Small Wars Journal

Putin Rising

Sun, 10/11/2015 - 8:22pm

Putin Rising

G. Murphy Donovan

“Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.”

Human history is about a lot of things, but mostly it’s about the right men or women at the right place and time. Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Washington for instance are examples of what might be called American success synergy. Lincoln, Lee, and Grant were indispensable too in their own way, for victory and reconciliation after America’s most costly war.  And just as surely, a successful conclusion to WWII might have been impossible without Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin.

We remember great men because, as Pericles prophesied, great men do great things and then live on in the hearts of other men. “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.”

Reputation is immortality in deed.

A great man, alas, is not necessarily good or popular. History is not kind to necessary villains. Stalin might be the best example from the WWII pantheon. Good and necessary are very different virtues. Josef Stalin was nonetheless one of those indispensable men who made victory and Russian national survival possible. Ruthless men make good soldiers.

Vladimir Putin may be such a man. The American president is not.

The European Union today suffers too from a deficit of great men and women. England, France, and Germany may someday be known to history as the timid troika that finally surrendered Europe to Mohamed’s dream. Who knew that Europe could be overrun by rubber flip flops and plastic backpacks fleeing religious and ethnic chaos?

Putin is unique among world leaders today. He alone swims against the receding tide of European, dare we say, Western culture. Europe and America seem to have forgotten what made them great for millennia. Putin, in contrast, plays to the best that is Russian including pride, history, nationalism, patriotism, and Christianity. If we can borrow a tag line, Putin wants to make Russia great again.

He has indeed reversed the fortunes of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, albeit at some cost to democracy as we know it. Yet, if we review the domestic and foreign policy contretemps in the West for the past 50 years, social democracy is something less than a role model for Russians or anyone else for that matter. Indeed, social, fiscal, and multicultural excesses are swamping Europe and America as we speak.   

Putin came to power at the turn of the century when the old Soviet empire was in free fall. You could say he rescued fair Rodina from the clutches of an alcoholic Slavic stereotype, Boris Yeltsin. Call it a revolution without guns. Since then, the former KGB officer has tried to restore almost every institution in which Russians take pride; art venues, historic Czarist properties, churches, monasteries, and even the Moscow Metro.

Small things matter when culture and civility is at risk. Compare public transport in Moscow to New York or Washington, DC. The Russian tube is a preserved work of art. The NYC Subway system is a spray painted eyesore, a safety and health hazard.

True culture is best defined as pride in public institutions.    

Putin seems to be taking the best of what was Czarist and Communist and shaping a new Russian future. Call it managing the dialectics of national history. Unlike Brussels and Washington, the Russian president has, for good or ill, that leader’s “vision” of which Pericles spoke so fondly.

Recently, we see the Russian president meeting with Netanyahu, raising his profile in Syria, and at the UN lecturing Obama about the abuse of American power in the third world. More than one observer has suggested that Putin is more relevant than the American president today.

Putin is now drawing a bright red line in Syria, challenging America’s spastic and disastrous regime change policies. The Russians are creating an alternative fighting coalition in the Levant, partnering with Syria and Iran - and putting boots on the ground too.

The Russian plan has several advantages that contrast with team Obama’s now chronic bumbling.

The Russian presence is legal. They were invited. The Putin plan has domestic support in Russia too. The Federation Council has approved military operations. And most important, Putin’s army has a relationship with Assad’s Army which should make any air/ground support effective.

The American “coalition” against ISIS, in contrast, is a global joke. Presently, over ninety nations send recruits to Baghdadi while a two or three Arab “allies” provide a few airstrikes to the ISIS fight. Indeed, the richest Sunni Arabs, those with the most to lose, do not fight the Islamic State on the ground nor do they accept civilian refugees from the fight. Such are America’s Arab allies, a cabal of mostly corrupt, selfish cowards.

Team Obama is now isolated in the Levant for good reason too. America cannot be trusted! With Pentagon approval, Turkey now flies F-16 airstrikes against the Kurds, heretofore one of the few reliable US allies in the area. When national integrity is exchanged for base rights in places like Turkey, American foreign/military policies become lonely whores. Say what you will about Putin and the Kremlin, unlike Obama and the Pentagon, Russia has been a reliable ally for Syria.

The real terrorists in the Middle East are Turks, Saudis, and Emirate Sunnis, all of whom are playing both sides of the street; on the one hand faking an anti-terror coalition and with the other hand providing refuge, arms, and finance to ISIS and other Sunni jihadists.

Oil rich Arabia and the Sunni Ummah have the best American and European allies that money can buy.  

The military vacuity on team America is underlined also by the recent resignation of General John Allen, USMC. Allen was supposed to be training those elusive Arab “moderates” in Iraq, a half billion dollar tactical boondoggle. You might best remember Allen as General Petraeus’ bimbo-phone-tag colleague whilst both were stationed at CENTCOM in Tampa, Florida.

At Ashton Carter’s Pentagon, you do not need to be honest, win wars, or even battles, to achieve flag rank. You do, however, need to be politically correct about the Kremlin, cult religion, race quotas, feminist demands, and sex preference recruiting. Indeed, “cultural” sensitivities on the E-Ring are now expanded to protect homosexual pedophiles among Muslim “partners” in places like Afghanistan and Arabia.

Child abuse is now another artifact of Muslim culture protected by DOD policy.

Withal, it’s not difficult to understand why team Obama obsesses endlessly about Assad’s chemicals and barrel bombs and ignores a host of other moral, military, and morale failures like Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, or Yemen.

Putin, in contrast, lives in the real world. Syria without a chap like Assad is likely to be ravished by Islamic theocracy. Baghdadi is not just the only alternative to Assad on the Sunni horizon; the new Islamic Caliph is knocking on the door at Baghdad and Damascus. A lesser of two evils, like Assad, is often the best of choices in a world swirling again towards the sewer of religious imperialism.

Few polemicists in America, Left or Right, seem to get what is happening in the Ummah, America, or Russia. The great turning point of recent history was not the fall of the Soviet Union. The theocratic revolution in Persia was much more consequential, the starting gun for modern religious irredentism, the ongoing global jihad.  

Both Shia and Sunni now travel on parallel sanguinary roads towards the same religious illusion of monoculture.

A fourth of the world’s population may be racing backward towards theocracy or caliphate. America is frozen by inertia, apathy, or incompetence. And Russia, like China, is pressing on with visions of political sugar plums and a new world order.

Putin is a lot of things; a foot in the old Soviet Union and a foot in the new Russia. Whatever he is today, there are several things he is not. He is not Stalin, Hitler, a new Czar, Count Dracula, or, unlike many politicians in the West, anybody's fool either.

In his own words, “Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.”

The Kremlin has legitimate concerns for the millions of Russian speaking Soviet citizens that were stranded in no-man’s land outside of Russia by the Soviet collapse. It hasn't helped that NATO encourages anti-Russian, if not neo-Nazi thugs, in former Warsaw Pact states all along the new Russian border. NATO expansion is both a breach of the Reagan trust and a poke in Moscow's eye.

Like America, the European Union doesn’t have a clue about what to do with a very real Islamist threat, thus a Russian straw man is now required to justify larger military budgets and a larger military alliance.

Ironically, any European strategy that might address the metastasizing Islamist threat is already hamstrung by Turkey, Erdogan’s fifth column in NATO.

Withal, Putin is not some third world crackpot. Push back, or prudent border humanitarian/security concerns, does not equate to some new Russian imperialism.

Playing nuclear chicken with Russian nationalism is a fool’s game too, especially as Washington and Brussels are led by milquetoast militants.

Russia could be very helpful on any number problems; hot spots like Afghanistan and Syria, and issues such as terrorism, theocratic imperialism, energy, WMD proliferation, and space science.

Indeed, given the economic pinch of Crimea sanctions, it’s a wonder Moscow hasn’t cut the American Afghan supply line, turned off the heat in Europe, and told America to levitate for the next Space Station mission.

A fool makes unnecessary enemies while the prudent man cultivates helpful allies. Russia makes a better friend than foe.

Unfortunately, political panderers in the West, Right and Left, have taken to Russophobia with a vengeance. Kremlin bashing is already a staple of the 2016 US presidential election.

Vladimir Putin argues for sanity at the UN whilst Hillary Clinton postures with an anti-Putin “Pussy Rioters’ at feminist forums.

There are today, nonetheless, a few faint political, diplomatic, and academic voices that argue for sanity. 

Among these we should mention Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Ambassador Jack Matlock, and Professor Steven Cohen. Rohrabacher has bucked the Republican Party and Foggy Bottom on Russophobia. Former ambassador Jack Matlock has consistently argued for a pragmatic approach to Moscow since the new Cold War began. And Stephen Cohen has put his academic career at risk for challenging the self-serving bias of Radio Liberty and the American political science community.

Beltway bandits like the RAND Corporation and American academia may be reading the funding tea leaves too, anticipating an American neo-conservative sweep in 2016. When it comes to grant, study, and research funding; it pays for “science” to be on the right side of domestic and foreign politics. Russophobia is the once and future cash cow.

Since WWII, America’s foreign policy has been defined by small wars, indeed a series of often calamitous proxy wars in places like Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Georgia, Ukraine, and now Syria. Throughout, the enemy morphed from the Communist menace, to the Warsaw Pact, to Russia, and now to personalities like bin Laden, Baghdadi, or Putin.

Small wonder then that Kremlin might believe that the true objective of today’s proxy shenanigans is regime change in Moscow too. Ironically, since the Soviet Union collapsed, it seems like the West can’t take yes for an answer. As for emergent personalities like Vladimir Putin, Henry Kissinger put it best, “demonization is not policy.”

Contemporary views of Russia and the Kremlin may be driven by domestic American politics. Neither American political party knows what to do about Islamo-fascism, a true global threat. Consequently, in order to avoid tough choices, both Republicans and Democrats have resurrected a Cold War with Russia. In America today, Putin is every Press and political nitwit’s favorite whipping boy. The NY Times, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton take bows here.

Small wonder then that Russia’s top gun just picked up the leadership mantel in the Levant. If Putin wants to ride point in the Middle East, he will. For openers, the Russian coalition, unlike the American fakir coalition, is already in the fight.

If leadership matters, Putin is no dithering Obama. The Russian chief might just be ruthless enough to win. Vladimir’s track record with the so-called Caucuses caliphate is exemplary. While it took ten years for America to find and kill bin Laden, it took Putin a year to kill Shamil Baseyev along with any Islamist delusions in Russia. We don’t hear much about “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan, the Chechen jihad, or in a Caucuses caliphate these days.

Leadership matters.

If real threats are to be neutralized abroad, then cold warrior poseurs must give way to effective hot warriors. Vladimir Putin might be such a man. Obama, Cameron, Hollande, and Merkel, in contrast, are timid - indecisive orators who have permitted compassion and tolerance to be weaponized.

The West now has three choices: continue the “moderate” coalition charade, cooperate with the Russians, or withdraw and yield to a new initiative – and a decisive leader.

Those who cannot or will not lead in the Middle East need to step aside. The Islamic State and the Muslim jihad at home and abroad will not be defeated with words – or indulgence.

About the Author(s)

The author is a former USAF Intelligence officer, Vietnam veteran, a graduate of Iona College (BA), the University of Southern California (MS), the Defense Intelligence College, and the Air War College. He is a former Senior USAF Research Fellow at RAND Corporation, Santa Monica and the former Director of Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies, ACS Intelligence, HQ USAF, serving under General James Clapper. Colonel Donovan has served at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Central intelligence Agency.


Outlaw 09

Wed, 11/04/2015 - 2:57am

Perfect example of the "altered states of reality" we are seeing in both the Russian civil society and what is coming in statements from Putin......

We never in these discussions focus on exactly how the Russian info war is being used to change the attitudes of the Russian civil society especially towards the US.

Russian March banner: "Putin is a descendant of historical figures, in 2015 he'll free Russia of U.S. occupation." (In Russian)

So exactly what historical figures is Putin "born from" and how did the US achieve the "occupation of Russia".....interesting questions are they not.

And the US is do work with Putin in this "altered state of reality" environment.......?

Outlaw 09

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 1:16pm

Will provide here the coming responses from the FSA on their "so called cooperation on targeting strikes together with the RuAF" THAT the Russian MoD is alluding to in the press release below.

I mean it is the Russian MoD and they cannot be lying right.....?

RESPONSE was not long in coming........

More one #Russia fraud & FAKE reports about #FSA by @RT_russian! It's CONFIRMED NEVER Happened.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 11:53am

Under the Russian rubric of "truth or lies"--not so sure Russian leadership can tell the difference anymore which in itself is dangerous.

Russian propaganda functions on the concept of the 6Ds--distract, distort, dismay, deflect all designed to create doubt and distrust.

See exactly how many of the Ds are in play just in this one press release from the Russian MoD.

Understanding the 6Ds is needed to judge much of what Putin actually states in his press releases, interviews and or speeches.

Not exactly sure just what planet the Russian MoD has finally decided to land on---notice it is not rejected by the Russian FM and or Putin so it must be the "truth".

BREAKING: Russian Air Force, Syrian Opposition Reach

Middle East
18:06 03.11.2015(updated 19:26 03.11.2015)

Russian Jets Destroyed Over 2,000 Terrorist Targets Since September 30

The Russian Aerospace Forces have carried out 1,631 sorties and destroyed 2,084 ISIL and Nusra Front targets in Syria since the start of the anti-terrorist air campaign in the country on September 30, the Russian General Staff said Tuesday.

"Since the beginning of the operation, our jets have conducted 1,631 sorties in Syria hitting a total of 2,084 terrorist targets," Col. Gen. Andrei Kartapolov said.

Russian military jets have destroyed 287 terrorist command centers, 155 ammunition and fuel depots, 52 terrorist training camps and 40 plants manufacturing rockets and landmines since September 30, Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Andrei Kartapolov said.

Terrorists in Syria suffer heavy losses due to the Russian aviation's actions, he added.

"As a result of the actions of our aviation, we have managed to disorganize the terrorist command system and supply chain they had created during a long period of time, as well as to inflict heavy losses upon terrorists, undermine their morale and convince their sponsors that further financing of these criminals is futile."

Contacts With Syrian Opposition

The Russian Defense Ministry has established contacts with leaders and field commanders of a number of patriotic Syrian opposition groups, which prioritize the country's integrity despite being opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Kartapolov said, adding that Moscow hopes that this would help to resolve the Syrian conflict.

The Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian opposition have reached an agreement on joint action against terrorists, he said.

He emphasized that "this close cooperation allows us to join efforts of the government troops and other patriotic forces in the Syrian Arab Republic, which had been in opposition earlier, to present a united front against a common enemy — international terrorism."

"In the framework of a broader international coalition on the fight against terrorism in the Middle East, we have established contacts with leaders and field commanders of several opposition units. These patriotic groups which, despite fighting government forces for four years, hold the idea of preserving Syria as a united sovereign state, free from ISIL and other terrorists of all sorts, higher than their political ambitions. We hope that this step will become a turning point in the resolution of the Syrian conflict."

According to Kartapolov, the Russian air group deployed in Syria has already coordinated joint anti-terrorist efforts with the Syrian opposition by establishing reliable data exchange channels.

He added that the Russian Aerospace Forces had hit 24 terrorist targets, the coordinates of which had been provided by the Syrian opposition.

"Today, the Russian Federation carried out 12 sorties against 24 terrorist targets using high explosive munition and high-precision KAB-500 bombs in the areas of Tadmur, Deir ez-Zor, Itria, and eastern Aleppo. The coordinates of all these objects were provided to us by representatives of the opposition."

Russia-US Cooperation Over Syria

Moscow and Washington have started to cooperate in the skies over Syria as Russian and US aircraft have conducted a joint exercise on the actions in case of a near collision over the war-torn country. Russian and US jets have practiced a close approach to a minimally safe distance of 5.5 kilometers, he added.

"Today at 11 a.m. Moscow time, Russian and US air forces carried out joint drills on actions by crews and land personnel in cases when aircraft fly in close proximity to each other," Kartapolov said.

"During the drills in a specially designated zone, the crews of Russian and international [US-led] coalition planes maneuvered to a safe distance of 3 nautical miles from each other, established radio contacts on a designated frequency and exchanged messages on the parameters of their flights in Russian and English."

Russian MoD statement after social media carried reports on this hospital being hit by their air strikes.

"There is no hospital in Al-Eis."
- The Russian Ministry of Defence

Well, they are right. ... NOW.

The field hospital of Al-Eis, destroyed by a #RussianAirstrike shortly ago.

So is the social media reporting more "truth than fiction" when compared to the Russian MoD???????

Outlaw 09

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 10:31am

Ah......Russia the "savior of the world"......????????

Russian Foreign Ministry: Regime change in Syria to become global-scale disaster
November 03, 17:09 UTC+3

MOSCOW, November 3. /TASS/. The staying of Bashar Assad in power in Syria is not a principled aspect for the Russian Federation, but the change of regime in that country would be a global-scale disaster, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mariya Zakharova said Tuesday.

"We have never said Assad's staying in power is a principled aspect. We are saying that the change of regime in Syria could become a disaster not only on a local or even regional scale, but, with account for that problem with refugees that we have now, this could become a big black hole," Zakharova said on the Ekho Moskvy radio.

So the genocidal activities of Assad against his civil society with 300K killed, 1.2 wounded and over 11M IDPs/refugees is NOT already a "humanitarian disaster"??

AND on top of this--- Russian bombings killing even more civilians and destroying hospitals, schools and residential areas????

BUT on 30 October 2015 we seem to have "another Russia".

Kremlin: No political settlement in Syria before defeat of terrorism

Russian Politics & Diplomacy
October 30, 12:30 UTC+3

The duration of Russia's military operation in Syria depends on the situation in the fight against terrorism in this country

MOSCOW, October 30. /TASS/. The duration of Russian operation in Syria depends on the situation in the fight against terrorism in this country, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Friday.

Answering a question on the duration of Russian military operation in Syria, Peskov said it will depend "on the situation in the fight against terrorism and extremism." "Russian operation in Syria is aimed to support the Syrian Armed Forces during the offensive as they are fighting against terrorist and extremist organizations," he added.

He also reminded about Moscow’s position that "any political settlement [in Syria] is hard to reach before a serious blow is delivered to forces of terrorism and extremism."

Only Syrian people can decide on Assad’s future

The official also stressed that only Syrian people can decide on President Bashar al-Assad’s political future.

"Only Syrians can determine the political future of Bashar Assad," Peskov said adding that today’s talks in Vienna will focus not "on Assad’s fate but on the Syrian settlement."

He added that the "search for a political resolution of the Syrian conflict has no alternative."

Speaking about the role of Kurds in the discussion of the conflict resolution, Peskov said that "all the interested sides were taking part [in the Vienna talks], mainly states, which can make a contribution into the settlement."

BUT we have Putin himself defining what a "terrorist" is in his UNGA interview--"anyone that carries a rifle against Assad".

THEN we have this from the Russian FM on the same exact day.....

Russia supports Free Syrian Army participating in political settlement in Syria — diplomat

BUT we have 96% of all Russian air strikes hitting FSA and the entire Russian/Iranian IRGC/Iraqi Shia militia/Hezbollah ground attack focused only in FSA NOT on IS.

Typical Russian Orwellian "triplespeak" and we are what "to work with Putin"????

Outlaw 09

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 8:57am

To understand much of what drives Putin's new political need to understand these two Russian--for those that read Russian extremely interesting read....

We all came from Gogol's Overcoat, but experts on Russian TV came from Dugin's beard."

Dayuhan--you made an interesting comment about the Russian info war comments of 2000 IS fighters being in Odessa.......

NOW just maybe you might understand just how Russian info warfare works.......

Russian fascist, nutcase @A_G_Dugin claims 2k ISIS fighters prepare to fight DNR in #Ukraine …

So now Russian propaganda has gone full circle--18 months ago they were fighting against "Nazi's killing Russian speakers" NOW they are fighting in eastern Ukraine against "jihadi's attacking the motherland"......

Outlaw 09

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 8:18am

Part of the problem in dealing with Putin is the following question...just how much of the Russian propaganda aimed at their own civil society and also aimed at the West is actually being believed by Putin and his inner circle??

There is a serious danger when the leadership of a nation state starts to fully believe their own propaganda as it keeps them from fully understanding "reality" thus potentially making seriously failed decisions based on that "colored altered state reality".

One of the last two #RuAF videos was - deliberately - 335 kilometers misplaced (2nd one 65 kilometers).

How #Russia names it's #RuAF targets in #Syria:
Step 1: Choose a random (evil!) target description
Step 2: Choose a random Syrian town

Hitting green houses & hospitals, claiming them to be car bomb factories or simply not there
Welcome to Russia 2015

Hilarious #RussianPropaganda.
"Hangar with 10 car bombs" hit in #EastGhouta.
No 2nd blasts. It was a "greenhouse"

Liar & propaganda piece @MuradoRT celebrates, hospital was missed by 68 m, but doesn't say #SCHOOL was hit - twice.

Since 1983 when the then Soviet Union truly assumed that a NATO summer/autumn exercise being conducted then was designed to start a full scale war with the then Soviet Union until today's Russia there is a red underlying thread in all of the statements coming from Putin and his FM--namely the US wants to start a war with Russia.

He actually believes this and thus interprets any move made by the US in that light---

Outlaw 09

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 8:09am

Well worth reading....goes to the core of understanding and or not understanding Putin and his intentions.…

If US Intelligence on Russia is Broken (A Bit), What Can Be Done To Help Fix It?

General Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, recently gently but unmistakably reprimanded the US intelligence community for its “lack of ability to see into Russia, especially at the operational and tactical level.” While he acknowledged change was under way, even then he made it clear that this was very, very much a work in progress: “We’re gently turning the nose of this ship to get back to what we need to be looking at.” Is Russia befuddling US intelligence, and if so what should be done about it?

Outside the movies, intelligence rarely gets a good press. On screen, the perceptive analyst or gung-ho field agent gets that one scrap of world-changing intel, realizes what it means, and suddenly—typically, just in the nick of time—policy spins on the proverbial dime, and all is put to rights in time for the closing credits. In practice, it is never quite so neat and clear, and the intelligence community tend not only to have to juggle multiple possible interpretations and “best truths” but they are also just a few voices in the mighty and often discordant choir of government.

Precisely because information and timely warning is its core business, the intelligence agencies tend to get the blame when governments are caught by surprise. And, let’s be honest, Washington has been caught by surprise again and again when Moscow is concerned, from the seizure of Crimea to most recently the Russian deployment to Syria.

Needless to say, the spooks have rushed to their own defense and affirmed that they were on top of all these developments and briefed to that end. To an extent, this is entirely true, but not necessarily the whole truth. Modern intelligence products often cover a range of possibilities, but there is a world of difference between including something as a potential option and clearly identifying it as the likely one. Consider, for example, the real and evident confusion which reigned when the “little green men” were taking Crimea while Moscow flatly disavowed responsibility: were they local militias, were they mercenaries, were they soldiers working for maverick local commanders? The answer was the simplest one – that Moscow was lying – but the period of uncertainty allowed Russia’s special forces to seize the peninsula in a smooth fait accompli. This did not suggest a strong and confident grasp of the unfolding situation in Washington.

Director of National Intelligence Clapper’s response to the charge of intelligence failure is instructive. In an interview, he said

“We tracked [the situation in Ukraine] pretty carefully and portrayed what the possibilities were and certainly portrayed the difficulties we’d have, because of the movements of Russian troops and provided anticipatory warning of their incursion into Crimea.”

Likewise, a CIA spokesman said:

“Since the beginning of the political unrest in Ukraine, the CIA has regularly updated policymakers to ensure they have an accurate and timely picture of the unfolding crisis. These updates have included warnings of possible scenarios for a Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Any suggestion otherwise is flat wrong.”

That’s all well and good, but tracking stuff happening, potential difficulties, possible scenarios and the like do not represent clear and unambiguous predictions, and the “anticipatory warning” does seem to have been pretty much as things happened, not early enough to do anything potentially to forestall the invasion. (Although in fairness, probably nothing could have done so.) Certainly on the eve of the invasion, US intel sources were briefing The Daily Beast that “From an intelligence perspective we don’t have any reason to think it’s more than military exercises.”

Of course often the problem is that smart and shrewd insights from the intelligence community get lost in the political process. The making of foreign policy is, after all, an arena in which diplomats and lobbyists, op. ed. writers and lawyers, soldiers and senators, overseas allies and domestic sentiment all get to pitch in. Given how rarely the intel products really can speak with the absolute confidence any good lobbyist or ignoramus can muster, no wonder they can get drowned out by other voices.

But it’s not quite that simple. There does seem to be a genuine intelligence problem with Moscow.

In part, this is because the Russians are very, very good at counter-intelligence. Just as they managed to fly their bombers into Syria undetected with transponders off, hidden beneath a larger cargo plane, so too they kept their Crimean operation off the US intelligence radar. A military exercise masked the movement of troops; orders were transmitted on paper, to sidestep America’s extraordinary signals intelligence capabilities; soldiers were even instructed to keep their cellphones and radios off, again to prevent the leakage of radioelectronic indications. The Russians may not be able to match most American intel capacities, but they are aware of them and put considerable thought into working out how to minimize them.

This is exacerbated by the extraordinarily small, tight circle within which most policy and especially security policy is made. We do not even know for sure exactly whose advice Putin takes. My own suspicion is that neither Foreign Minister Lavrov nor Defense Minister Shoigu are in the innermost circle, and instead we have to look to figures such as Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov. These are close-lipped loyalists, hardly likely to make incautious comments in public, nor easy to bring under human or electronic surveillance.

Furthermore, given that this is a regime which expects the elite and masses alike to rally round whatever is the policy of the day, it feels no need to signal policy in advance, to float ideas to gauge their response, or do any of the other kind of systematic foreshadowing exercises that might otherwise give us meaningful clues.

Finally, it takes time to come to terms with real, human-level change. Today’s Putin is not the Putin of his first two presidencies, when outspoken nationalist rhetoric was tempered by a much more pragmatic approach. Whether because we are seeing the real Vladimir or, more likely, because like most authoritarian leaders he has over the time become more insulated from reality, more steeped in his own mythology, this is a different man, heading a different team, for a different national purpose.

So what can be done to help “turn the nose of the ship”?

Given that the issue is human more than technical, I suspect that – for all the many challenges that poses – a greater concentration on building up HUMINT assets in Russia is a must. This poses risks of all kinds, from the potential for further embarrassing incidents such as the 2013 Ryan Fogle “wig-gate” case, through to the actual risk to agents and handlers. But if we are in a war of sorts with Russia – and the Russians certainly seem to feel so – then this cannot be without some danger and cost.

Secondly, play the analysis. Just as with so many other tectonic shifts which seem to have caught the USA and the West by surprise, from the collapse of the USSR to the Arab Spring, there are often no magic documents, no secret communiqués that would have revealed the future. Instead, what was needed was and is now an analytic capacity that is at least as strong as the technical intelligence capacity developed. It’s all very well building a $1.7 billion NSA computer facility in Utah, or planning a $2-4 billion next-generation spy satellite constellation – arguably you’d get vastly more bang for buck spending half as much on the best analysts around and giving them access to the huge amounts of open source information available. Predicting Russia’s next move will come by sneaking into Putin’s head; all the spy satellites will show is what he has decided as it starts to happen.

Thirdly, this means there needs to be as much creativity as possible in the intelligence process. If one accepts Clapper’s assertion that Putin is “kind of winging it, day to day,” then this becomes all the more important. One key area is the interaction with outside experts and perspectives, something which certainly happens, but often only under complex (and expensive) cut-outs which may help security but slow and reduce the flow of information. Furthermore, it is harder to be sure that iconoclastic insights actually inform the intel process; just as the CIA’s Red Cell is an attempt to challenge the groupthink that so often emerges, there is the scope to treat the outside analytic community – from journalists to academics to random bloggers – more often as analytic partners rather than just a passive resource.

Fibnally, the US government needs to listen more to its spooks, but also demand more from them. Consider the disastrous “reset” which, inter alia, put great emphasis on cultivating seat-warmer-in-chief, President-for-Halflife Dmitri Medvedev, something that helped infuriate and alienate Putin. As I understand it, this very much came out of the White House and State, without meeting with great enthusiasm from the intel community. At present, the spooks may not be listened to much, but then again there is a certain comfort for them in that. Time for them to take a more central role, but also to be expected to abandon the defensive tendency to offer ranges of possibilities like a fan of cards and asking the policy makers to pick whichever one they choose.

Of course, there is a corollary. I honestly don’t know – only insiders can – but I get the sense that just as Putin’s spooks seem to be competing for favour by pandering to his paranoiac and persecutionist world view, there may be more of a touch of that in Washington, too. It doesn’t matter how good your case officers and analysts, if the final intelligence products are smoothed down to suit a political consensus. One of the perennial problems has been how to manage and maximize the value of US intelligence for the policy process, and it is hard to believe that this has yet been cracked.

The Russian challenge is a bit of a Potemkin one, not — for all some of the over-the-top rhetoric of an “existential threat” — one that perhaps is likely to be so serious for years to come. So why is this such a concern? Put it this way: don’t crack the intel/policy problem this time round, and the USA will be scrambling to do it with a newly-resurgent Iran tomorrow, or perhaps China the week after…

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/01/2015 - 11:36am

BTW-this particular Russian proxy fighting in Syria as part of the Russian/Iranian/Hezbollah ground army has a ton of US military blood on it hands--and I spent a long time dodging the ERPs this Russian proxy kept smuggling into Iraq from Iran.

Iraqi Kata'ib Hezbollah with T-72A tanks just south of #Aleppo


Sun, 11/01/2015 - 5:44pm

In reply to by G. Murphy Donovan

I agree that "exchanging citations about tactical episodes in what is now a proxy war is pointless", but it keeps the Twitter-followers busy and excited.

I also agree that Putin is no Stalin. Neither is he any sort of strategic genius, and he's certainly not having anything close to a triumphant moment. If anything it's a train wreck moment: his economy is disintegrating, his proxy war in the Ukraine is stalled, his effort to break NATO has provided possibly the only thing that could have reinvigorated NATO, he is bogged down in an impossible quagmire in Syria, and he has succeeded only in casting himself as the <i>villian du jour</i> for the entire Sunni world. How long before that comes home to haunt him?

Putin has at least one thing that the US does not have in Syria: a definable objective. Putin is there to keep Assad in power. He may not be able to do it, but at least he knows what he wants to do. Nobody seems to have any clue what they want the US to do in Syria, beyond a vague notion that s superpower ought to be in every conflict.

Given the lack of any specifically definable US objective or interest in Syria and the lack of any viable US ally, the US administration's reluctance to commit itself to the conflict is both understandable and, I think, commendable. If Putin wants to head-butt the tar baby, let him. It is not something to envy or emulate.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/01/2015 - 11:16am

In reply to by G. Murphy Donovan

Think you would agree that to understand the current Putin who we are dealing with--- the following goes a long way in explaining his actions.

He is setting the tone for Russia FP for the next couple of years and it is critical to understand the "language of that coming confrontation" and it will be us for as long as Putin is in power--the next leader behind him will be so busy digging Russian economically out of the grave Putin is driving them into he will have a more moderate FP as he focuses in answering the true needs of his own civil society.

No. 173: Russia and Regime Security

Author(s): Aglaya Snetkov, Keir Giles, Mark Galeotti, Katri Pynnöniemi

Editor(s): Stephen Aris, Matthias Neumann, Robert Orttung, Jeronim Perović, Heiko Pleines, Hans-Henning Schröder, Aglaya Snetkov

Series: Russian Analytical Digest (RAD)

Issue: 173

Publisher(s): Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich; Research Centre for East European Studies, University of Bremen; Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, George Washington University

Publication Year: 2015

This edition focuses on the issue of regime security in Russia. Firstly, Aglaya Snetkov suggests Russia’s more assertive foreign policy on Ukraine and Syria should be interpreted in light of questions of domestic security and how these recent foreign actions relate to the Putin regime’s wider political project. Secondly, Keir Giles notes that the focus on the “current crisis” in Russia-West relations disguises the fact that the norm in this relationship is conflict and confrontation, especially now that Moscow perceives the West to be a more immediate threat and itself as more capable of taking action to address that threat. Thirdly, Mark Galeotti examines the role played by Russia’s numerous intelligence and security agencies in the Putin regime. He suggests they represent both a highly effective instrument in an age of “non-linear” political warfare, but also a vulnerability for the regime as they are failing to tell them hard truths, encouraging a dangerously confrontational and aggressive foreign policy. Fourthly, Katri Pynnöniemi analyses Russia’s recently published military and maritime doctrines, concluding that they reveal a diverging mix of signals and assumptions and perhaps most importantly, an emergence of a distinctive vocabulary that reflects Russia’s current ambitions in world politics.

And then this videocast rounds it out..............

Crime, Kleptocracy, and Politics: Developments in Modern Russia‘, videocast talk at the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative, 13 October


Tue, 11/03/2015 - 4:22am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

The claims that the US "needs" Putin or might at some time in the future may be based on a belief that Putin could at some point be able to exert pressure for a negotiated solution in either Syria or the Ukraine. That seems to me a remote possibility at best, but some people think it's possible.

I do not think the US needs Putin, but of course he is there and has to be dealt with. The Putin worshippers are of course a bizarre lot, but the Putin phobia seems to me also way exaggerated. In particular I think that all the fuss over the "info war", a dramatic name for a crude and ineffective propaganda campaign that is not selling the product in any meaningful way, seems to me to be way overdone. It's not a significant threat and does not demand a response.

The Soviet Union was a global threat because it had an ideology that was exportable on a global scale. Russia does not have one: Russian nationalism has little appeal to non-Russians. That doesn't mean Russia isn't a problem, but it needs to be kept in perspective. The Soviet Union it ain't. Best to stay calm, not be provoked into pointless or counterproductive overreaction, and let the problem play itself out. Not like poor Vlad is playing from a position of strength, more the opposite.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/01/2015 - 10:49am

In reply to by G. Murphy Donovan

Let's see--exactly what do we need Putin for exactly........

1. he has cancelled out the nuclear MAD
2. he has actively exercised three invasions of the Baltics, Poland and Sweden
3. he has this week fired all the core components of the Russia nuclear triad and the fired surface cruise missile might have in fact fully violated the INF and has on a number times together with his FM basically threatened the use of tactical nuclear weapons on a first strike basis
4. Putin is talking about pulling out of all nuclear treaties
5. Putin has taken the Russia military outside the formal borders of Russia-not even done under the Soviet days
6. Putin has a 700M USD a year info war machine the West cannot come anywhere close to matching
7. Putin actively uses the European right wing and right wing populist parties to undermine the EU
8. St Petersburg was the meeting point for a large number of EU neo Nazi/right wing groups, Russian nationalists as well Russian neo Nazi's this year
8. has weaponized the use of refugees for further undermining of the EU and now with the kicking out of 800K Ukrainians in November
9. has no heartburn in using cyber warfare and cyber criminal activities against the West

I am not even getting into Crimea, the destruction of the Tartar homeland and the use of Gazprom as a political and economical weapon--at least until the collapse of the price of oil.

We keep on stating we need Putin for a solution in the Ukraine, Syria and against the Islamic State.

So what did we get---- a Minsk 2 that was never fulfilled by Putin, we are getting nothing from Putin in Syria and he is definitely not attacking Islamic State.

Oh.. forgot the Iran Deal which I still cannot actually see what Putin contributed to in that settlement.

So again the proverbial question ----what is it we need Putin exactly for again.......that another Russia leader could not provide who might replace him at some point??

We both know why he is attempting to remain in power--everything he has accumulated in personal wealth would disappear over night but much of that has already been moved outside Russia so he could easily leave--would only lose his many villas.

The comment on the ROC is interesting as it was a KGB mainstay in the Soviet days with a high number of it's priests being KGB informers and many of the priests used the ROC to avoid the Soviet Army draft, the Dugin's of Russia have long before Putin identified with the ROC and the ROC recently declared a "Holy War" on the jihadi's in Syria.

I also remember a year ago the ROC declaring in public that there was a "Holy War" in the Ukraine with a long theoretical article. So I am not exactly sure just how he restored the ROC.

The ROC was always a pillar inside the inner circles even in Soviet days.

Reference the propaganda outlets--hope you are not suggesting the West has this highly oiled well paid and organized response machine which is matching the Russia info war campaign and it is a full scale war campaign.

Or are you referring to a loosely organized social media lead effort not funded by any major player. Certainly hope you are not including MSM in the comment as they are nowhere to be seen since the beginning of the Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine in August 2014.

Correct me if I am wrong??

G. Murphy Donovan

Sun, 11/01/2015 - 8:45am

Exchanging citations about tactical episodes in what is now a proxy war is pointless. Both sides have their propaganda outlets in high gear. Separating the wheat from the chaff is probably close to impossible. And if we could tally all the flip flops on our side, "boots on the ground etc." the list would be long indeed.

We need to keep our eye on the big picture, our relationship with Russia. Name calling and demonization are not arguments still. The Cold War is over. Putin is not a czar or Stalin. Unlike Washington, the Kremlin has no illusions about Russian history.

As we speak, Russia constructs a monument in Moscow to Stalin's victims in the Great Purge - and a Gulag museum. Putin has already restored the Russian Christian church. He may be heavy handed at times, but compared to what? Team Obama? The "B" team in Brussels? We need to keep this guy in perspective. Who knows, we may need the Russians again some day.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 9:09am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Then you fully understand Russian informational warfare...finally.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/01/2015 - 7:51am

Dayuhan---thought you might like this......

A Russian VODKA moment from their info warriors..........

RUS MoD TV channel Zvezda: 'Thousands of ISIS militants arrived in Odessa - expert'

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/31/2015 - 12:51pm

Russia continues to destroy critical infrastructure just as it did in eastern difference whatsoever between eastern Ukraine and Syria--killing civilians and destroying residential areas, destruction of complete villages/towns and critical infrastructure

4 Russian airstrikes destroyed medicine-factory in western suburb of Aleppo

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/01/2015 - 7:45am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Stop the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas"--Ban Ki-moon & @ICRC president.

Where is the so called outrage from the US UNSC Ambassador Powers who has been vocal about the killing of Syrian civilians for years--silence utter silence.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/31/2015 - 11:45am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

The Russian killing of civilians and striking hospitals ....a la Grozny.. just keeps on and yet nothing was said by any participant at Vienna yesterday....wonder why not???

When does the UNSC finally call out the Russian genocide in a country that has nothing to do with Russia outside of their support for a genocidal dictator.

Civilian death count by Russian air strikes.............

SHRN #NGO claim #Russia killed so far 254 civilians in #Syria, including 83 children & 42 women by airstrikes

Damascus suburb #Douma yesterday after airstrikes on market with 60 dead

The White Helmets ‏@SyriaCivilDef · 3h3 hours ago
The death toll from yesterday's heinous market bombing in Douma has risen to 71. Names attached Mr Putin.

Russian airstrikes destroyed @sams_usa medical point in southern #Aleppo adding to the suffering & displacement

In English..........
Report about a massacre of #Douma /#Damascus city committed by #Assad regime

Syria: the regime bombarded eastern #Ghouta today, killing at least 10 civilians

REMEMBER the Russia FM publicly challenged any NATO, EU and or the US to prove they were killing civilians----notice since that day and since yesterday Russia says not a word........

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/31/2015 - 11:35am

DID not Putin and the Russian FM repeatedly state to the UNSC and the world THAT ALL Syrian chemical weapons....ALL had been removed from Syria?????????

Evidently they lied again........

This is the second confirmed chemical weapons attack in the last ten days.

DID not Obama have a solid red line in the sand after the previous chemical attack killed 1500 Syrians.....

Reports of a chemical attack coming from Talbiseh, recently targeted by Russian air strikes

The #Talbiseh field hospital is crowded w/ victims of an #Assad/#Putin #GasAttack.

A neighbourhood in #Aleppo city, destroyed by a "Russian" air strike yday

No wounds ...
Several dead after a #gas attack on #Talbiseh as the #Russian/#Assad offensive enters the 2nd month.

Thick smoke and more cases of suffocation in #Talbiseh, #Homs province.

#Assad/#Putin forces used #gas for the 1 x in the combined #Homs offensive


Sun, 11/01/2015 - 5:31am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I'm not sure that what's going on in Syria qualifies as "genocide" under existing definitions. Is it singling out a specific national, ethnic, racial or religious group?

Some of the African conflicts of the 90s qualified as genocide, others did not: Rwanda yes, Congo no... but what price did the US pay for not intervening, in any of them?

We don't need to "ditch all international laws protecting civilians, ditch the Geneva Convention and eliminate the "concept of crimes against humanity", we need to insist on a mechanism for enforcement and response that does not force one country to assume the vast majority of the costs and risks. Global policeman is neither and affordable nor an appropriate role for the US to play.

What does the US stand to gain by going to war in Syria, directly or by proxy?

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/01/2015 - 3:03am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Then ask yourself why the US is so gun shy of the term "genocide" after Clinton failed to act during the African "genocides"?

They totally looked the other way and paid a heavy price for that image and actually IMHO they are still recovering from that phase of their foreign policy.

BUT as you so rightly point out---in the UNSC right now the US is totally quiet concerning the Syrian genocide--almost as if the use of chemical weapons --used again yesterday against civilians is now OK, the use of starvation against civilians is OK, the relentless bombing of civilians especially the use of barrel bombs is OK and the targeting of doctors and hospitals is OK.

It appears that after 300K killed, 1.2M wounded, and 11M IDPs/refugees this all is classified under the rubric "business as usual" if you are correct in what you stated here.

So if you are again correct as you seem to be--just ditch all international laws protecting civilians, ditch the Geneva Convention and eliminate the "concept of crimes against humanity".

Then the world will be a far, far safer place than it is now--do you not agree?


Sat, 10/31/2015 - 7:33pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

There have never been any "traditional US values concerning "humanity". The US, like all nations, acts on its own perception of its own interests.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/31/2015 - 4:40am

Let's see--the Obama foreign policy of soft power dictates that the US can really only "talk" as its foreign policy....well during "Vienna talks" did the US, Rrance or even Russia bring up the constant deliberate killing of civilians and direct attacks against hospital, aid workers and civil defense personnel???? OR in typical Russia fashion--did they know about the attacks in advance and were they timed to be at the same time thus the "talkers" would only find out about the civilian deaths "afterwards" thus no comments could have been issued???

NOT a single word was wasted.

In the world of geo politics if one nation state in effect sides with and or directly supports another nation state ie in this case a true genocidal dictator--in the physical act of genocide against a civil society that has openly rebelled and that dictator has created over 11M refugees, killed 300K and wounded over 1.2M---JUST how does the US then handle that particular nation state ie Russia??

By participating directly in the same genocidal acts against a civil society should not Russia be at least questioned in the UNSC concerning it's genocidal activities.......?

40 civilians were killed and wounded in an Assad/#Russian bombing raid on Aleppo.

Syrian doctor makes passionate plea to Assad to stop targeting hospitals and health workers:

174 people killed at Friday- among them 40! children.
75 dead in Aleppo & 70 in Damascus suburbs

CORE what point has Obama fully abandoned traditional US values concerning "humanity" in the name of "so called soft power".

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 5:57pm

Russian altered state of reality has gone over the cliff again today after firing five different nuclear and tactical nuclear support their Vienna talks and impress I guess the West?????

Rogozin: "Russia needs to consolidate its nuclear arsenal as a response to US aggressive actions"…

Rogozin: US thought they'd win non-nuclear war against nuclear nation.This will never happen

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 5:29pm

Since Putin stated during a press conference and in front of the public prior to his UN visit that anyone carrying an AK47 and fighting against Assad is a "terrorist" just exactly how is the "ceasefire" to be achieved when the Russian FM states this at 23:16 via the Russian Interfax today......

October 30, 2015 23:16

Terrorist groups won't be eligible for ceasefire agreement in Syria - Lavrov

VIENNA. Oct 30 (Interfax) - A ceasefire agreement in Syria will not be applicable to terrorists, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"We discussed a ceasefire along with a political process, and a consensus was reached that a ceasefire must be worked out in consultations with the UN and with the understanding that, if a ceasefire is declared, not a single terrorist group will be eligible for this agreement," Lavrov said at a press conference following a multilateral talks on Syria in Vienna on Friday.

So exactly who is Russia/Iran and Hezbollah suppose to do a "ceasefire with"??????

We are now seeing the exact same Ukrainian process being replicated now in Syria--and there is no connection........???

It will be like a Ukrainian truce where Russia can launch offensives whenever they want and blame the other side for breaking it--which they will.

BTW--all the major anti Assad forces have basically rejected any UN deals in the they left Assad in power.

WHEN an UNSC nation state member actively militarily supports the genocidal campaign of a dictator are they not actually "terrorists" themselves??????

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 1:29pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Do not think Russia and or Syria has any say over areas controlled by either the rebels and or IS.....

Russia says no country can use military force in Syria without government approval -

So now that the US is deploying advisor/targeting boots on the ground in the north just what does Putin have to say now??????

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 1:23pm

I cut this over from the Syrian military thread as it pertains to this discussion.

Originally Posted by Azor View Post

The US needs to be more "enthusiastic" in its support of the FSyA is my point.

Response from Crow Bat---

The 'problem' Oblabla - and most of US decision-makers - have with the FSyA is of following nature:

Right from the start (read: June-July 2011), original leadership of FSyA (in sense of 'franchise', i.e. a movement to which about 100,000 combatants have pledged allegiance, but which never exercised any kind of coherent control over thousands of groups controlling these combatants) stressed it's non-political and non-religious nature. Even more so, it stressed removal of Assadist regime as its priorities No. 1 - 99.

Furthermore, it stressed that only once Assadist regime would be removed, was political (and religious) future of the country to be decided.

Frankly: they said - and still say - 'we fight Assad until he's gone, then we'll sort out the rest'. That's the very essence of what most of those still fighting under the FSyA flag insist upon until today.

Starting with Turkey (in November 2011), all foreign powers that became involved in supporting insurgency have strictly conditioned their aid on political and religious declarations. Turks said 'Moslem Brotherhood only', Saudis said 'Islamists only', Kuwaitis and Qataris said 'Salafists only' etc. (I'm listing only 'major & official protagonists' to keep it simple). Such meddling caused factionalisation of insurgency and creation of various other 'umbrella' organizations (Islamic Front, Ahrar ash-Sham etc.) in competition to the FSyA, in turn weakening it, and making any kind of large-scale coordinated operations impossible.

Now, contrary to Libyans, genuine Syrian insurgent leaders are aware of their diversity. Contrary to Assadists, who stress 'Assad and Alawis above everybody else', they've grown up in a country with population that's very diverse. They're accustomed to such situation, and accustomed to respect other people's religion and political standpoints. That's why none of them ever attempted to claim for himself to represent all of the insurgency. Those who did so (and there were dozens of them) are exclusively Syrians living in exile since 20+ years, without any kind of political basis inside the country, and very little religious basis too (as seen by actually minimal expansion of such groups like JAN, or even the IF and Ahrar).

This stands in stark contrast to Libya, where there was that provisional council in Benghazi that declared itself for 'in charge of insurgency', was then deftly credited by the West and used as 'invitation point' for NATO intervention - only to become a victim of Turkey/Qatar-supported bribery that caused the civil war.

...add to this that the Western media was fast in catching extremist agendas and in over-reporting these, creating a completely wrong picture of the insurgency as an 'uprising of al-Qaida'. Reason for this is that for the media 'moderates' are 'no story' - regardless if more numerous (though disunited too).

Bottom line was: the West concluded it has 'no allies to support' - although this is obvious hogwash, then otherwise Assadists, IRGC and Hezbollah would've won already years ago (simply because such 'extremists' between insurgents like the JAN are too few and do not enjoy widespread support in the population).

In the case of the USA, the problem was (and remains) even bigger. Namely, whenever USA approach such bodies they expect to hear political and religious declarations - such like 'democracy', 'free elections', blahblahblah - and also the other party to make concessions in US' interest.

In the case of Syria, such concession is either a recognition of Israel, or fight against the Daesh (and, preferrably: both).

While majority of so many different Syrian insurgent leaders (even many of those from the JAN) can at least 'accept' most of other ideas, and make plenty of concessions, nobody there is ready to do something like 'recognize Israel', because that would be his own 'suicide'. Namely, there is no way Syrians might make peace with Israel without Israel returning the Golan Heights.

...and in regards of fighting the Daesh: all of insurgents (bar few vetted groups from Dayr az-Zawr and Raqqa areas, longing to avenge what Daesh did to their tribes), understand the situation 100+ times better than the USA, and therefore see that Assadist regime is the core reason for a) wholesale destruction of Syria, b) death of hundreds of thousands of Syrians, and c) emergence of the Daesh. Therefore, they insist on continuing to fight down that regime before, first and foremost, before tackling the Daesh.

...while Oblabla is taking the Daesh issue out of context and insisting on fighting it only, because he's comparing Assadist regime with that of Saddam, and thinks that Syria would turn into an anarchy if Assad would fall - while ignoring the fact that Assad has already destroyed most of the country, de-populated more than 70% of it, and enabled extremists to flourish (on his own side too)... i.e. that Assad has already turned the country into an anarchy...

And thus, there are no common interests between the USA and insurgents, and no serious cooperation is possible either, and this means that there is no way anybody there in the DC can openly show his 'enthusiastic support for the FSyA'.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 1:56pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

The White Helmets @SyriaCivilDef

As the evening draws in, the count of those killed in Douma, Damascus today has risen to 53.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 1:14pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Does anyone here at SWJ notice the similarity between the current Vienna talks and the Vienna Conference of 1815??????

Putin talks a lot about a new Yalta and has been able to "globalize" what basically was a regional dispute and sets Russia as the chief negotiator and leader of these talks---he is half way to a new Yalta and no one in the West especially Obama sees this coming??

Nothing are going to come out of these talks just as nothing really came out of the constant Normandy Four talks and Minsk 2 agreements as UAF troops are still being killed and or wounded in a renewal of "Russian attacks" during a so called "ceasefire".

BREAKING: Major powers to meet again on #Syria in two weeks: France - @AFP

Superpowers and regional players trying to resolve what basically is an internal Syrian civil society rebellion without them involved is starting to look like "the 1815 imperialist nations" making decisions again just as they did when setting the boundaries of Syria and Iraq.

Some point out there was no need for the rebels to be present as the Syrian government was not present--BUT they were there--the two powers providing troops, aircraft, money and supplies-- Iran and Russia were there.

So why do two major war participants attend yet the rebels have no voice in their own future they have rebelled for in the first place....??

Does that make sense to anyone?????

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 12:57pm

This was the first strike on a market place on 16 August 2015 that was a massacre of civilians and today the second strike against the same market place occurred again conducted either by the Syrian AF and or the RuAF.

AND all the West does is talk and talk and talk....AND the genocide just keeps on occurring and Obama looks away from it--this is the actions of a "Nobel Peace Winner"?????

After #Assad's slaughter, resistance remains in #Douma #Syria:

WAS not the Russian involvement actually to be targeting the Islamic State?

NOW there is a serious question that should be raised and yet DC does not--WHEN does a nation state committing "terrorist acts against unarmed civilians" BECOME a "rouge state".

AND coupled with that question is then if it is a "rouge state" does it have the right to a veto seat on the UNSC??????

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/31/2015 - 4:28am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I commented that the RuAF air strikes 10-12kms from the Israeli border were the typical Putin in your face mores daring a response.

Appears two can play the same geo political game......Israeli response was then not long in coming and it was a definitive response that Putin and his RuAF fully understood in the world of geo political "games".

From yesterday.......

Reports Israel aircraft attacked SAA and Hezbollah mercenaries positions in the western Qalamoon, 16 airstrikes so far

Was confirmed the strikes occurred--notice the MSM did not pick up on this geo political "game".

An overwhelming answer back to Putin--two RuAF strikes and then 16 IDF strikes back.......could be called "keeping the balance".

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 12:20pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

AND the Russian killing just keeps on and on and on...and the West says what again?????

Entire neighbourhood in Aleppo flattened by missile strike.

When will Obama realize he is not actually contributing by his lack of actions to the genocide against civilians....??

NOT even a utterance in the UNSC????

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 12:47pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Notice this is all that came out of Vienna today --outside of talking what a massive waste of time and when will Obama and Kerry wake up and realize that.......???

U.S: #Assad can stay for 18 month transitional period.
Russia: No, #Assad's fate is off the table.

I wonder how much airtime (if any) #Assad's latest #Douma massacre will get at the #SyriaTalks in #Vienna.

Iraq Foreign Minister: #Vienna peace talks for #Syria have failed..

Update Syria civilian deaths in October due to airstrikes (via VDC data)

Russia 242
Syria Air Force 165
US coalition 10

So the killing of civilians just keeps on keeping much for US "values".

BTW--if one thinks the Russians acted any different in eastern Ukraine--there were over 6000 Ukrainian civilians killed there and massive destruction of critical infrastructure/residential areas--BUT this time via artillery and MLRSs due to the UAF having an strong AD ability against the RuAF.

AND comments from the Obama WH--not a word.........

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 12:05pm

Two events today that back up my thoughts on Putin---one is a typical in your face Putin military statement that says "no decisions in the ME will be made without Russia" and that the "US no longer has a say in the ME".

This is an in your face moment for the Isreali's just as it was for the Turks--both US allies.

AND the US response is again exactly what.......???

Putin orders ICBM tests and market bombings during the Vienna Talks.
The last thing, this man is interested in, are talks.

Also today, Russian war planes (Su-34) circle over al-Harra, 10 km from Israel

The second one is even more interesting and openly depicts the standard Russian "Grozny" mindset towards killing civilians and the losses of civilians caused by Russian military actions.

It is still not clear, if Russia or its ally Assad bombed the Douma market today.
45 dead, 200 injured confirmed.

Its the second terroristic act (by regime) that target this market in 2015
-no accident-

Assad underlines his, Russia´s and Iran's insistence to block any peace process by deliberately killing civilians

Aleppo airstrikes on market in al-Bab town killed 7 people & injured dozens

See the power (shock wave) of a Russian bomb, dropped on civilians in Rastan shortly ago.
The screams that follow. Horrendous.

The author of the article we are responding to in no way discussed the parallel Russian activities being seen in Syria and what they did in the eastern Ukraine--one and the same campaign plan just in different locations.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 5:26am

This is the same Putin who declared he and Russian knew how to fix the refugee problems, the same Putin that wants a Syrian settlement on his terms and the same Putin THAT "{claims" everyday he is fighting the Islamic State.

Appears the so called Russian "precision targeting" is only capable of hitting towns, villages, residential areas ---basically any civilian that Russia wants to kill, wound and or maim.

BUT nowhere does the RuAF seem capable of striking at IS--wonder why that is???

13 #RussianAirStrikes so far this morning on towns and village in besieged #Homs.

Also see the boy standing on the house, only able to watch the inferno & cross his fingers next bomb doesn't hit him

Outlaw 09

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 2:34pm

Syrian Rebels retake almost ALL territory Assad regime gained after Russian intervention & now on the verge of major defeat in Aleppo

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/31/2015 - 5:51pm

In reply to by Azor

The existence of the unit was finally declassified in Jan 2015--missions/exercises/training are still classified even when the unit disbanded in 1984 although some Google links indicate all of the above.

Amazing that the rural areas I saw in the 70s look worse today than they did then--so 5T USDs later only the oligarchs seem to have it better.

OSINT will actually if followed up by other OSINT actually often provide the intentions.

Why--satellites and NSA can tell you much but not what is behind the door--only the individual behind the door can provide that--and you would be amazed how much individuals remember. And if that door is three floors underground what can satellites and NSA then give you??

And it is also interesting how much of that ends up in the public domain....


Sat, 10/31/2015 - 5:11pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Interesting bio...

So was the SF unit's task to eliminate Red Army leaders in East Berlin in the event of war, help bog down the NVA in Berlin or dart behind enemy lines causing mayhem?

Yes, open source will reveal nearly everything, except intentions.

The camping probably produced better intel than the spy satellites...

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 7:38am

In reply to by Azor

that to Azor--thanks for the compliment---I am lucky in that the company I own, and my work are a hobby I started learning in 1993 in the Army--ie computers, software and the internet in the area of internet security that many people like myself compare now to a wide open battlefield.

When I watch thousands of ones and zeros daily I have the time to commit to watching open source social media --my second hobby since 2003.

Actually the author of the article we comment on and myself come from two views of the then Soviet Union and now Russia---I spent my first ten or so years after completing my MA and PhD working in Berlin in the realm of strategic debriefing of anything and everything that came into Berlin from the former East Bloc and or Africa during the "wars of liberation" THIS was on top of the years spent in an elite SF team located in Berlin targeting the Soviet Army during the height of the Cold War.

BUT what separates us even more is that I spent several long summers starting in 1971 camping in the then Soviet Union and saw a totally different SU than most US decision makers were seeing--a proud people struggling for a better life, more food and better housing. Some of the villages I saw then reminded me of the black and white photos from Russia in the 1870/80s not the 1970s.

When the SU collapsed it was not from anything the West did or did not do--it was from the inherent and internal contradictions of Communism that the SU CP had created first under Stalin and then going forward.

Just as the GDR collapsed for the very same reasons in 1990.

THIS is the problem of Russia today--after FIVE TILLION USDs being made on oil and gas in the boom years Russia has absolutely nothing to show for it and the Russian civil society is just as backwards as it was in 1971.

WHY because you now have a Russian oligarchic elite and Putin is an oligarch that has robbed the Russian civil society blind.

NOW you also have a "dreamer" Putin who has placed Russia on an expansionist imperialistic path based on pseudo nationalism and religion claiming to being a "superpower" and equal to the US.

I have commented here a number of times that in order to understand Putin--read Orwell's 1984--that was and still is a very valid comment--especially the Orwellian concept of "doublespeak" which Putin and his FM do very well.

I as opposite to the author simply do not trust a single word being uttered by Putin since 2008

I come from the world of open source and have used open source in my training of 41 US Army BCT Staffs prepping for Iraq and AFG and inherently understand the value of open source and whether the author of this article likes it or not 80% of all US intelligence comes from open sources.

Open source social media is also the push back weapon against Russian and Iranian and for that matter IS propaganda.

What is sad is that the country that built the internet, has tons of high tech companies and invented social media just does not fully understand how to counter Russian, Iranian, Chinese,Syrian OR IS info warfare--that is truly sad.

To Outlaw 09: I think it has to be said that you are a one-man-army fighting Russian information warfare. I am sure that in the lair of RT they are brainstorming ways to put a stop to that...


Thu, 10/29/2015 - 11:23am

In reply to by G. Murphy Donovan

Points fully taken.

For one, I would say that given the election cycle and the US' global reactive approach, developing and executing on a grand strategy in the Middle East was always impossible.

But here are my 2 cents:

1. Turkey doesn't belong in NATO or the EU

2. I prefer a moderate Iran as an ally to the Gulf Arabs (KSA), and we should've done more to prevent the revolution

3. Agree on the Kurds

4. The Sunni Arabs and Pakistanis are the worst "allies" or "partners", and we should have competed for Shia business quite frankly

5. When the KSA collapses and the Princes flee to Europe, who will we have left?

Outlaw 09

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 2:03pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Right now we have to when it comes to Syria deal with a quad track;

1. there is an actual Sunni Shia war that first started in the Iraq/Iran war, carried over to Syria and has expanded back into Yemen--that is a simple basic fact--do not think for a moment QJBR then AQI now IS has not been driving that point home since 2005

2. we have in effect effectively sided perception wise with the Sunni Front States against Iran whether that fits the Obama idea of hoping for an Iranian transformation or not--since the TOW arrived in theater and the FN-6 MANPAD may not be far behind the TOW

3. Russia has a geo political goal in Syria--to reestablish Russian power into the ME, "become" an equal to the US, drive the influence of the US out of the ME, to exert control or partial control over the Med and to gain influence over the ME

4. hate to say it --and use Syria as a "live fire exercise" to test Russian weapons in order to increase Russian weapons sales

As probably the only one here who has had close experience in 2012/13 with Russian Staff officers during the exercises Atlas Vision--a peacekeeping exercise series --one of the toughest issues was getting Russian combat officers to throttle back when using force in and around civilians.

Right now we are seeing Grozny all over again from the Russian side after 4.5 years of Assad genocide against a civil society that has an 70-80% Sunni majority and had decided in 2011 that it no longer wanted Assad.

Russia in it's geo political role of supporting a "faithful proxy" has reverted to the Grozny mentality of declaring all civilians "terrorists" and simply killing anyone in their path and destroying anything --we have seen the exact same process in the eastern Ukraine when the Ukrainians were being constantly called "Nazi's".

Remember Grozny was also under Putin.

3 Russian Airstrikes on Aleppo against civilian neighborhoods, in the fourth airstrike the cameraman were killed

Children heard crying under the ruble after Russian airstrike on rebel held Hayan Aleppo

After watching the video explain to me what side the US "should be supporting"---seems we have forgotten about the civil society that lives under the rain of terror hitting them right now from Russia.

The Russians are a speeding freight train loaded with serial killers looking for women and children to kill.

Example---today---First time we see RuAF Su-30 SM with 2 OFAB 250-270 unguided bombs lifting off for a combat operation

Cannot help but think the RuAF is now being pressed to increase air-to- ground sorties just for the sake of it because the Russian/Iranian/Hezbollah offensive has totally failed and Putin needs his constant info war video stream going back to Russia.

Notice---the US response to the killing of women and children under relentless Russian bombings using iron dumb bombs is exactly what again...?

We have seen thermobaric weapons used against civilians, cluster munitions used against civilians and countless hospitals struck.

Damascus Statement about Russian airstrike on hospital in suburb Douma today

Remains of Russian cluster bomb that hit Aleppo city

Sub-munition of Russian Cluster Bomb -dropped on Maarrat al-Numan city in Idlib

Again the US response is what exactly...?

Just a side note--the Russian military move into Syria was not sudden and driven by the IRGC Commander's trip to Russia--actually suspect his trip was an actual briefing of the Russian campaign planning.

Russian Staff planning takes time, is thorough and all Commanders involved regardless of level must physically sign the operational orders AND this is key there are indicators that the costs for the Russian air force adventure were planned long in advance of the Putin move into Syria.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 10:49am

In reply to by G. Murphy Donovan

Here is where the rubber meets the road so to speak......

You are totally correct until Islam gets a "Pope" or has a "Reformation" we are stuck with the multiple faces of Islam for good and bad.

We seem since 2003 not to be able to see that--that is our own 9/11 trauma problem.

that is not about to change any time soon.

Savak also by the way under estimated those 15 cent audio tapes coming from Khomeini out of Paris every Friday.

BUT Russia on the other hand is a totally different beast.

If we look at the Putin declared three geo political goals he is following he is an inherent danger to the US for several reasons,

1. he has effectively eliminated the concept of MAD
2. he definitely wants to leave the INF and any nuclear treaties singed during that period and has no reservations in the first use of tactical nuclear weapons
3. and in his "altered state of reality" he truly believes the US wants regime change and kicking him out of his job that would cost him 40B USDs that he controls by remaining in power.

Putin's repeated three geo political goals;

1. damage and discredit NATO
2. damage and discredit the EU
3. disconnect the US completely from the ME and especially Europe

This has been stated in a number of different variations by both Putin and his FM since 2008. This long march through the institutions to achieve those goals actually started in 2006 if anyone was paying attention to his public comments.

The Ukraine and now Syria are basically foot notes towards those goals.

AND he is basically slowly but surely getting to those goals--why because we have a non confrontational Obama who is in an retrenchment phase of US FP.

The core question is ---has Putin actually seen his three goals being chewed up right now by a rebel group the Russian claimed they knew nothing about??

He in fact if he loses his "prestige" in Syria risks losing his own job as a majority of Russian recently polled do not want a war in Syria.

You can only show jets thundering down runways for awhile-- but the coffins have already started going back to Russia and then the AFG nightmare kicks in.

At approximately 5M USDs per day he has already burned through 150M USDs and outside of killing civilians he is no closer to saving Assad than he was 29 days ago.

G. Murphy Donovan

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 8:03am

In reply to by Azor

Thanks, Azor, for the thoughtful comments. Couple of things.

The modern incarnation of Muslim Wars, the jihad, began in 1979 where CIA and and chaps like George Cave had their heads so close to the Shah's azimuth that they couldn't see the ayatollahs in the wings. That was a strategic warning failure, The theocratic revolution in Iran changed the strategic dynamic in the Levant from secular to religious, a fact on the ground that we have yet to acknowledge in analysis or propaganda. 9/11, another strategic warning failure, was the Sunni/Saudi/Salafi answer to the Shia attempt to take the point in the confrontation with infidels.

In the oft ignored world of Ummah politics, the Shia/Sunni theological rift is ignored at our peril. The reason that our tactics, operational arts, and God knows our strategy, have failed to date is that we are trying to play both sides against the middle in an ideological/kinetic struggle where we have zero leverage. To date we are road kill, on the median strip, not having a clue about who to support, which way to go. We can't admit to ourselves that we cannot save Islam from itself.

Willful ignorance and arrogance is now compounded by abject stupidity, like allowing the perfidious Turks to use F-16s against the Kurds, the only sizable, truly moderate Muslim sect in the world. We can't be trusted from day to day - and all the players know it.

With the Ottomans and the Arabs we have sold our national reputation for a pocket full of mumbles, base rights.

Putin and Russia, in contrast, have been consistent allies to Iran and Syria. And let's not kid ourselves about proxy wars and regime change shenanigans, the real target in Syria, like it was in Afghanistan, is the Kremlin. If we can't deal with Muslim religious crazies in Toyota's, we ought to think twice about picking a fight with Russians.

G. Murphy Donovan

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 7:57am

In reply to by Azor

Thanks, Azor, for the thoughtful comments. Couple of things.

The modern incarnation of Muslim Wars, the jihad, began in 1979 where CIA and and chaps like George Cave had their heads so close to the Shah's azimuth that they couldn't see the ayatollahs in the wings. That was a strategic warning failure, The theocratic revolution in Iran changed the strategic dynamic in the Levant from secular to religious, a fact on the ground that we have yet to acknowledge in analysis or propaganda. 9/11, another strategic warning failure, was the Sunni/Saudi/Salafi answer to the Shia attempt to take the point in the confrontation with infidels.

In the oft ignored world of Ummah politics, the Shia/Sunni theological rift is ignored at our peril. The reason that our tactics, operational arts, and God knows our strategy, have failed to date is that we are trying to play both sides against the middle in an ideological/kinetic struggle where we have zero leverage. To date we are road kill, on the median strip, not having a clue about who to support, which way to go. We can't admit to ourselves that we cannot save Islam from itself.

Willful ignorance and arrogance is now compounded by abject stupidity, like allowing the perfidious Turks to use F-16s against the Kurds, the only sizable, truly moderate Muslim sect in the world. We can't be trusted from day to day - and all the players know it.

With the Ottomans and the Arabs we have sold our national reputation for a pocket full of mumbles, base rights.

Putin and Russia, in contrast, have been consistent allies to Iran and Syria. And let's not kid ourselves about proxy wars and regime change shenanigans, the real target in Syria, like it was in Afghanistan, is the Kremlin. If we can't deal with Muslim religious crazies in Toyota's, we ought to think twice about picking a fight with Russians.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 5:47am

In reply to by Azor

This is the "so called Russia" that claims to the world they want a political solution to Syria......naturally on their terms. BUT when discussing Syria in Vienna the main fighting groups are deliberately excluded.

Notice a not so subtle "imperialist" treatment of Syria--we the large powers are attempting to tell the Syrian civil society what the solution should be--WHEN it is the majority of the civil society that has rebelled against Assad.

AND this is the same Russia that chastised the EU for their handling of refugees WHEN it is Russian support to a genocidal dictator AND now their RuAF non precision bombings that are creating even more refugee flows.


Russia says it opposes UN resolution on Syrian barrel bombs

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia said Wednesday it opposes a draft U.N. resolution on Syria's use of barrel bombs which is being promoted by France, Britain and Spain because it could jeopardize upcoming international talks on how to restore peace to the conflict-wracked country.
Russia'n airstrike with cluster bombs hit school in Kafar Aouid/ Mount al-Zawiya area- several wounded

WHY are they against it--because barrel bombs are strictly terror attacks-there is nothing defensive about them--just as the Russian use of dumb iron bombs in residential areas is nothing short of terrorist attacks.

NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres: Russia'n airstrikes hit 12 hospitals
in Syria past month- killed 35 patients & doctors & injured 72

Damascus Heavy airstrikes on suburb Douma this morning
30 plus wounded and killed alone in this strike..

So again the author seems to be unable to define exactly what Russia he is writing about???