Thursday, March 01, 2018

The US-Russian Interaction That You Should Really Care About

David French over at National Review gives a good summary of an event I am surprised is not getting more coverage. Of course, a large fault lies with our media who is more interested in being players in domestic politics than doing their frack'n job of keeping the American people informed - but even in the natsec world, this story only received superficial coverage.

Then again, many of them are too stuck on domestic politics as well because, TDS and reasons.

Back to David's summary;
Did American and Russian forces just engage in a deadly clash in Syria, and was that clash the direct result of a Putin-approved effort to test American defenses? While Americans were arguing over Russian Facebook posts, did American air power and artillery leave up to 300 Russians dead on a Syrian battlefield?

Here’s the basic chronology.

On the night of February 7, “pro-regime” Syrian forces reportedly launched an assault on a “known” American base. American forces defended themselves with attack helicopters, jets, and AC-130 gunships, and the attackers withdrew after taking significant casualties.

That next week, on February 12, Reuters reported that at least two Russians died in the fighting, according to their associates. The Russian casualties were apparently contractors accompanying regime forces. By February 13, both the Washington Post and New York Times had picked up the story, and the number of rumored Russian dead swelled to “large numbers” or “dozens,” but — we were assured — there was no direct confrontation between Americans and members of the Russian military.

As rumors swirled online that the true number of Russian dead numbered in the hundreds, the Washington Post published a report suggesting that the attack on U.S. forces may have had official Russian backing:
Monday, Business Insider published unverified transcripts of “leaked audio recordings” from Russian mercenaries on the scene. The mercenaries describe a violent hellscape, where they were sitting ducks as American artillery and aircraft killed more than 200 of their comrades.

The alleged transcripts certainly make for vivid reading. Here’s a taste:
The reports that are on TV about … well, you know, about Syria and the 25 people that are wounded there from the Syrian f*** army and — well . . . to make it short, we’ve had our asses f*** kicked. So one squadron f*** lost 200 people … right away, another one lost 10 people . . . and I don’t know about the third squadron, but it got torn up pretty badly, too. . . . So three squadrons took a beating. . . . The Yankees attacked . . . first they blasted the f*** out of us by artillery, and then they took four helicopters up and pushed us in a f*** merry-go-round with heavy caliber machine guns … They were all shelling the holy f*** out of it, and our guys didn’t have anything besides the assault rifles . . . nothing at all, not even mentioning shoulder-fired SAMs or anything like that . . . So they tore us to pieces for sure, put us through hell, and the Yankees knew for sure that the Russians were coming, that it was us, f*** Russians . . . Our guys were going to commandeer an oil refinery, and the Yankees were holding it. . . . We got our f*** asses beat rough, my men called me . . . They’re there drinking now. . . many have gone missing . . . it’s a total f*** up
There are a lot of good reasons for both parties to downplay this lopsided battle.

First of all, neither nation wants its people to get in even more of a froth over the other than they already are. Second, neither Russia or the USA wants the Syrian conflict to spiral out of control. It is really in neither nations' interests, but stupid wars have started for even stupider accidents.
...both Russia and the United States are downplaying the incident. If the Russians were testing American will, they got their answer, but there appears to be no American desire to retaliate or to escalate the confrontation into a full force-on-force encounter. This is encouraging, but not entirely comforting. When blood is spilled, the consequences are not always predictable or controllable.

Second, the situation in Syria is extraordinarily dangerous. It’s understandable that international eyes are focused on North Korea, but consider this: If reports of hundreds of Russian dead are correct, the American military just killed more Russians than it did in any single encounter throughout the entirety of the Cold War. That’s stunning. At present, a few thousand American troops are in the midst of the world’s most vicious war, rubbing up against hostile Russians, Syrians, Turks, Iranians, and Lebanese. Confrontations are inevitable. Proper management of those confrontations is not.
We need to start disengaging from Syria. Our point with the Russians and others has been made. If everyone can keep things in the bottle for now, we can happily leave with honor. 

"Don't mess with us while we are here. We're leaving." Once we leave, everyone can fight over the scraps and we will no longer have a reasons to make the point we made to the Russian mercs.

As I mentioned over at twitter earlier today, the USA only has two interests in Syria;
1. The physical destruction of the Islamic State's caliphate and the killing of as many of its cadre as reasonably possible on the battlefield.
2. Make sure our allies that helped us with #1 are treated fairly in a post-war settlement.

That is about it.

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