Russia is moving troops and equipment into Syria, for what purpose nobody but the Russians know. And that probably includes the Syrians and Iranians, although they have been told some plans. Russia will act primarily in what it conceives to be its own interests, though.
What will Russia bomb? Vladimir Putin says that it will be ISIS, but it is more likely to be other regime opponents who are more immediately threatening. The United States has been aiding some of them.
Here’s how the Russian Air Force moved 28 jets to Syria (almost) undetected. The available aerial photos show the planes lined up on the runway of Latakia’s airport, and the cargo jets unloading on the runway because there is no taxiway large enough. The airport is being enlarged, but not by a lot. It’s not going to be a gigantic deployment unless something else happens.
French planes have bombed ISIS positions. Another country for Russia to coordinate its air attacks with, in addition to the United States. It’s hard to see how this turns into anything but a horrible mess with many more deaths and refugees. We had to destroy the country in order to save it.
If Julia Yoffe’s report is correct, one of Putin’s purposes is to show Russia as a Great Power. This is a good way to get stuck in a quagmire, as the Soviets proved in Afghanistan and the US in a variety of other places. A small deployment to save face enlarges to more to save the face that is lost when the small deployment turns out to be too small, and onward. In a snippet from his interview with Charlie Rose (top photo from here), Putin links the origin of the United Nations with Yalta, another way of reminding us of his preferred way of diplomacy.
Russian media shift their focus from Ukraine to Syria. Part of convincing the homefolks of that Great Power thing. UN and NGO agencies have been ordered out of the Donbas, which would seem to presage more fighting there. Or perhaps removing eyes that might document a withdrawal?
Meanwhile, Russia’s ambassador to Poland has accused Poland of starting the Second World War. Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 is commonly taken to be that start, so it is hard for others to see Poland’s culpability. The historical basis that the Russian ambassador is working from is that both Germany and the Soviet Union were courting Poland to ally in attacking the other. Poland refused both, whereupon Germany and the Soviet Union agreed, through the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, to divide up Poland and the rest of the ungrateful states between them. Then Germany attacked Poland.
Poland’s foreign ministry has requested that the Russian ambassador visit them and explain himself. The Twitter account of the Russian embassy to the UK has been extremely rude, and the account for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues inflammatory.
The useful idiots of open source investigation. Russian “vacationers” tweet and facebook their vacations.
Russia has exchanged Eston Kohver, an Estonian agent of their agency equivalent to the FBI, for a Russian spy convicted by the Estonians. Kohver was kidnaped by Russian agents, probably from Estonian territory, and accused of being a spy. This is probably part of a charm offensive in preparation for Vladimir Putin’s speech at the United Nations. Statement by Kohver and Estonian officials.