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14 March 2016


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Putin wanted to keep Crimea, not the Ukraine.

In the Ukraine, he has a small affordable pocket that leverages a non-Nato Ukraine, and leaves most of the rest of the Ukraine in "the West's" hands, to the tune of over $180 billion dollars a year that's flushed down the toilet in a failing state.


A cursory reading (in English translation) of Putin's remarks at the 2015 Valdai Club meeting point out that this region has a history in which people of the region have too seldom their own decisions, which have mostly been imposed. He specifically speaks to the need to amend this problem.

I would count this as a minor note to a far more complex situation, but there is certainly a case to be made that this announcement is consistent with Putin's earlier remarks.
Then do a "Find" on 'Syria'


In reply to PeteM 14 March 2016 at 09:19 PM

How do work that out? They're losing. Since when do losers get to shape the terms of the peace settlement? Furthermore by their behaviour have shown that they're too savage to be allowed survive.


Not at all!
The "generous tit-for-tat" is NOT the dominating strategy, there is a very clever way to cheat the opponent which cannot be countered except (of course...) by being yourself aware the snag:
"Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma contains strategies that dominate any evolutionary opponent"


That may well be right, Michael. I thought the piece was useful not so much for its attempt to explain why this step is being taken but for its conclusions about the practical effects in Syria.


The Syrian Kurds whole ideology is based on the attainment of autonomy within a united Syria. So too for the Turkish Kurds: The idea of an independent state was disavowed some time ago by Ocalan and the PKK; they see it as a regressive idea. Their ultimate goal is to democratise the middle east based on "democratic confederalism".

Ken Macaulay

There does seem to be quite a few people around the net saying that this was a betrayal of Syria in return for the US to put pressure on the Ukrainian government or some other quid pro quo. This was in reference to them.

Ken Macaulay

Not surprised on Iran (although hopefully the co-operation on Syria will strengthen the trust level - especially when dealing with the wahhabi menace in the 'stans'; and in the economic sphere, where they have a lot to offer each other).
With Syria - is it more of a worry about competence levels in certain issues?


Before the arrival of the Russian contingent, the Syrian aviation was not equipped with high precision guided weapons which could provide support for ground troops. It used mainly rockets of 57 mm calibre and bombs FAB-50, FAB-100, launched in dive from 1 500 to 3 000 m. So, Syrian planes were vulnerable to 23 and 30 mm caliber AA, and MANPADs, what explains the numerous losses undergone by the Syrian aviation. Meanwhile, 21 bomber Su-24MK of the SAA were upgraded in Russian aeronautics factory N ° 514 ARZ in Rzhev, and put in the standard of Su-24M2, endowed with systems integrating navigation and precision weapons guidance systems (PNS-M). In 2015, Russia had supplied in Syrian aviation with engines and state-of-the-art avionics to bring 64 planes MiG-23BN / MLD to the standard of MiG-23-98.
MiG-23 possesses equipments OLS-M, class LANTIRN, for the night navigation, infrared detection of ground targets and a multi weapons guidance system, Now, the Syrian plane Su-24 and MiG-23 can execute precision bombardments, day and night,out of reach of MANPADS. They were able in particular to destroy with penetrating bombs HQ underground tunnel that Jihadists had built almost everywhere.
A lot of job behind the curtain.
IMO russians have very good intel about ISIS strenght, manpower and capabilities and know that due to destructions, desertions and deaths, SAA/ ISIS balance of power has changed.
Some kind of " Do it yourself now ! "

William R. Cumming

IMO Russia intends to expand its airbases throughout the Med! And uptempo communications both offensive and defensive!

The Russians have inherited the Churchill "soft Underbelly of Europe" gene.

The entire IC community should also focus on the Arctic and Russia East of the Urals. Why? The Chinese have chosen the Moon to colonize and exploit but the Russians Siberia and the Arctic.

William R. Cumming

And good links on how Russia and China treat their Muslim populations? How it impacts [or doesn't?] their foreign policies?

How does oil/gas pricing impact Russian FP? Chinese?


It seems like others are pulling back too. This piece sheds some additional light on the matter


"... At the same time, Reports emerged in Beirut that hundreds of Hizbullah fighters are also withdrawing from Syria, returning to the Dahiya district of east Beirut.... "


Valissa, it feels this leads into the center of a dilemma the revolutionaries face and faced:

"Another sheikh I spoke to, who is closely linked to the armed opposition in Idlib and Aleppo. 'Nusra has been an invaluable ally in our struggle against the regime, but the people are beginning to see that their real agenda threatens ours. Sooner or later, if Nusra continues its aggression, things will explode. Our patience cannot continue forever.'"

Who's your top suspicion raising member on the board list?

Smith, W.

As usual a very interesting discussions. Thx to all involded. I'd be interested to get an opinion by the well informed observers if they think that progressive Russian disengagement could/would increase the likelihood of Israel opening a front on Hezbollah in South Lebanon. It seems to me that this might be a possibility as the hope that Hezbollah would be weakened by its engagement in Syria certainly has been disappointed. Too the contrary, I would argue.
Admittedly I have no real insight in what Israeli strategic thinking is. It did provide modicum of support to JaN in the Golan, it seems so far to have fanned (even if only in a limited fashion). It seems to me that it would rather like to shut down the probably most important corridor for resupply to Hezballah coming from Damascus. This certainly hasn't been achieved. As such an engagement with Hezbollah that would contribute to a re-destabilsation of the Regime does seem like potentially interesting option????? thanks.

ex-PFC Chuck

"Did Putin just 'smelled' the Western trap?"
This is the headline of a post at Failed Evolution (whose main area of interest is Greece) suggesting that Putin assessed recent US evolving strategy as attempting to lure Russia into an Afghanistan II type quagmire.

different clue


I agree. Towards the end of the article, Mister Lister the author told us why now is the time to arm and otherwise support the "moderate Revolutionary opposition" now more than ever. Mister Lister clearly wants to get the USgov to keep the war against Assad going and going.


Ok, registered Pat's comment below. ;)


Previewing your Comment

I noticed they left that out of the transcript too. What was the "other phrase" Biden was referring to? I thought maybe it was "come to Jesus moment" and they were joking because he's in Israel? Or it would offend the Russians somehow? I don't know if I've ever seen Netanyahu crack a joke though. Agree on the unbearable, all around. As I was listening I wondered if he ever gives a speech on the world stage without some corny anecdote, usually about a family member, as if it is some important detail millions of people should hear.

This lovefest was supposedly part of a trip whose purpose was, at least in part, to "patch things up", according to the media. But I'm not sure if they reported the reason why patching up was needed. Are they having trouble agreeing on the military aid MoU? Yesterday I saw a report that Ya'alon, while in DC, said he wanted that signed "sooner rather than later". I also read that Netanyahu's last visit here included a pitch for the US to formally recognize the Golan as Israeli territory, as part of the consolation prize for the Iran deal. Israel's argument is that Syria has become a non-state and cannot be put back together again, will be broken up.

Haaretz reported that Obama didn't give Netanyahu an answer, but WH officials told him that agreeing to Israel annexing Golan "would undermine attempts to reach a diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war."

From the same article - Hillary (and Rubio) claim that an agreement on Israel and Palestine is "out of reach" until they "know what happens in Syria and whether Jordan will remain remain stable." Israel has very recently issued some drilling permits inside the Golan territory they control. It seems like the main parties in the region have all agreed on the spoils of a war they couldn't win, still want their chunks of Syria whether they win or not, and expect us to get it for them.

In reply to LeaNder


"but I do believe that best way to go in fall 2014 was to push westward for rebels."

It wasn't possible for a huge number of political, operational and technical reasons. I am not interested in opinions of kinds of Girkin (aka Strelkov) and "Colonel" Cassad. I am more than sure that same Putin has much more comprehensive briefings from Chief of General Staff than any representatives of "Putin Vse Slil" school of thought.

P.S. Ukraine was not a political objective during Crimea's return, it just turned out this way, which required a lot of improvisation.


"Putin wanted to keep Crimea, not the Ukraine."

Exactly. But that is the argument which is completely ignored by certain group of people in Russia. Fairly tamed and fast extinguished protests in places like Odessa, Kharkov etc. are best illustration. Only Donbass took up the arms and that changed the dynamics.


Yes, the horrid Cantonese go "dew nei loh mu" for Good Measure while the obscene Hokkien folk from Formosa all the way to singapore go "gan ni nah (bu)."

Both implies you "go screw your mom."

Worse than the Hellenic curs when they go "μαλάκας," but on the same negligible level of insult.


Itar-Tass states that the Russian are redrawing most of their forces.

"The Kremlin press service released a statement on Monday evening that the Russian and Syrian presidents, Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad, agreed to start withdrawing the main part of the Russian aviation task force from Syria because the Russian Aerospace Forces had fulfilled the fundamental tasks which had been assigned to them. Russia will leave an air flight control center in the Syrian territory that will monitor the observation of the Syrian ceasefire, the Kremlin said. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu ordered starting the Russian troops’ withdrawal as of March 15.



A nice development sans the training wheels: surprise SAA movement south of Deir ez-Zor. No indication (yet) that the skeleton RuAF force struck in this area.


Ishmael Zechariah

"The idea of an independent state was disavowed some time ago by Ocalan and the PKK"
Nonsense. How do you reconcile this with their demand for their own "defence forces"?
PKK is a terrorist organization. After their recent bombing of a purely civilian target three days ago, their MO should be clear to all. "democracy" as used by the West and their tools such as PKK simply means murder and pillage. Putin would probably agree with this definition. He just stopped the democratization of Syria.

Ishmael Zechariah

Chris Chuba

Putin always supported the Geneva 2012 peace plan that called for multi-party elections as long as they included Assad, he never wanted to annihilate the entire opposition, only the Jihadis. This will encourage Assad (and any unruly members of his party) to listen to their better angels.

The S400's will most certainly remain to keep the Turkish air force at bay, as will the artillery. The withdrawal must mean, mostly the air force. aleksandar's take regarding the refit of the Syrian air force is interesting. We'll see how capable they are against the MANPAD armed ISIS / Nusra forces.

The Russians stated that they will leave in their surveillance assets, so if Turkey/Saudi Arabia and gasp, the U.S., try to take advantage of the situation to escalate the arming of FSA / Nusra coalition and break the cease fire agreement the Russians can redeploy their air force. Since the military bases have already been built up, I would think that the Russians could re-deploy in a fraction of the time that they did before. How long did the build up take last time, 1-2 months? I would think that the Russians could now do it within a few weeks.

This is either a master stroke or a mistake. I am inclined to trust their decision making even though it unsettles me. It looked like they were on the verge of cracking ISIS wide open but perhaps they view this as a critical step towards long term stability vs. a quick flashy win.

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