Recently the Russian military force deployed an advanced anti-missile system and sophisticated radars over Syria. In doing so, Russia and its allies in Iran and Hezbollah realize the ability of the U.S. to assist the rebel groups in Aleppo is severely limited. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, may not know what Aleppo is, but for anyone following current events this city of 250,000 is now a “killing field.”
Russian bombs have converted this “hold out” city of Sunnis into the contemporary Cologne of World War II. And all that Secretary Kerry can say is we will cancel further talks with the Russians. A U.N. aid convoy was bombed during the so-called ceasefire and there was barely a murmur of disapproval from the international press corps. Russian forces are engaged in a blitzkrieg – all out destruction of those rebels opposed to Assad. Admittedly some of those in the opposition are ISIS supporters, but Russian bombs are intended for any group opposed to Assad.
Since the civil war began in 2011 twenty-three million Syrians have been displaced. Many are “temporary” residents in Lebanon, Iraq and Libya. Many have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe, altering the continent for the foreseeable future. As noticeable as the demographic shift in Europe, is the indisputable fact that Russia has used the civil war in Syria to become the “strong horse” in the eastern Mediterranean. Not only have the Russians reinforced their naval facility in Tartus, they have built a major air base in Khmeimim and an airport in Latakia. These military installations not only check possible Sixth Fleet intervention, but now challenge NATO’s hold on its southern flank.
There came a time, only a decade ago, when Israel had regional air superiority. That claim can certainly be questioned today. Israel may be able to defend herself against most threats, but when Russian air power is put into the equation and the U.S. sits on the sidelines accepting the new world order, threat assessments have changed.
With Shimon Peres’ death, Israel lost one of its founders and spiritual leaders. He was also Israel’s primary dreamer, a person who with his final breath believed that peace could be achieved in the Middle East through a broad based economic development program. At some point his dream may be realized, but not now. President Obama’s appeasement orientation has made life in Israel precarious. A tilt to Iran through the lifting of sanctions and financial assistance has given Shia leaders the resources to pursue their imperial aspirations in the region. Those aspirations include the arming of Hezbollah with missiles- many quite sophisticated- that can reach every Israeli population center. Iran has engaged in saber rattling, but its attention is presently on Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. But that will change, and when it does Israel must be prepared. It is, of course, one thing to oppose Iranian air assets, but quite another matter to defend against Russian aircraft. This explains why President Netanyahu has spent so much time with Vladimir Putin. Israel recognizes the “strong horse” as well as the disappearing horse.
In the newly emerging world order the United States is in seeming withdrawal. Some have described the conditions as war fatigue, others claim U.S. policy is a reflection of the arc of history- a movement away from American dominance. On one matter there cannot be any doubt: the Russians have filled the vacuum. There is undeviating aggression in Putin’s leadership. He knows what he wants and he knows, as well, that he doesn’t have to fear American resistance. As a consequence, the new world order is coming into focus with Russia in the ascendency and the U.S. in descent.