The fecklessness of the Obama administration’s approach to Russia beggars description. Suffice it to say that the more earnestly Kerry implores the Russians to facilitate some less messy (not neat, just less messy) transition in Syria, the more abusively Putin and Lavrov behave. The Moscow “spy” fiasco is part of that. So are many other things-which I’ll discuss in a bit.
Kerry and Obama should wear “kick [or something more vulgar] me, Vlad” pinned to their backsides. Hell, maybe they already do. That would be consistent with the evidence, because Putin and Lavrov are kicking hard, kicking fast, and kicking often.
Look. The Russians are doubling down on supporting Assad. They are deploying large pieces of their ramshackle navy to the eastern Med. (Including tugboats! There must be tugboats! And I mean plural!) There is one reason and one reason only to do this: to make it virtually impossible for the US to use naval assets to do anything in Syria, including enforcement of a no-fly zone, or more drastic measures. It is a tripwire. The extensiveness of the deployment, given Russian naval capabilities, is such that even the blind should see that the Russians are making a major commitment to Assad.
What’s worse, in addition to sending Syria advanced S-300 and Pantir AA missiles, the Russians are supplying Syria with advanced Yakhot supersonic anti-ship missiles. The Yakhot is a capable system. The US has been aware of it for some time and presumably has many countermeasures in place, but they do represent a substantial increase in Syria’s capability and will dramatically increase the difficulties of any carrier operations in the eastern Med.
The Pentagon went ballistic at the news. Even Hagel bestirred himself to criticize the move.
But that’s what gets us to what’s worst: the State Department response. According to Foggy Bottom, there’s no problem because these are not “new sales”:
Jennifer Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said Russia had disclosed the sale of the Yakhont missiles in 2011, and she added that U.S. and Russian diplomats were still planning the Geneva conference next month.
FFS. That’s exactly the Russian line. Exactly. Gee, Jennifer, great job you got there, being Sergei Lavrov’s parrot.
I am sure the Navy (and the Israeli Navy) is so pleased that they will only be targeted by previously contracted for weapons, not new sales. And John “Reporting for Duty” Kerry isn’t the one who will be painted by the Yakhot’s terminal guidance system. Maybe he should think about those who could be, rather than sucking up to Sergei.
And all this BS about “defensive weapons” is just that. They provide Assad a shield behind which he can slaughter the opposition with substantially less fear of any intervention.
And insofar as the sanctity of contracts is concerned. First, since when have contracts ever meant jack to the Russians? Second, to give an example of how this can be done, just look at how the US stiffed Pakistan for years over F-16 sales. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Russia isn’t delivering weapons because their compelled to: they’re delivering weapons because they want to. (Uhm, and how would the Syrians enforce a breach, anyways?)
Meanwhile, Kerry and the Brits and the UN are nattering on about some meeting in Geneva between the contending forces in Syria. Yeah, like meetings in Geneva ever accomplish squat where existential and brutal civil wars are involved.
The Russians are making it very clear they are doubling down on Assad, and will defend his regime to the last. Their deeds speak volumes.
I’m not advocating or even supporting US action in Syria. Obama frittered away that opportunity a long time ago. When wars get to the eating the eating your enemy’s hearts stage (and this by the “moderates” no less), the situation is pretty much beyond salvage, even by Russian tugs.
But it’s best to recognize what Russia is up to here, and state that forthrightly. Make it plain who is ultimately responsible for the horror that is occurring in Syria. Chasing after Putin and Lavrov like some pitiful suitor, and regurgitating the Russian party line in a way that undercuts our own military’s serious concerns, is just nauseating. It’s worse than that. It’s craven. Cosmically craven. And Putin will note that, and act accordingly in other things that matter.