The following is an excerpt from Rob Garver | November 10, 2015 | Thefiscaltimes.com |
Increasing evidence that the Russian airliner carrying 224 people that crashed in Egypt on Oct. 31 was taken down by a bomb planted by the terror group ISIS has generated quite a bit of speculation about how Russian President Vladimir Putin might react.
With Russian jets already conducting airstrikes in Syria, at least some of which have been directed at ISIS, would Putin escalate the Russian presence in the Middle East? He could increase the assets dedicated to the air campaign and perhaps even declare that Russian ground troops, taken off the table at the start of the air operations, are now a possibility.
The Kremlin has actively pushed back on Western assertions that the crash appears to be the result of a bomb, delaying the need to deliver a public response if that does turn out to be the case. But a scholar who studies the Russian military says that if Putin is faced with the need to ratchet up the pressure in Syria, his options are actually severely limited.
According to Pavel K. Baev, a research professor at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo and a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, the combination of an ongoing military action in Ukraine and an ill-equipped force that went through an incomplete “reform” in the past decade has left the Russian military machine badly overstretched.
“The Russian intervention in Syria is only possible at all because the “hybrid war” in Eastern Ukraine, which has tied up the bulk of Russian combat-capable battalions, has seen virtually no use of the air force,” Baev wrote in a paper published on the Brookings website. “Moscow sought to use this free capacity for staging demonstrations of air power over the Baltic theater but encountered effective containment — it has since scaled down its provocations. Syria appeared an easier option, and the deployment of an air regiment to the hastily prepared Hmeymym airbase outside Latakia went remarkably smoothly. As the air war has moved into the second month, however, issues with its trajectory have emerged.”
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