By Jay Syrmopoulos
Yesterday, Russia’s flagship, and only aircraft carrier — the Admiral Kuznetsov — left the port of Severomorsk en route to the eastern Mediterranean off the Syrian coast, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The carrier will bolster the Russian anti-terror campaign in Syria and serve as a hedge against U.S. aggression, and is to be escorted by the battle cruiser Peter the Great, the Vice-Admiral Kulakov destroyer, the anti-submarine vessel Severomorsk, and four other naval vessels from Russia’s Northern fleet.
The move is not altogether unexpected, as just weeks ago Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the aircraft carrier would be sent to the eastern Mediterranean to boost the country’s naval forces in the region amid heightened tensions with the United States.
This is the first deployment of the Soviet-era Kuznetsov since undergoing a complete refurbishment, and is a sign of the increasing tensions between the US and Russia in Syria.
The U.S. activities in Syria are nothing less than a stealth form of regime change, while attempting to feign a humanitarian/anti-terror mission – a complete obfuscation of the truth.
In reality, the US is arming, via proxy, a number of extremist Islamist jihadi groups and providing logistical support on the ground for Islamist fundamentalists. Of course, the US attempts to claim they only support the “moderate rebels” (as if any of those even exist at this point).
Although the Syrian conflict began as a homegrown rebellion precipitated through a harsh crackdown by Assad, the fact is that the organic Syrian revolution has been almost completely co-opted by Western imperialist powers intent on installing a US/Western-friendly government in Syria – which, of course, doesn’t sit well with the current Syrian government nor their traditional allies, the Russians.
Russian forces are involved in the Syrian conflict, helping government forces against militants including the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and the Al-Qaeda off-shoot Al-Nusra Front, which recently changed its name in an effort to brand themselves “moderate rebels.”
Russia has maintained a base in government-controlled Syrian territory from which it has flown most of its bombing raids in the country since it became involved in the conflict – at the request of the Syrian government – over a year ago. The Russian military has long maintained a military presence in Syrian territory – long preceding the current conflict.
Just this week President Vladimir Putin signed a law ratifying Moscow’s agreement with the Syrian government to deploy its military forces indefinitely, a move that confirms the long-term intentions of Russia/Syria partnership. In addition, the Russian Defense Ministry last week noted that Moscow was set to convert its current naval facility in Tartus into a permanent Russian base.
In addition to providing logistics on the ground in Syria, Moscow has flown long-range bombing raids from bases in Russia and fired cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea and a submarine in the Mediterranean in support of the Assad government.
The reality in Syria is that the U.S. has essentially refused to cooperate with the Russians in fighting terrorism, and instead focuses on attempting to degrade the Assad government forces as a means of forcing regime change.
The Russians, being invited as guests of the Syrian government, provide legitimacy under international law for their posture and position in the Syrian conflict. However, the U.S. attempts to forward some half-cocked humanitarian responsibility to protect (R2P) narrative to provide cover for their support of Islamist jihadi extremists in their attempted overthrow of the Syrian president without legal underpinning. The Russian maneuvers have to be seen within this context. There is nothing menacing about their behavior at all, as it’s actually defensive in nature.
The White House is currently debating what moves to make next in Syria, claiming that “no options are off the table.” The Obama administration is rumored to be mulling targeting the Syrian government directly, which would essentially put them into automatic conflict with Russia due to the fact that Russians are likely to be killed in these assaults should they take place. Russia has responded by stating that if their positions come under attack they will target and take down any unidentified planes in Syrian airspace with their S-300 and S-400 system, which is rumored to be capable of targeting and taking out stealth aircraft.
Make no mistake that there is a very dangerous game afoot that has the potential to careen out of control.
Are Western imperial ambitions in Syria really worth the risk of an extreme escalation of the humanitarian crisis, and a potentially dangerous feedback loop that has the ability to devolve into nothing less than a World War?