Syria is Russia’s new Afghanistan
In the 1970s, the United States armed and trained terrorists to fight the Soviet Union. Now, the U.S. is arming and training terrorists to fight Russia in North Africa and Ukraine.
The United States admittedly used native Afghan terrorists -the Mujahideen- to fight the arrival of the Soviet Union into Afghanistan back in the 1970s. The move ultimately resulted in the collapse of the U.S.S.R. due to its heavy involvement in the region.
The Soviets drained their treasure fighting a war with no end in which the U.S. simply had to print endless amounts of dollars to finance and arm Afghans. It was just a matter of time before America’s archenemy collapsed.
Today, Russia and the United States are again facing each other through proxy wars: one in Syria, where Russia is now supporting Bashar al-Assad by providing him with weapons, and two, in Ukraine, where Russia has had less military involvement.
While in Syria the Russian government is directly intervening to save Assad from being thrown out as it happened with former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, in Ukraine, the Russians sought to defend Crimea, which was part of Ukraine and, after actively promoting a popular vote, annexed its territory to the Russian Federation.
Although Russian involvement is not as expensive as it was in Afghanistan -at least not yet- the country has been punished by the U.S. and its European allies with economic sanctions. Those sanctions put a stop to what many believed was Russia’s economic renaissance as the sanctions prevented the movement of goods and services between Russian companies and Europe. Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia has been Assad’s main ally and possibly the only reason why the United States has not launched an open attack on the country.
According to Reuters, “Rebels who have inflicted big losses on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad say Russia’s intervention in support of its ally will only lead to an escalation of the war and may encourage the rebels’ Gulf Arab backers to pour in more military aid.” If that happens, both Russia and the United States may have to get even more involved in the conflict, especially Russia, whose influence in the region depends on the survival of the Assad regime.
With its policy of arming rebel groups, as it did in the 1970s, the United States has obligated Russia to send in even more weapons to support Bashar al-Assad. Even more rebels have been recruited by the United States to the point that Russia has provided even more weapons to the Syrians. “Russia’s deployment is prompting a reassessment of the conflict among insurgents whose advances in western Syria in recent months may have been the catalyst for Russia’s decision. U.S. officials say Russian forces are already arriving,” reports the news agency.
If the Americans are correct, and Russia is already sending troops to the country, it means that Russia is slowly falling into the same trap it did in Afghanistan. While the U.S. has endless amounts of cash to finance another 10-year war in the Middle East, Russia is much more cash-strapped. An expansion of its operations in Syria could end up hurting Russia’s economic bottom line, which would in turn make things easier for the Americans as they would not need to face the Russian’s on a battlefield.
This time, things could be even worse for the Russians, as the U.S. is not the only force behind the creation, financing, training and arming of terrorists in Syria. Behind the U.S. there is the Arab coalition that has been bombing Yemen and Syria with the support of the Americans. “Some see an opportunity in the Russian deployment, predicting more military aid from states such as Saudi Arabia. That signals one of the risks of Russian involvement: a spiral of deepening foreign interference in a conflict already complicated by a regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” explains the report published by Reuters.
According to American estimates, Russia has multiplied its involvement in Syria by providing the Assad army with fighter jets, helicopter gunships, artillery and even Russian soldiers. While the Russian government says that its only intention is to help Assad fight American-sponsored terrorist groups, the truth is that the Russians are going beyond their way to keep Assad in power with no other help than their own treasure. Iran, a traditional partner of Syria and Russia in the region, has not officially joined the fight against terrorist groups in Syria, although it is well-known that the Iranians do indirectly and unofficially support other rebel groups in the region.
Whether or not Russia has sent soldiers to Syria, what is true is that the government of Bashar al-Assad is expecting just that from its Russian ally. For the rebels fighting against Assad in Syria, the conflict is a repetition of Afghanistan “where they would be sending troops who would return in coffins”. Should Russia decide to abandon the fight against American-supported terrorist groups, the fall of the Assad regime would be imminent. Perhaps that is why the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov has insisted on solving the conflict via diplomacy, instead of war.
Last week, the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, also showed his intention to sit down with his counterparts to attempt to negotiate a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict. This time, however, the Americans seem to have the upper hand against the Russians and Assad himself. Should the U.S. not get the conditions it wants in the region, it might decide to let the Russian involvement grow until the country ca no longer support Assad. The very same strategy of sitting down to negotiate may be part of the larger plan to let time go by while the Russians get even more involved in the conflict.
Back in the 1970s, the support of the United States and the Saudis was crucial for the success of the Afghan rebels against the Soviets and almost half a century later, history seems to be repeating itself. The United States and Saudi Arabia are dragging the Russians into another black hole from where it may have to leave earlier that it wants.