This time, Senator John McCain’s assertions that he declared today on the floor of Congress, are right on about President Putin’s motivations being to prop up Syria’s President Assad while protecting Russia’s access to their military bases in Syria.
All you have to do to decipher President Putin’s tactics is to review his prior aggressive acts such as his recent incursion into Crimea (2014) which was post the evacuation of Russian military from their Tartus naval base located in Syria (2013).
In a 5/1/14 Forbes article, titled “5 Things You Should Know About Putin’s Incursion Into Crimea,” the author Greg Satell helps to explain Putin’s reasoning in the following excerpts:
“Crimea is a semi-autonomous region of Ukraine, which means that while it is part of Ukraine’s sovereign territory, it is largely self governed. A beautiful place located on the Black Sea, with rugged mountains leading to sandy beaches.”
“It is also a tricky place politically. In 1954 Khrushchev decreed that it become part of Ukraine, a move that many in Russia still see as illegitimate. Just over half of the population are ethnic Russians, a quarter are ethnic Ukrainians and most of the remainder are Crimean Tatars who, having been deported by Stalin in 1944, are fiercely anti-Russian.”
“In 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Unions, Crimea decided to join the newly independent country of Ukraine.”
Why Russia Wants It
“Crimea looms large in Russian history. It was the site of the Crimean War fought in the 1850’s against the French, British and Ottoman Empire. Although Russia lost, the bravery of its soldiers is still a source of Russian pride, much like The Alamo in Texas. Its resort city of Yalta hosted the famous talks between Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill.”
“As important as the region is for Russian pride, as the map below shows it looms even larger in the geopolitics of the region.”
“The naval base at Sevastopol, on Crimea’s southwestern tip, is Russia’s only warm water naval base and its primary means of extending force through the Mediterranean. It has been alleged that the port city has been used extensively to supply Bashar al-Assad throughout the current civil war in Syria.”
“And while the lease agreement with Ukraine regarding the base remains valid until 2047, the majority of the Black Sea coastline is held by NATO allies except for Georgia on the east, which is actively seeking NATO membership, and Ukraine in the north.”
“Put simply, without a naval base in Crimea, Russia is finished as a global military power.”
So now we know why Russia invaded the Crimea in 2014 and then claimed to annex it which was challenged by the UN as well as all the major western powers. This was followed with the current sanctions against Russia. It would be safe to infer that with the drop in oil pricing plus these sanctions that Russia is being squeezed financially. President Putin is beginning to figure out that his hold on Crimea may not be permanent. Still, he is desparate to insure Russia’s access to a naval base in this area for numerous strategic reasons.
Today, all the press reports are alleging that Russian air strikes are not in areas with ISIS or ISIL presence which is counter to what he said to the world via his recent UN speech.
Miriam Elder in a 6/26/13 Guardian article, titled, “Russia withdraws its remaining personnel from Syria, details the evacuation of Russian personnel due to civil conflict in the region. The following are some excerpts:
“Evacuation signals growing concern in Moscow about conflict between ally Bashar al-Assad’s regime and rebels.”
“Russia remains Assad’s last major ally, alongside Iran. It has repeatedly blocked US-led attempts to sanction Bashar al-Assad’s regime via the UN. Russia and the US failed to agree in talks this week on convening a peace conference in Geneva between the Syrian government and opposition (2013).”
The pullout from Tartus (Naval base used by Russia) is unlikely to interfere with the delivery of Russian air defence and anti-ship missiles to Syria. Bogdanov defended the shipments of arms as legal and arranged under an existing contract. Asked when the deliveries would begin, he replied that that was a decision for the “supreme command.”
The following excerpts are from a 6/7/15 Analysis by a Stratfor Global Intelligence Middle East correspondent, titled, “Tartus, the Mother of Martyrs:”
“In 1971, after a tumultuous period of coups and counter-coups, Defense Minister Hafez al Assad gained control of the government. The Alawite general remained in power until 2000 and was succeeded by his son, Bashar al Assad.”
“Today, the city of Tartus is gloomy. Syria is four years into a vicious civil war. Bashar al Assad’s government has managed to survive but is locked in an existential battle with a host of rebel forces, including (ISIS) the Islamic State. Again and again the government has been forced to retrench to protect its core around the Alawite coast and the capital of Damascus. The heady period of unchallenged Alawite ascendance has come to a murky end.”
“Now a host of rebel groups threaten the al Assad regime. After four years of disastrous conflict, the Alawites of Tartus are frustrated and suffering from staggering human losses. More than 70,000 young Alawite (Shia) soldiers have been killed and 120,000 others wounded. Another 10,000 are unaccounted for. These figures do not even include Tartus’ non-Alawite loyalist troops. Tartus is now known as the “mother of martyrs.”
Within the city, there is a growing perception that President Bashar al Assad is intent on staying in power no matter how many Alawite deaths it takes. The Alawaites, who in 2011 trumpeted their support for al Assad, now threaten him with a different chant altogether: “God willing, we will witness the funeral of your sons,” they say.
“The Syrian opposition has thus far failed to address the status that the Alawite community would hold in a post-al Assad Syria. Even if this were clearly worked out, the Alawites cannot simply join the rebel Free Syrian Army — the Sunnis do not trust them. And if Alawites quit fighting for al Assad, the administration would surely crack down on them. A threat from within his core territory. is not something al Assad can afford at the moment.”
This is also something that the Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot afford considering his need for the Tartus Naval Base within Syrian borders used by the Russian Navy. This is especially true as he realizes that he maybe forced to give up on Crimea. Then there is the Russian Air Force base located in Latakia, Syria. This could very well account for his orders to target the cities of Homs and Hama which are close by and en route to their two military bases.
UPDATE ON 10/2/15:
The following excerpts are from a 10/1/15 New York Times article by Anne Barnard, titled, “Vladimir Putin Plunges Into a Caldron: Saving Assad:”
“Many analysts say that Mr. Putin’s best hope is to push all the parties to work more urgently toward a political resolution — albeit one that is more favorable to Russia and Mr. Assad.”
“But that may take some doing, at least as far as the Obama administration is concerned. The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, suggested that Mr. Putin’s real motive is to protect Russia’s military base at Tartus, Russia’s last military outpost outside of the former Soviet Union.”
“The fact is, Russia is responding to a situation inside the Middle East from a position of weakness. Their influence in that region of the world is waning,” Mr. Earnest said, adding that Russia is “trying to salvage what’s left of a deteriorating situation inside of Syria.”
“Then again, as with the deal Mr. Putin engineered to rid Syria of its chemical weapons, he might manage to put together a peace deal that Mr. Obama finds he cannot refuse.”