Putin just forced NATO into Syria’s civil war

In 1983, Adam Osborne excitedly announced the successor to his company’s groundbreaking Osborne One computer.  The new machine would be faster and better than its predecessor when it started rolling off the production lines in only six months time.

Distributors took note and immediately cancelled all their orders for the old machines, which would soon become obsolete. Osborne Computer Corporation was thrown into a sudden cash flow crisis, and went bankrupt before the new models were built.

Business school students know this cautionary tale as the ‘Osborne Effect’.

Future students of international relations might well end up learning about the ‘Putin Effect’.

On Monday, the EU announced that it would lift its embargo on supplying arms to rebels fighting the Syrian government, but the UK, which had led the push, would not be starting shipments immediately.

On Thursday, Russia responded by promising to ‘stop Western hotheads’ by arming Syria with its S300 anti-aircraft system.

Syria’s President Assad was reported as stating the anti-aircraft missiles had already arrived, and then the report was quickly retracted. But the damage was done. Announcing that an anti-aircraft defense had been deployed in Syria might have deterred a NATO attack, but announcing the intention to deploy one in the future only encourages NATO to get its attack in first.

The S300 system will make it harder for NATO forces to impose a ‘no-fly’ zone in Syria, but NATO has already defeated the same system: The Russians sold the same system to Gaddafi in 2010. And we all know how well that worked out for him.

Deploying the system and making it operational will take several months, and would give Syria the ability to shoot down planes in Israel.  As you can imagine, Israel has been making warning noises about not allowing the missiles to fall into the hands of Hezbollah, but it is difficult to imagine, considering the missiles’ range includes Israel, that the Israelis would let the missiles fall into the hands of Syria either.

It is tempting to construct some conspiratorial explanation for Putin’s petulant action. Perhaps Putin has decided to cut his losses on the Assad regime and hopes NATO will bring a swift end. But I suspect it is simply a blunder. Since 1979, the Kremlin has managed to pick the losing side in every international conflict it has been involved in. They should realize that Assad is doomed, but contrary to Ehud Barak, I bet they don’t.

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25 Responses to “Putin just forced NATO into Syria’s civil war”

  1. dibass says:


  2. goldberd20 says:

    Wishful Syria is not Libya. And also DEBKAfile is not qutie reliable.

  3. goldberd20 says:

    No Russia did not sale the S300s.

  4. benb says:

    ‘Western Hotheads’? Is Putin referring to John McCain? Or the Neocons that pumped up the lie about WMD to drag us into the Iraq War?

  5. BeccaM says:

    Debka? That’s not the only source for the information that Russia did sell Libya S300 anti-aircraft missiles in a deal originating in 2010.


    I’d say the United Press International is a reputable source, no?

  6. Zachary Smith says:

    Maybe Russia sent the S300 system to Libya and maybe it didn’t. Debka is a severely “truth-challenged” site.

    Supposing they did, who’s to say they didn’t unload some barely functional junk? Not everybody dumps on Russia’s anti-air capabilities. Here is a link I found at the Smirking Chimp site.


    After the collapse of the USSR, Russia was forced to limit what it was doing in military terms. They’ve become very good at some things, and the ever-evolving S300 is one of those things.

    Depending on what the Russians finally send Syria, (in the event they send anything) Nato and Israel will have an easy time, or they’ll be forced to overwhelm it at a terrible cost. Components of a late-model S300 system could roll down the back ramp of a cargo plane and be ready to go in 5 minutes. If Syria follows the model of pre-WW2 Spain, the Russians might decide to send one or more of their best units to find out how it stands up in the “real world”

    Suppose an attack happened anyhow, and the new system was destroyed. If I’m a Russian dictator, I can do payback by arming Iran to the hilt with the latest and greatest. And arranging for Hezbollah to get an awful lot of new equipment.

    I’d imagine both Russia and China are seeing the US moves around the world to be a “reverse dominio effect” – the reason the US felt compelled to fight in Vietnam. Knock down all their buffer states, and they stand alone. They’re not likely to allow that.

  7. MyrddinWilt says:

    NATO can blow the AS300 apart, no question. But that could come at a big cost in planes and pilots. And in the meantime, Syria could effectively close Israeli and parts of Turkish airspace to civil aviation.

    Libya was different because there were no alternative targets Libya could strike. It is not going to change the military outcome. But that is not the only consideration.

    Another concern that was raised is that the US would not be able to bring a carrier group into the area. Which I thought was kind of crazy because the US is not doing anything in Syria without the approval of Turkey. And with Turkey onboard there would be zero point in having the carrier.

  8. FLL says:

    If this is some unlikely conspiracy on Putin’s part to bring an end to the Assad regime, it would be an uncharacteristic attack of common sense on Putin’s part. More likely, Putin is once again proving that sexual repression and stupidity go hand in hand.

  9. ComradeRutherford says:

    I’ve heard that Obama has asked the Pentagon to formulate a plan for a ‘No-Fly Zone’ in Syria. And if that happens, Assad will be eager to shoot down a US fighter jet of heavy bomber with these new toys of his. And if that happens then what?

  10. BeccaM says:

    If the S300 anti-aircraft system is the same one sold to Libya in 2010 and NATO was easily able to deal with it, Putin and the Russian military has to be aware of this fact as well.

    Therefore an announcement to deploy it to Syria is far more likely to be a geopolitical gesture, an attempt to assert Russian interests in the region, and not a military countermeasure. Let’s not forget that the biggest obstacle to UN action has been Russian vetoes.

  11. lynchie says:

    True but Syria is about natural gas and oil and its position in relationship to the whole Mediterranian rim.


    The overthrow of Syria was planned over 20 years ago.


    No doubt our energy companies want to dip their beak in the oil and gas so it becomes part of our strategic best interests (read corporatism/neocon) to take over.

  12. MyrddinWilt says:

    We could hope for competence.

    If you look at the world from the Kremlin, the Arab Spring looks like a Domino theory in action and all the dominos are toppling in a line that points right at the Caspian sea and all the ugly ex-Soviet states that the Kremlin calls allies.

    Putin and co are basically Russian neo-cons. Only instead of being in charge of the global hegemon, they are in charge of the rump of a former super power that is barely capable of preventing further collapse. Russia itself may dissolve just like the Warsaw pact did under Gorbachev followed by the Soviet Union.

    The problem is that they keep building firewalls out of dry straw. The invasion of Afghanistan was to draw a line in the sand and prevent further collapse. Then they tried to make a stand in Poland. Then it was Serbia that could not be allowed to fall. Then Libya. Today it is Syria and tomorrow it may be Turkmenistan or Kazakhstan or both.

    And the guy in charge is a petulant autocrat who spends his time ordering the murder of opponents with Polonium poisoned tea pots, an attack that was certain to be discovered and could only possibly have been performed by a government with access to a national lab. Putin wanted to send a message to his opponents telling them he was strong and instead told us that he is weak and stupid.

  13. Ford Prefect says:

    Russia’s motivations are hardly mysterious. They are protecting what they perceive to be in their interests. Syria has long been a part of their Sphere of Influence and they have a long history (which predates the USSR by a few centuries or so) of defending their Sphere of Influence. That’s why they invaded Afghanistan and all of the Warsaw Pact, after all, not to mention all the Imperial Russian invasions along their borders over the centuries. None of this should be viewed as supporting their position–because I think it’s just adding more fuel to the fire if it fails as a deterrent.

    In any case, since Israel has already committed several airstrikes that are plainly Acts of War, and the US is tiptoeing into a disastrous intervention in which we somehow manage to align ourselves with jihadist groups we’re waging “war” against in other countries, then deterrence seems the most logical explanation. Right?

    As for NATO, the only parties that can or are forcing NATO to do anything is the US, France and Britain. As long as regime change is US policy, then NATO policy will reflect that in its actions. The fact that John McCain just had a photo op with known hostage takers (yes, they kidnapped Lebanese pilgrims and are still holding them hostage!) only underscores just how reckless and chaotic the US position is. The fact that Turkey just arrested Al Nusra (affiliated with Al Qaeda) members in possession of sarin gas also indicates just how bad all this is.

    Lastly, the “rebels” are losing. Their meeting in Turkey just ended in disaster, because the various groups are as interested in killing each other as they are the regime ancien. So the only way US and Isreali policy of regime change happens is with direct military intervention–Isreal actually wants to break Syria up into three states to make sure they’re too busy suffering to resist them. In Libya, our policy led to Ghaddafi being killed and then the surplus of weapons left over then went other north african countries to cause more trouble. This will happen with Syria as well, igniting broad, regional conflict which is already creeping into neighboring countries. But that doesn’t enter into the picture somehow, even though that’s clearly an intended Feature, not a Bug.

    The Assad regime is horrible and has been for a very long time. Washington didn’t care when they were torturing people for us (see: Maher Arar). So there is no moral argument from their perspective. And what will liberal interventionists say when the ethnic cleansing starts in Syria at the hands of our new “allies”? This question is important, because that’s why the regime has broad based support from non-Sunni groups in Syria, including the 7% or so who are Christian. When Christians are entreated to ethnic cleaning at the hands of our preferred monsters, how will Washington (especially the liberals joining hands with the neo-cons) excuse that?

    Just once, I’d like to see liberal interventionists justify all that will follow if their policy comes to fruition, as it pretty well demolishes any notion of humanitarian motivation. Note also that most of the defense establishment is against all this. There are perfectly rational reasons for their position as well.

    Nota bene: I’m being harsh on LIberal Intereventionists soley because they’re the ones who rebranded Neo-Con interventionism as R2P, or Right To Protect. It’s this Orwellian rebranding that is the face of all this horror and it makes all of us look like monsters to the world. What was wrong under Bush is still wrong under Obama. Putting a new nameplate on it does nothing to obscure the intended results.

  14. Bill_Perdue says:

    The United States government and military have no legitimate interests outside the territorial borders of the 48 contiguous states. Their role has always been to engage in colonialism, neo colonialism and military adventures utilizing state terror campaigns ranging from mass murder of civilians to genocide in places like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Iraq. Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the Philippines are examples of direct colonialism.

    There have been no exceptions to that policy since the revolutionary victory in 1783. The leaders of the US have attacked, invaded or occupied the majority of the nations of Europe and Asia, every nation in Latin America (repeatedly) and most of the nations with Arab and and muslim cultures. Africa, long spared the attention of the the US is now being subjected to increased American insurgents and interference. (The United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM or AFRICOM) is one of nine Unified Combatant Commands of the Armed Forces.)

    Like the US, the Russians, English, Chinese, French and other major weapons producing nations are playing the cynical role of merchants of death. “International weapons sales have proved to be a thriving global business in economically tough times. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), such sales reached an impressive $85 billion in 2011, nearly double the figure for 2010. This surge in military spending reflected efforts by major Middle Eastern powers to bolster their armories with modern jets, tanks, and missiles—a process constantly encouraged by the leading arms manufacturing.” http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/global-arms-trade-new-cold-war

    “The United States concluded arms agreements worth $66.3 billion in 2011, representing more than three-quarters of the total value of such agreements worldwide, according to a recently released report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).” http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2012_10/US-Dominated-Global-Arms-Trade-in-2011

    Working people and decent people in the US have no interests that coincide with the warmongering mad dogs who run the WH, Congress and especially the military brass. As Fidel Castro never tires of reminding us, the US government is the main enemy of the people of the world.

    Free Brad Manning

    Bring all the troops home and demobilize them

  15. A_nonymoose says:

    Putin was at one time the head of the KGB, right? What do you expect from a guy who kills and tortures for a living?

  16. HolyMoly says:

    LOL! An astute observation! Thanks to the war cheerleaders (most of whom never spent a single day in the military), the term “World War” seems to have lost its meaning as much as “terrorism” and “anti-Semite.” Just doesn’t seem to have the same zing it had when tens of millions of people were dying and entire continents were laid to waste. Now we’ve got to come up with a NEW term should — God forbid — we ever have to live through such a thing again.

  17. HolyMoly says:

    Maybe Putin’s hoping that we’ll stick yet another iron into the fire, as if we don’t have enough in there already. While we’re occupied over here, here, here, there, etc., Russia can pursue its foreign policy aims elsewhere. Could be a clever intention or simply a lucky mistake on his part, if he’s lucky enough to realize how he could gain from it.

    Strategy like that has worked in the past. Osama, by design, was able to coax us into spreading our military all over the place and start us on the path towards spending ourselves into oblivion. Our ability to respond to major crises, diplomatically or militarily, has been severely hampered as a result.

  18. Indigo says:

    Oh, I’m aware of that. I was just counting the bang-bang shoot-em-ups. Social change à la corporatisme is probably inevitable. Feudalism revisited, as I see it. The RC church should be very pleased once that development becomes apparent. Meanwhile . . . the more destruction bombing does everywhere, the sooner the Feudal Restoration.

  19. emjayay says:

    Because Russians aren’t generally particularly sophisticated and generally swoon to Putin’s absurd macho posturing and all hope to get to be rich oligarchs with lots of gold jewelry and a big dacha, speeding around Moscow in their Mercedes with a bogus police light on top.

  20. nicho says:

    Syria is just a distraction. The real World War is being waged by the corporatists, and, in case you haven’t noticed, they’re winning. We all thought the “Big One” would be fought with nukes, but it’s being waged with toxic mortgages, CDSs, austerity, privatization, mass unemployment. If we continue to follow the same trajectory, within a generation, the middle class will be totally eliminated. The 99 Percent will be serfs.

  21. Gary Harmer says:

    It abundantly clear that pukin is a total idiot who does’nt give a rats ass about anything but his own agenda. Why hasn’t anyone taken this punk to the woodshed?

  22. Indigo says:

    Well, it’s about time! Will this be World War IV or are we already up to World War V?

  23. Indigo says:

    I have the impression that we are NATO, just wearing a different uniform.

  24. Buford2k11 says:

    AND Johnny McGrumpy was cavorting with terrorists and kidnappers…thank goodness there wasn’t an aircraft carrier around he could burn down…he may be trying to burn down our foreign policy, such as it is, and pull us into the war….Is the MIC broke? what with the sequester and all…This one feels more like Viet Nam than anything else…

  25. lynchie says:

    Well given that Syria is a mess let the other NATO countries do the fighting. We have enough on our plate in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our 1,000 bases around the world should be subsidized by the countries in which they reside or close them. We can no longer support this kind of expenditure at the expense of having the elderly and poor pay for it. Or raise a special tax on banks and Wall Street (because we saved their non productive jobs).

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