Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront
While the ceasefire in Syria is holding, there are influential forces within Washington personified by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dunford, and CIA Director Brennan, who are clearly unhappy with this state of affairs. Not only have they sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into the Syria venture for no gain whatsoever, they were humiliated by the swiftness of Russia’s victory which came in spite of universal US predictions that Moscow was going to experience “another Afghanistan” in Syria. Which means they might be interested in pursuing another round of “hybrid warfare” against a variety of targets. The West, and the US in particular, are suffering from a systemic crisis caused by several decades of economic neo-liberalism which is gradually destroying their middle classes. Therefore these countries economic growth depends mainly on the ability to secure “emerging markets” by whatever means necessary, including through “color revolutions.” While the US has suffered several tactical setbacks in recent years, it has not changed its strategy and will not until it either fundamentally reforms it economy or suffers a systemic collapse. In the meantime, we can expect more “color revolutions” and proxy wars aimed at promoting neo-colonial economic relations around teh globe. The only question being, where? There are several “candidates.”
That war is not over yet, and it could definitely be escalated again. However, it is evident that the US approach to the war, namely supplying militants with weapons, proved far less effective than Russia’s, which relied on legitimate Syrian political institutions. Reversing that trend would require allowing Turkey and possibly Gulf Arab states to intervene militarily in Syria. That move would be extremely dangerous for Turkey and other foreign powers, and would moreover threaten the integrity of NATO whose European members strongly oppose the idea of such involvement. Then there is the question of whether the US really wants to give Turkey the free rein in Syria and Iraq, considering its neo-Ottoman and pan-Turkic ambitions also run counter to US own interests.
That war is not yet over either. But here, too, Russia has the upper hand. Even providing advanced NATO weapons to Ukraine would not guarantee a Ukrainian victory on the Donbass, and would instead provoke a more forceful Russian response which would place US and NATO before a lose-lose proposition: direct military involvement which entails the risk of a nuclear exchange and which would, again, fracture NATO, or backing down in humiliation, with only additional, and by now marginaly effective, economic sanctions available to save face. Furthermore, the proximity to Europe means there’s a danger of yet another refugee wave flooding the EU, which is why Europe has insisted on pursuing its own policies in Ukraine, separately from the US.
Armenia and/or Azerbaijan
Both of these countries, though particularly Armenia, enjoy close relations with Russia, which might make them tempting “consolation prizes” for Washington, particularly since their economies are also suffering from the ongoing global economic crisis. At closer glance, their attractiveness as targets becomes less so when one considers that the fact the two countries are in a rivalry means any internal unrest in one is liable to be capitalized upon by the other. Also, they are both much further away from Europe and very close to Russia, which moreover stations troops on Armenia’s territory. While some of the “unemployed” ISIS militants could be gainfully employed in the region, it could have the effect of antagonizing Georgia which cannot possibly welcome Azeri dominance of its immediate neighborhood.
There are indications that Western powers are trying to sway Belarus over to its side through the gradual lessening of sanctions and other overtures to its leadership. Moreover, Belarus has its own nationalist forces similar in terms of ideology and objectives to their Ukrainian counterparts. Overall, however, Belarus is not Ukraine. It is smaller, predominantly Russian-speaking, with no Stepan Bandera haunting its politics from beyond the grave and with a very close relationship between Russian military and its Belarusian counterpart which guarantees that military is highly unlikely to be used as a bulwark of some nationalist regime in the future. Finally, Ukraine’s example is probably the greatest antidote to anything resembling a “color revolution” in Belarus.
The “improvement” in the relations between Cuba and the US does not mean the latter has abandoned its policy of regime change it has been pursuing for over 50 years. Instead, the change is driven by the fact that the sanctions have failed destabilize Cuba’s government and instead consolidated its society around Fidel Castro and the Communist Party. Moreover, Cuba will enter into a period of instability following Fidel’s death, which the US will almost certainly attempt to exploit. Russia is entirely too far away to effectively aid Cuba against the next round of subversion which will no doubt be well financed and well prepared–the Cuba exile community in Florida has not been doing anything else for half a century, with US intelligence services’ assistance.
Hosni Mubarak’s unwillingness to prostrate himself economically before the West and sacrifice his country’s economic interests on the altar of globalization led to the US promoting the Egyptian Spring of Tahrir Square. However, that particular “color revolution” seems to have misfired. Mubarak was quickly replaced by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood who likewise proved to be economic nationalists rather than globalists, hence their arrival in power probably was not welcomed in Washington. When the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown by the Egyptian military, it seems to have been welcomed by the West which was actually more worried in that case by what their revolution had unleashed. Furthermore, al-Sisi has promptly sought out Russia as an insurance policy against future US attempts to destabilize the country, which in any event don’t seem to have a high chance of success. The Egyptian military proved to be a cohesive force, capable of acting decisively to protect the country’s sovereignty. It will likely do so again if needed.
Iran is the Cuba of the Middle East: a long-isolated country which is being prepped for a forcible overthrow through the use of “soft power” which could not be applied for as long as the sanctions regime is in place. The country is far too large for Russia to intervene directly, and therefore everything will depend on the cohesion of the Iranian leadership elite and of the armed forces, including the IRGC. As the example of Ukraine has shown, if a sizable element of the security apparatus becomes corrupted by the “color revolution” ideas, it renders the state powerless to resist. Whether Iran has that “natural immunity” remains to be seen. However, it will surely be tested in the upcoming years.
Here the opportunities for anti-Russian destabilization are the greatest. The level of Russian influence is considerable but not high enough to prevent a “color revolution.” The countries of the region have extensive mineral resources which are no doubt being eyed covetously by US energy companies. Afghanistan’s proximity means that the Islamic State can attempt to project its influence into Central Asia with ease, with the region representing the best chance of “re-employing” its militants following the debacle in Syria. Destabilizing the region would moreover also damage China’s interests by jeopardizing the New Silk Road, and would drive a wedge between the EU and China, increasing the EU’s economic isolation and pushing it into US arms. Finally, destabilization of Central Asia would have an isolating effect on Iran, whose recent nuclear treaty has not been met with approval by the US hardliners. One must also note that the resulting refugee crisis would not greatly affect Europe–Russia is a far closer destination. Therefore, by far, Central Asia appears to be the most likely theater for the next round of hybrid warfare, one which both Russia and China will have to watch closely.