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Russian Mouse Threatens US Elephant

"Republican candidates like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Carly Fiorina appeared to be itching for war with Russia," writes Eric Margolis. (Photo: Reuters)

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!”  So echoed the cry this week from the Pentagon, the US media and  Republican candidates for president. 

How silly.  It seems the Russians have sent six tanks to Syria, some medium artillery and a bunch of military technicians to two bases on Syria’s coast near Latakia.   According to Republican warmongers, the wicked Soviets…ooops, sorry, Russians…are intervening militarily in the five-year old Syrian War and planning new bases in the strategic Mideast nation.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.  The United States has about 800 bases and military installations around the globe. Russia has only a handful of small bases near its borders. 

The exception is in Syria where Russia has had a small naval supply/repair facility in Tartus and an electronic listening post for almost 50 years.  Moscow has long been Syria’s principal foreign ally and arms supplier. 

While the US ruled almost the entire Mideast – what I call the American Raj – Syria was regarded as a limited  Soviet/Russian sphere of influence.   No more.

Washington ignited Syria’s civil war by infiltrating anti-government forces from Lebanon and Jordan.  Over the past five years, the US, along with Israel, France, Britain and Saudi Arabia, has armed, financed and directed Syria’s anti-Assad regime rebels.  The Saudis unleashed their secret weapon against Damascus, the Syrian-Iraqi Islamic State movement.

The West’s objective in Syria was to overthrow its government, because it is closely allied to Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Russia.  President Bashar Assad’s secular government in Damascus is just managing to hold off the rebels and mobs of fanatical jihadists sent by the Saudis and Washington – which pretends to be fighting the Islamic state. In fact, the Islamic State, or IS, is a tacit American ally.

Astoundingly, it appears that few in Washington’s power circles appear to have imagined that US machinations in Syria would eventually provoke a Russian response. 

Republican candidates like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Carly Fiorina appeared to be itching for war with Russia. They are creatures of America’s chief neocon, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.  Most non-Americans must have been horrified to observe such warmongering and pandering to Israel’s far, far right.

One wonders if these amateur strategists could name more than one Syrian city. Or if they understand that Syria is as close to Russia as New York is to Columbus, Ohio? Does anyone remember that in the 19th Century Russia claimed to be defender of Mideast Christians?  This week, President Vladimir Putin re-asserted this claim, saying he wanted to protect the Levant’s 2 million Christians who are now gravely threatened by IS.  

Why can the US have military bases in  places like Djibouti, Okinawa, Diego Garcia, Uganda, Somalia, Qatar, Afghanistan, South Korea, Bulgaria, Japan, Italy, Romania, Pakistan, Iraq and Spain, to name a few, while it’s a big no-no for Russia to dare have a very small base in Syria?

Because the Empire says no.

Russia’s military budget is one tenth that of the United States.  Combined with its rich allies like Europe and Japan, the US accounts for 70% of world military spending.   The only real threat Russia poses to US security will come if Washington’s ham-handed blundering in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine provoke a direct clash with Russia’s military forces.  The West is fortunate to have the cautious, sober Vlad Putin in the Kremlin.  He has already averted a US-Russian war in Syria and is calling again for direct US-Russia talks on the growing crisis. 

But did anyone really think that the very tough Putin would do nothing while the US and its allies tore Syria apart?

How stupid and arrogant was this.  Imperial hubris married to arrant ignorance.

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Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis is a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East. Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.

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