Vladimir Putin is now calling the shots in Syria, says former commander of forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp
Article published in The Mirror, 3 October 2015. © Richard Kemp
Don’t be fooled by Vladimir Putin’s talk of fighting the Islamic State in Syria.
Russian forces are there for one purpose – to advance Russian interests in the Middle East.
In turn this will help Putin in his quest to restore the country’s global influence and – an added bonus – to humiliate his greatest enemy, the United States.
Swarming in to a vacuum created by American inaction and indecisiveness, Putin is now calling the shots in Syria and intends to do so across the region more widely.
Already Russian generals are “coordinating” in Iraq.
Putin is determined to keep Bashar al Assad in power – or to decide who replaces him.
He is also helping to advance the imperial ambitions of Iran, supplying them with advanced military hardware and enabling the expansion of their own combat capabilities in Syria as well as that of their terrorist proxy Hizballah.
Where does that leave the West? Paralysed. The US will not confront Russia except perhaps by covert means.
They will certainly not risk a face to face fight even though they would win.
We are already seeing Western leaders, including our own Prime Minister, bending to Putin’s will.
Having decided that Assad must go they are now having second thoughts.
This Russian intervention makes the Middle East much more dangerous for the long term.
Putin’s empowerment of Iran and its Syrian allies will terrify countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the gulf states and makes a large-scale war more likely.
There are also more immediate dangers.
British and American advisers and special forces as well as humanitarian aid workers are on the ground in the areas that Russian planes are now attacking.
For the first time since the Second World War American and Russian planes are bombing the same country at the same time.
Then they were on the same side.
Today they are not.
The consequences of one side shooting down the other sides’s planes – most likely by accident – are incalculable.