Friday, 13 September 2013

British Defences Probed by Syrian Jets.

A little over a week ago 6 RAF Typhoons were deployed to Akrotiri in Cyprus. Within days a pair were scrambled to see off Syrian Air Force Su-24s that were picked up behaving suspiciously close to Cypriot airspace.

Such probing is normal in the run-up to hostilities. The elderly Syrian jets are formidable attack aircraft, and could be able to launch a strike on Akrotiri, or indeed any of the British military assets on the island, within 15 minutes of leaving Syrian airspace.

They would, however, be no match for the Typhoon, as they are relatively slow, and carry only short-range infrared guided air-air missiles that would would pose the British fighters no problems at all.


This probing of our defences, like everything else that is unfolding in Syria at the moment, will be choreographed by Russia.

Russia is seeking to pursue a Middle-East policy symmetrical to that of the US in the region. In this,
Syria is to be to Russia what Israel is to the US. The Syrian ports of Tartus and Latakia have been dredged and widened to make them suitable for heavy warships. The location of these bases gives Russia control over the receiving end of the BTC oil pipeline, which is, apparently, a 'guarantee' of security of supply for the EU.

In my book Putin's Legacy: Russian Policy and the New Arms Race (2009) I discussed plans by the Russian Defence Ministry to deploy the missile cruiser Moskva to the Med on a permanent basis. The ship remains, to date, based in Sevastapol, as the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet.

 As I write, the Moskva is leading a significant Russian naval force into the Med, heading for the Syrian coast. The Moskva is a modern equivalent of the battleships of old, with the capability to take out capital warships from a considerable distance.

In Putin's Legacy I also referred to plans to supply S300 surface to air missiles to Syria, to be manned by Russian troops. The first batteries were delivered to Syria in 2011.

This missile is superb. It has similar capabilities to the US built Patriot, and can take out not only aircraft, but incoming cruise, and even ballistic missiles.

Vladimir Putin is not in the strongest of positions, domestically speaking, at the moment. Some sabre-rattling would go down well at the moment, and he knows this.
The Kremlin is brilliant at choreographing events such as those we are seeing unfold in Syria, and we can see that they remain one major step ahead of the US at thepresent time. Kerry's gaffe, in which he went 'off-script' and suggested that the US would pull back if Syria handed its chemical weapons over to the international community, allowed Russia to take the diplomatic high ground, which they did within little more than an hour. (It is worth mentioning here that neither the US or Russia have fulfilled their own obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Both still hold large stcks, and there are strong suggestions that Russia was the source of Syria's stockpile).
I saw unedited footage of a British politician being interviewed in his office this week stating that Putin was handling things "very well". This stupid and naive comment was based not on any real understanding of the situation, but was just an opportunistic attack on William Hague and British policy in the region.
US assets already in theatre could overwhelm Russian and Syrian forces, with or without our help, but the cost would be significant. Escalation would also be a major threat, although the loss of personnel and equipment would not matter to Putin, as he would use the resultant destablisation and diplomatic furore to his advantage. The massive increase in the price of oil that would follow any military action would also make him very happy, and very popular at home.
The fear is, that western diplomatic ineptness could make military intervention inevitable. Let us hope not.

No comments:

Post a Comment