For two days already a Russian air force has been striking targets in Syria. And the West was quick to react.
During a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Russia to comply with the humanitarian law. He said that the strikes must hit only the targets recognized by the UN Security Council as terroristic, while according to the Russian President’s Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the Russians have their own list of targets.
The western leaders are unanimous that the strikes must hit only military facilities belonging to ISIL. In his interview to Reuters, French President Francois Hollande urged Russia to target only ISIL facilities, while his Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned the Russians against missing the targets.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that Russia must act in Syria alone. So, he implied that Germany was not going to support Russia in Syria. According to Steinmeier, any military actions in Syria must be approved on an international level. Allied bilateral relations, according to him, cannot be a basis for such activities. The German foreign minister also urged Russia to specify its targets in Syria. In fact, it was a warning that Russian must be specific in its strikes in Syria.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is of the same opinion: though welcoming Russia’s air strikes in Syria, he said that they must be aimed against ISIL only. British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond is more categorical: he is against any steps supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Saudi Arabia’s representative to the UN urged Russia to stop its strikes in Syria. The Saudi authorities believe that one cannot fight ISIL and support al-Assad at one and the same time. In fact, they mean that only al Assad’s enemies can fight ISIL.
While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov agreed to keep in touch on Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that Russia’s air strikes in Syria “probably” did not target ISIL jihadists. He said that Russia’s rhetoric about helping eliminate ISIL meant little while it continued to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime. U.S. military officials were irked that they didn’t get much warning of the strikes as a Russian general warned the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad about the strikes just an hour before they were supposed to be started. While speaking of Putin, Kerry said that if he was going to side with Assad and with Iran and Hezbollah, he was going to have a very serious problem with the Sunni countries in the region. Experts in Russia have taken this as a threat of terrorist acts.
The United States and its allies are unanimous on Russia’s air strikes in Syria. Their recommendation is that the Russian must fight only ISIL and must not support al-Assad in his fight against other extremist groups.
Right after the strikes, New York Times and Wall Street Journal beat the alarm that the first Russian strikes hit Syrian “oppositionists” trained by U.S. instructors. So, it means that the Russians are destroying the resource that cost the Americans so much money and effort. So, now we can see what a hybrid type of war the United States and their allies are waging against the government of Syria.
The most categorical was BBC correspondent Jon Sopel: “Are the Russians trying to destroy IS or are they trying to prop up President Assad? The Americans see the two as very different, the Russians less so. On the evidence of one day's bombing, it looks to be very much the latter. The target of Russian ordnance has been in places where IS has no presence. In other words, other rebel groups - any rebel groups - opposed to President Assad are being targeted. And that raises another huge question. What if the Russians start hitting US-backed and armed rebel groups? That is not going to end well.”
That is, according to Sopel, there may be U.S. soldiers and special service agents among Syrian rebels. So, he means that U.S. military men are secretly involved in the anti-Assad campaign and may face “unfriendly” strikes by the Russians.
So, the key result of Russia’s air campaign in Syria is that the hybrid war in Syria has turned into an open international conflict involving all great powers except China.
Russia’s role here is small yet. Time will show if the three Russian air squadrons will be able to curb the spread of the rebels in Syria. The first Russian strikes are reported to have hit anti-governmental facilities near Homs. A diplomatic source in France and a military source in the United States have told Washington Post that Homs was the key target of the Russian air strikes. They add that if the strikes are followed by the al-Assad army’s attack, it will mean that Russia’s campaign was aimed to restore the link between Damascus and Latakia, but if no attack follows, it will mean that the only goal of the Russians was to curb the rebels’ advance to the seashore.
The Russian military campaign has caused the West to launch a real information war against Russia. And this war is even larger than the war in Syria. They in the West are sure that the Russians will be beaten and that Syria will become a new Afghanistan for them. The Russian experts of the Voice of America warn that Russia’s campaign may trigger a global Jihad.
The general opinion of the western mass media is that Russia does not have enough resources to control the chaos in the Middle East. They say that people in Russia do want their government to send a lot of troops to Syria as they are worried about heavy human losses and terrorist acts by Islamic radicals. One more argument against Russia’s air strikes in Syria is that they are not accurate and are killing civilians.
Thus, they in the West see no rational grounds for Russia to continue its military campaign in Syria. The unanimity of Russia’s western opponents is really impressive.