many ages from their asian brothers.
      What happen now is that Russian DNA is sooo mixed with barbarian tribes that they are not a Slvoian anymore but Asian. (you can check that – google it), So who want to have a neighbour which can visit you at night rape your wife and doughter, kill your son and after all this will say hey we are the same.

      You see propaganda have many faces and sides… one of it is this page.
      Glorification of Russia but everyone forget that for USA and Russia its only a game.

      • julange

        You should ask that to the Japanese women that in “Peace” times were (still now) raped by the US Army “liberators” troops in Okinawa and in around the other 6 military bases that the empire keep in that occupied country. (something that Hollywood never mentioned)

        • Xergoos

          yes i agree with you, the United States of Satan are created by criminals from europe, whad do you expect from criminals and bamboo blacks? im saying that USA is the evil on the earth but Russia is the same man dont make it white.

          • John Whitehot

            the “evil vs good” scenario is just as american as it can get. Man is bad, because it’s got the defects its got, and not because of its fault. But man also has a mind that allows him to picture where it is failing to produce any good. So it’s not a quest of the US being against Russia, it’s a quest of the “power” of money against the power of human values.

      • rudy

        See a shrink !

      • John Whitehot

        no you can’t tell a thing – bringing examples like those you brought is just proof of a stubborn ignorance and fear or inability to look beyond the puny, little particular single events and ignore the general picture of things.

        • Xergoos

          you are saying that i have inability to look beyond… then in this case you have inability to look behind… history makes circles, “evil vs good” scenario which you mention is a story for kids.
          Russia and the human values… you killed me with this, tell that to 40mln killed by stalin, did you ever been in russia btw? i have been i know a lot of russians you just have no idea what you talking about.

          • John Whitehot

            in fact i said that “evil vs good” is a story for americans, which equates to saying it’s a story for kids. And on the circles, i don’t agree – it’s just that men tend to interpret things based on what they already know, so they believe they see repetitions which exist only in their minds. And on ppl killed by russians, in fact ppl has been killed by all the countries. if you think americans or british killed less ppl, you are naive to the point of believing western medias.

  • Renato Silva

    Great article. Well explained and detailed…

  • goingbrokes

    Defeat in Syria could trigger a big fall of dominoes and that is why the US leaders are having hissy-fits virtually every day. It would be a defeat for Saudis as well, and could destabilise the kingdom. That would spell the end of the petrodollar, and that would certainly collapse US economy virtually overnight to a level where there is no easy coming back. With the petrodollar collapse would go control of IMF, NATO would become a mere skeleton, Israel would receive no billions annually any longer, the list goes on. Dollar without the “petro” would lose its position as the world reserve currency and could become almost worthless overnight because there are so many dollars around the world. Good luck buying a loaf of bread with them! The USA could spiral into a revolution of sorts as the criminality of the shadow government is revealed. This is why the threats towards Russia are so vitriolic.

    • Wilfried Waltke

      What about SZR? The Petrodollar is abandened before head. We are watching games. AS LONG AS WE ACCEPT TO WORK OUR LIFETIME FOR JEWEISH BITS AND BITES, as long nothing will change ever.

      • goingbrokes

        I take it that SZR is IMF’s Special Drawing Rights acronym in German? Well, SDRs, like everything else global, is related to the dollar. The dollar goes, the SDR’s go with it, as will the IMF itself!

        • Wilfried Waltke

          Yes, you are right. I ment SDRs. China’s RMB is implemented in the SDR basket now while China is accumulating his huge Gold pile the same time.

  • Gue Bjuen

    we asume that the ruling people in the west are very inteligent, human, wise, civilized, and rational. it is their image but not the truth. what is the truth? the truth is what they actualy have done. these are people who don’t care if millions would suffer, millions would die because of their policies. THEY JUST DON”T CARE !!

    for them there is only one way. “either their way or NONE !!”
    which is making the “SAMSON OPTION” very possible. we have to undertand what will happen after
    russia has won this war. The US is not going to be the only country that will collaps with the downfall of the dollar empire, the EU will also be bankrupted along with other many countries.
    our finance system will collaps everywhere, which will make people life hell. but ok the sooner the better. but this indeed will really hurt bad to a lot of people.

    the zionist capital doesn’t have any alternative host to stick with. with president XI china changed it’s traditional intern situation a lot. he destroyed the corrupted most powerful de facto power of Jiāng Zémín. but also he move to a anti jewish policy.

    not many people know this but the chinese communist founder was very close with jews from the US. and after him, china had always good realtionship with jews. there was a movement that chinese were the lost tribe of israel. chinese people were allowed to get israeli citizenship and were moving to israel. this political movement was forbiden few weeks ago.

    china abanded this.china only allows certain religious activities cleared by the state. this means china has refused to receive certification to judaism inside china. the list of religion being received certification are buddhism, islam, taoism, christianity. judaism is not tolerated in china.
    china stated clear, there are 55 different ethnics in china but jews are not among that 55.
    if something like this happens, the media, ngos, activits, intellectuals etc etc go mad but not in this case. they would shout anti-semite, racist, nazi but somehow it is being kept very qiuet.
    china was planed to become their next host country. the one after US bankruptcy.
    so this makes a huge problem. they have nowhere to go.
    is this a sign to activate the samson option??
    “EITHER OUR WAY OR NONE”

    the US can’t let russia victorious. that will mean the collaps of the dollar based world economy. this fraud can only maitain through violance and tyrani,

    • John Whitehot

      you are right. But i invite you to look at history and find the instances where some empire or country behaved in this way. They ended up defeated and humiliated. Take Nazi Germany as an example. The globalized varmint who dictates every single US move in foreign policy will be annihilated because the human race, in its complex, cuts off and kills those parts of it that put it in danger of losing its positive principles, by which its survival depends. It won’t be long, if God wishes, we may all live enough to see this happen.

  • Jesus

    I would like Saker to qualify how Russia is still significantly weaker than US and NATO in context of the Middle East scenario.
    1. Syria is a lot closer to Russia than US and NATO, except Turkey, Bulgaria and Roumania, subsequently logistics and deployment of armaments is easier and freer from dangerous interdiction.
    2. Turkey has been allayed by Russia and is content carrying out operations south of the border to secure a buffer zone preventing the Kurds from forming a continuous territory south of the Turkish border. Subsequently Turkey is neutral on the Syrian matters, and I do not see US using Incirclick airbase for any operations in Syria.
    3. US can deploy its land based Air Force against Syrian targets from bases in Bahrain, UAE, S. Arabia, and northern Iraq. All of these installations are within the range of Russian cruise missiles fired from the Caspian Sea, Mediteranean sea and southern Russia. Therefore if aircraft from these bases attack Syrian targets they are prone to be counterattacked; one problem with aircraft operating these airfields, they have to be refueled in mid air.
    4. If necessary, Russia can deploy 100 aircraft in Syria along with powerful SAM and EW defenses that US Air Force has not had the opportunity to encounter.
    5. If necessary, Russia could base T-22 along with Sukhoi 35 in Iran and attack US installations with heavy payloads.
    6. US Air Force equipment for most part, F-16, F15 is old and somewhat obsolete therefore the feats accomplished by the US Air Force in the 90’s and early 2000 against lesser enemies are a thing of the past.
    7. Therefore, from the standpoint of some of the above observations, I do not see how Russia is a lot weaker than US and NATO, numerically speaking when you catalogue all weapons involved world wide, US and NATO have more aircraft, ships, carriers, maybe more modern tanks, however, those numbers are meaningless in Middle East/Syria, US is unwilling to deploy many of their capital ships and their air wings, having to rely on a couple of hundred land based aircraft and “special forces” guiding the jihadis.
    8. I do not see US nor NATO being willing or capable to deploy significant military assets in the Middle East to confront the Russian, Iranian and Syrian triumvirate.