Russia’s decision to send its one aircraft carrier and four other warships to Syria doesn’t help anyone. While the Russian warships in Tartus, Syria, the only Russian base outside the former Soviet States, unequivocally demonstrates Russia’s support for the government, Russia flexing its muscles demonstrates its weakness. The Economist reckons that the U.S. Sixth Fleet alone has more firepower than Russia’s Navy.

It’s a lose-lose situation for the Russians. A poorly organized group of rebels are not going to be intimidated by the mere presence of some Russian ships. I doubt the Russian Navy would fire on the Syrian protesters, given that they recently failed to intervene when Cyprus blocked weapons and ammunition from entering Syria. If the rebels succeed in overthrowing Bashar Assad’s government, Russia would lose its southernmost naval base.

But the Russians won’t win even if Assad maintains control. By supporting the ruthless dictator, Russia further alienates itself from the new governments in the Middle East as well as Lebanon, Turkey, and Israel. The U.S. should capitalize on this opportunity.

Posted by jjames in Foreign Policy, Soft Power

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Old Salt

    How, exactly, does “Russia flexing its muscles” demonstrate its weakness? Russia is acting as a deterrent to Allied (NATO) and US 6th Fleet action in support of the rebels. There won’t be any Allied “kinetic” action against the Syrian thugs.

    This puts the lie to all the overheated claims that Facebook and social media puts us in a new place where the old rules somehow don’t apply. Remember the “golden rule” – they who have the gold (and guns) make the rules.

    The Russians aren’t stupid. They aren’t inhibited by willfully blind columnists, either. It would be best for us to recognize those facts.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Old Salt is right as rain. The Russian ships aren’t there for Syria, one side or the other. They are there as a foil to NATO, which, despite US 6th Fleet, have to share a continent with the Bear. And are now doing so with largely dismantled militaries.

    The Economist at times has some interesting takes on events. But their understanding of power politics is lacking in the extreme. \

    What you see here is the inherent silliness of the “thousand ship navy” concept laid bare.

    But it isn’t like it should be a surprise.

  • They can’t maintain a CVBG there for very long. They will probably go home at the end of a towing hawser.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Perhaps, Chuck, but now that they have driven a stake there, NATO will have little to do with events there.

    An “influence squadron” to be sure.

  • If there was a UN mandate for an operation like Libya I couldn’t see the Russian shooting at the participants, but I could see them providing targeting for the long range cruise missiles recently delivered to Syria.

    On the other hand neither China or Russia would permit such a UN resolution, and the US and Europe would not start such an operation without UN approval. Beside the European expended all their ammunition in Libya.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    The Influence Squadron is the check in the “admixture of other means” block. And every nation who lived under or next to the Russian yoke knows it.

  • Paul

    It’s been a long time since the Red Fleet sailed the high seas so far away from home. While they may be getting experience working in blue water again, I am sure that this is a golden opportunity to vacuum up a pile of information about their ship readiness, sensors, operations and training, air group operations, etc, etc.

    Don’t think the Syrian rebels really care, or will know about these ships, unless somehow they figure out a way to drive a Boston Whaler into the side of one on a port call, or kidnap some sailors on shore leave to embarrass the Assad government.

    Other than the Kuznetsov, what other ships are heading south?

  • Matt

    This deployment is a diplomatic show and nothing more. Does anyone really think they would launch unprovoked attacks in defense of Syria? Nato should attack from Turkey and force the Russians to watch from the Sea. Isn’t that what the Russians did to Nato with Georgia? Call their bluff.

    Putin is more interested in self-preservation than defending Syria I am willing to bet the house. If the Kuznetsov did launch anything send her to the bottom and with it the Russian Dream of resurgence. Wake them to reality. Syria is to Russia what Georgia is to Nato.