Part three: factors inhibiting Russia
First and foremost, as I have already explained in great detail in the past, Russia has absolutely no legal or moral obligation to support, protect, arm, train or otherwise assist anybody in the Middle-East. None. Russia has already done more for Syria than the entire Arab/Muslim world combined with the notable exception of Iran and Hezbollah. As for the Arab/Muslim world, it has never done anything for Russia and still is doing nothing. So those who like to whine about Russia not doing enough simply have no case whatsoever.
Second, the Russian air defense and air forces in Syria have only one mission: to protect the Russian task force in Syria. Whoever got the idea that Russia is supposed to shoot down Israeli aircraft or missiles over Syria has not been paying attention to public Russian statements about this. The notion that the Russian task force in Syria is there to engage US/NATO/CENTCOM forces is just as ridiculous.
Third, and contrary to a frequently held misconception, the Syrian government, Iran, Hezbollah and Iran have different agendas in the Middle-East. Yes, they are de-facto allies. They also have the same enemies, they often work together, but they all think of their own interests first. In fact, at least in the case of Iran and Russia, there are clear signs that there are several ‘camps’ inside the Russian and Iranian government and the ruling elites which have different agendas (I highly recommend Thierry Meyssan’s recent articles on this topic here and here). To think that any or all of them will instantly come to the defense of any one of them is supremely naïve, especially when the aggressor (Israel) is backed by the full power of an already warmongering Empire run amok.
Fourth, the sad reality is that Russia, unlike Iran, never took a principled position concerning the nature and behavior of the state of Israel. I very much deplore that, and I consider it a shame, but I hasten to add that this shame is shared by every single country on the planet except Iran, Bolivia and, maybe, to some extent Turkey. Not to excuse anything, but only to explain, there is very little awareness amongst Russians about the true nature and behavior of the Israelis, and most of what makes it to the media is hopelessly pro-Israeli (hence the almost constant presence of the likes of Iakov Kedmi, Avigdor Eskin, Evgenii Satanovskii and other Israeli agents – they don’t even really bother to deny it – on Russian TV). The Russian media, especially the TV stations, could easily get a “ADL seal of approval”. Simply put: the vast majority of Russians don’t feel that the plight of the Palestinians or the constant Israeli attacks on neighboring countries is their problem.
[Sidebar: such a view can appear very self-centered until you recall the kind of “gratitude” Russia got in the past from her former interventions. There are countries out there who exist only because Russia decided that they should exist and which today are members of NATO. I won’t even go into the “Slavic brotherhood” or, for that matter, “Orthodox brotherhood” nonsense. The only people with whom Russia truly has a strong bond are the Serbs. The rest of them were more than happy to backstab Russia as soon as convenient. Thus history has taught Russia a painful lesson: give up on any naïve notions of gratitude or brotherhood. Very sad, but true. Today, even countries like Kazakhstan, Armenia or Georgia are showing a very ambivalent (and even ambiguous) attitude towards Russia. As a result the idea that Russia owes some form of protection to anybody out there has almost no support in Russia.]
Fifth, even the Eurasian Sovereignist’s analysts and media in Russia have this absolutely amazing “blind spot” about Israel and the Zionist ideology: I think of analysts whom I sincerely admire and respect (like Sergei Mikheev or Ruslan Ostashko) and whose analysis is superb on pretty much everything and who simply never mention the power and influence of what is clearly a powerful pro-Israeli lobby inside Russia, especially in the Russian media (even when they mention the power of the Israel lobby in the USA). Considering how different the tone of much of the Russian Internet is, the only explanation I have for this situation is that any public anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist statements are career-terminators in Russia (we also clearly see the same phenomenon at work with RT and Sputnik). You can completely forget about any Russian religious figures speaking up, and that goes both for the Orthodox and Muslims: they all take their orders from the Kremlin and have no personal opinion on anything (I am only talking about the “official” senior religious leaders – the rank and file faithful do not display this type of behavior).
Sixth, there are plenty of people in Russia who fully realize two simple things: first, a war between Iran and the Empire would be disastrous for the Empire (and therefore great for Russia) and, second, the Iranians are also “problematic” allies at best who have their own version of “Atlanticists” (remember the “Gucci Revolution”?) and “Sovereignists”, which means that tensions, or warfare, between Iran and the USA would be greatly advantageous for the anti-US camp inside Iran (just like the rabid russophobia of western politicians did more to re-elect Putin than any of his own campaign rhetoric). To put it crudely, if the Israelis are dumb enough to attack the Iranians, and if the US Americans are subservient enough to Israel to join into the fight – why should Russia take great risks and openly stand in the way? Finally, any conflict with Iran (which will most likely also involve the KSA) will have oil prices skyrocket. What do you think this will do to the Russian economy?
Seventh, the war which Israel is currently waging against Iran and pro-Iranian forces in Syria is entirely a symbolic war. Even the Pantsir which was recently destroyed by the Israelis (with the usual pro-Israeli PR campaign) was not even on combat alert: the unit was not even camouflaged and its crew was standing around and smoking. The Israelis are masters at making this look all very impressive and heroic, but in military terms, this is nonsense: they clearly hit a unit which was not even part of the action (whatever that “action” was).
The basic rule of warfare still remains valid today: unless you can put boots on the ground, your efforts will never have a decisive military effect. And thank God for the fact that nobody in the “Axis of Kindness” has any credible ground forces; not the Israelis (remember 2006?); not the Saudis (look at Yemen); and most definitely not the USA (when is the last time they beat somebody capable of resisting?). That is why the AngloZionist Empire always tries to use proxies like the Kurds or the “good terrorists” to fight on its behalf. Thus the Russian military specialists fully understand that even if the Israelis bombed Syria for the next several months, they would not be able to change the fundamental correlation of forces on the ground. Hence, the Israeli strikes are mostly about PR.
Still, for all these reasons, and more, we all have to come to terms with the fact that Russia is what I would call a “limited actor” in the Middle-East. I have been saying from day 1 – when some were having visions of Russian airborne divisions (supported by MiG-31s!) landing near Damascus – that “the Russians are not coming” (see here, here, here, here and here). Furthermore, I tried to explain that the Russians are under no obligation whatsoever to protect or save anyone anywhere, including in the Middle-East (see here). Finally, I tried to explain that the Russian-Israeli relationship is a multi-layered and complex one (see here) and that Putin is facing some tremendous internal opposition which he has failed to successfully tackle (see here). But trying to describe a complex reality is often a futile task in a world in which simple, black and white, binary-kind of representations are the rule and where every complex argument is immediately turned into a long list of straw-man misrepresentations. This is still very much the case with the latest developments.
Those who say that “Putin sold out” are wrong, but so are those who think that “the Russians are coming” to save anybody. It is just not going to happen. Russia will not fight a war against Israel (unless she is attacked first) and Russia will only support Iranian operations and policies insofar as the Iranians negotiate a deal with the Russian and coordinate their efforts. As soon as Iran, or Hezbollah, make a move without prior consultations with Moscow, they will be on their own to deal with the consequences.
Part four: is Russia caving in to Western and Israeli pressure?
Setting aside the issue of the Russian role in the Middle-East, there remains the issue of why Putin failed to deliver on what was clearly a mandate of the Russian people to get rid of at least of the most hated personalities in the Russian government. Most folks in the West know how toxic Kudrin is, but the promotion of Mutko is nothing short of amazing too. This is the man who is most to blame for the gross mismanagement of the entire “Russia doping scandal” operation and who is absolutely despised for his incompetence. Now he is in charge of construction. There is even a good joke about this: Putin put Mutko in charge of the construction industry because the Russian construction market badly needs some doping. Funny, sure, but only so far. When I see Rogozin removed for his “poor management” (now put in charge of the Russian rocket and space industry) and Mutko promoted, I wonder if they have all gone crazy in the Kremlin.
We can all argue ad nauseam why exactly this has happened, but let’s first agree on one simple fact: Putin has failed to purge the Atlantic Integrationists. The big expectation of him getting a strong personal mandate from the people and then finally kicking them out of the Kremlin has, alas, been proven completely unfounded. There are a couple of interesting explanations out there such as:
- Objectively, the Medvedev government has done a very decent, if not good job, with the economy. True, some/many believe that mistakes were made, that there were better economic policies available, but it would be hard to argue that the government completely failed. In fact, there are some pretty strong arguments which indicate that the Medvedev government (see this article discussing this in detail and it’s machine translation here and this article and its machine translation here)
- Putin’s very ambitious internal economic growth program needs the support of the interests represented by the Atlantic Integrationists. In fact, internal development and economic growth are the core of his very ambitious political program. Possibly not the best time to purge the Kremlin from those who represent the interests of Russian big business.
- The Medvedev “clan” has been weakened (see here for details) and now that it has been put on a much shorter “technocratic” leash, it is far less dangerous. In fact, it has been been subdued by Putin and his allies. Lavrov and Shoigu are both staying, by the way.
- Trump’s reckless behavior is deeply alienating the Europeans to whom Putin is now presenting negotiation partners which they would trust (imagine Merkel and Rogozin in the same room – that would not go well!). Check out this excellent article by Frank Sellers in The Duran looking at the immense potential for Russia-EU cooperation.
Meh. I am personally unconvinced. How can Putin say that he wants serious reforms while keeping the exact same type of people in command? If indeed the Medvedev government did such a great job, then we is there any need for such major reforms? If Putin’s power base is indeed, as I believe it to be, in the people, then why is he trying to appease the financial elites by catering to their interests and agenda? Most crucially, how can Russia free herself from the financial and economic grip of the Empire when the Empire’s 5th column agents are (re-)appointed to key positions? And in all of Russia was there really nobody more qualified than Mutko or Kudrin to appoint to these positions?
Of course, there always this “Putin knows something you don’t” but I have always had a problem with that kind of logic which is essentially an open-ended universal cop-out. I hope that I am wrong, but to me this does strongly suggest that Putin is on the retreat, that he has made a major mistake and that the Empire has scored a major victory. And I will gladly admit that I have yet to hear an explanation which would explain this, never mind offer one of my own.
On the external front, has Russia caved in to Israeli pressure? Ruslan Ostashko offers a very good analysis of why this is hardly the case: (I don’t necessarily agree with his every conclusion, but he does make a very good case:
Yes, Netanyahu *did* with his repeated strikes on Syria, thumb his nose at Putin (that famous Israeli chutzpah at work for you!), and yes, Putin wining and dining Netanyahu was a painful sight and a PR-disaster. But on substance, did Israel get Russia to “betray Iran”? No, and not because the Russians are so heroically principled, but because Israel really has nothing to offer Russia. All Israel has is a powerful pro-Isreal lobby inside Russia, that is true. But the more they use that lobby the more visible it becomes, the more questions at least Eurasian Sovereignists will ask.
The Israelis sure don’t want to give the impression that the run Russia the way they run the USA, and Netanyahu’s reception in the Kremlin recently has already raised a lot of eyebrows and the impression that Putin caved in to the demands of this arrogant bastard are not helping Putin, to put it mildly. A lot of Russian analysts (Viktor Baranets, Maksim Shevchenko, Leonid Ivashov) wonder what kind of arguments Netanyahu used with Putin, and the list of possibilities is an outright uninspiring one.