By Patricia H Kushlis
Didn’t Vladimir Putin turn 63 on October 7? And didn’t the Russian military provide him with a spectacular birthday present – the launch of 26 cruise missiles from the country’s flotilla in the landlocked Caspian Sea that very same day? It was an impressive display of night time fire power in honor of the President in Chief (or Perpetuity). Previously, the Caspian – this landlocked sea with waves lapping both Russia and Iran – has been best known for scarce high quality Beluga caviar that commands a hefty price on the world market.
And weren’t the 2014 Sochi Olympics really part of the continuing spectacle crafted primarily to pay homage to Putin followed on by the invasion of Crimea?
Let’s face it Russians love a spectacle from fireworks displays on every conceivable military and patriotic holiday – of which there are many – to hours’ long religious services celebrated on Easter in the country’s great cathedrals.
Exactly how many of the 26 missiles hit the target – well – do we know? The US military tells us that four crashed in Iran so that leaves 22 to be accounted for. Do we know what or whom they hit? How many civilians or goats were killed as collateral damage? Or what the more recent bombing raids have struck?
But the current debate on this home front is what - oh-my-gosh - should the US do. In my view, the answer remains restraint. I’m glad to see that we have a President who does not think countervailing force is the answer to complex problems demanding diplomatic solutions and I’m frankly skeptical that the US trade-off with the Turks that has allowed US bombing missions from the Incirlik airbase is worth the price.
What Dog in this Fight?
In 1989, James A Baker, then Secretary of State erroneously stated that the US didn’t have a dog in the fight between the Serbs and the rest of what was then Yugoslavia as the country spiraled into chaos. In fact, he was wrong – we did – as history played out over the course of several years with the US engineered Dayton Accords and then later US recognition of Kosovo. But by Dayton time the calculus on the ground had dramatically changed and the Croatians were on the march.
Nevertheless, Syria is not Yugoslavia, which became neutral during the Cold War after Tito’s split with Stalin in 1949. This resulted in the end of the Greek Civil War because Tito closed the border so the Greek Communists lost vital safe-havens and staging bases. And Moscow, for whatever reason, did not invade Yugoslavia despite threats and fears to the contrary at the time.
The Assad regime has been allied with Moscow since the early 1970s providing the latter’s navy with its single refueling station on the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, there are way too many “dogs in this fight” and the Obama administration recognized the mosaic-like ethnic and religious rivalries early on.