Russia is at war, and clearly proud of it. The war will let it finally reclaim its place on the world stage. And yet, this path is not without risks, Hermann Krause writes in Moscow.
Anyone watching Russian TV these days will likely be shocked by the kind of war reporting that wasn't even seen during the Ukraine conflict. There are constant links to various command centers, and officers and generals are giving brisk reports of their military successes directly from the Defense Ministry. In euphoric tones, reporters inform viewers about where bombs have hit in Syria. Russia is at war. And, unlike in eastern Ukraine, there's nothing to hide. This time, there's no reason to make a secret of what the military is doing.
Russia is in a battle with the "Islamic State" (IS) at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - at least that's the official line. The force of evil in the world is now to be extinguished by Russian fighter jets. Who wouldn't want to congratulate President Vladimir Putin? He's saving the world! But Putin wouldn't be Putin if it were all as simple as that. It may be that the horrific deeds committed by IS provoked disgust and outrage in the Kremlin, but that's surely not the main reason for this extensive, not to mention costly, military mission.
No, Putin is correcting a mistake made by interim President Dimitry Medvedev, who did not employ his veto during the 2011 UN resolution on Libya and the no-fly zone imposed by the Security Council that led to the toppling of dictator Moammar Gadhafi - a mistake, in Putin's eyes. Nor did Putin agree with the ousting of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by the United States in 2003. The chaos in the Middle East, caused by the Americans, could have been avoided.
That's the only explanation for why the Kremlin would abandon its previous strategy of holding back on Syria and, for the first time since the end of the Soviet Union, openly go to war again. Putin's goal is re-establishing the Syrian state, in its entirety. The fact that Assad has allowed barrel bombs to be used on civilians, killing hundreds of thousands, is secondary. Assad was elected, so there is no reason to respect opposition in any form, including the Free Syrian Army. For Putin, they are terrorists.
The Soviet Union long played an important role in the Middle East, and now Moscow again has its foot in the door. But it's a risky game. President Obama will have to react. And a direct conflict cannot be ruled out. Just as Putin's "New Russia" project failed, so could his plans for Syria. There are simply too many actors in the region. And, as always with such military adventures, the result is uncertain. The whole thing could end in disaster. History has enough examples, from Vietnam to Afghanistan.
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