Vladimir Putin — A Master Strategist

As most of the Western media churns out lie after lie about America’s intentions in the middle-east and about Russia and Vladimir Putin, occasionally, a few truths do come out. Daily Mail has been anti-Russia for a long time now, but the following assessment by John R. Bradley was fantastic and explains the brilliance of the master tactician Vladimir Putin.

As a craven West caves in to Putin, this could be the biggest shift in power since Suez, writes JOHN R. BRADLEY

The White House was caught off-guard by Russia’s shock announcement that it was declaring victory on its own terms in Syria. Remarkably, President Barack Obama, along with his Nato allies, only learned of this dramatic development in what is the world’s most strategically important war zone from an impromptu television appearance by Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. Perhaps we should not be surprised — both by Obama’s weakness and Putin’s fox-like guile. After all, when Putin first ordered his country’s vast military arsenal into combat in Syria five months ago, Western leaders (and their much-vaunted, network of intelligence agencies) were likewise caught napping.

There is, though, far more at stake here than the reputation of a soporific, lame-duck U.S. President as he staggers through his final months in office. For it is now clear that during those tumultuous five months, the Kremlin ran rings around other world leaders, consolidating its power and influence not only in Syria, but throughout the wider Middle East.

And it pulled off its Syria gambit on the back of its brazen military adventurism in Ukraine — something the international community was also unable, or unwilling, to confront in any meaningful way.
In light of Russia’s withdrawal from Syria, the contrast between decisive Putin and pusillanimous Nato leaders is starker than ever. The latter have merely repeated the tired mantra that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad must step down. They also watched as the biggest refugee crisis since World War II — brought on in no small part by the Syrian war — ironically created an unprecedented crisis of confidence among their own populations in the ability of their leaders to govern.

Especially sobering is that, by any objective measure, Putin’s bold but subtly worded claim that his armed forces have achieved ‘general completion’ of their strategic goals in Syria is a pretty accurate assessment of what has happened. Because at this stage, it seems Putin has managed to pull off his immediate strategic aim: to turn the tide of the civil war in favour of Bashar al-Assad and his brutal but secular regime, and thus guarantee the survival of the only steadfast Russian ally in the Arab world. For Russia has succeeded in helping Syria’s armed forces, who were on the brink of defeat six months ago, to almost see off the so-called moderate Syrian rebels backed by the West and its allies, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

According to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the short campaign managed to cut the supply of resources to these anti-Assad groups and kill more than 2,000 of them.
Syrian troops, meanwhile, liberated more than 400 settlements and more than 6,200 miles of territory, with the support of more than 9,000 sorties conducted by the Russian Air Force.
Russian claims of a limited victory are more credible than the vacuous and hubristic ‘Mission Accomplished’ declarations by our own leaders following the previous overthrow of the secular leaders of Iraq and Libya. Striking, too, is the contrast with our criminal lack of planning for a post-regime reality in those countries, which allowed for the terrifying emergence of Islamist terror outfits and which left our diplomatic standing in the region at a lower point than at any time in living memory.

Of course, our own policy towards Syria, too, looks equally shambolic. The thousands of Russian sorties against Islamic State strongholds over the past few months — which are to continue — brought into humiliating relief Nato’s relatively timid efforts in the country. While Putin’s forces were moving in for the kill against Assad’s enemies, our leaders were pathetically doctoring intelligence briefings in order to ‘sex-up’ our limited military successes while stubbornly sticking to a hare-brained idea of training an entirely new rebel army to topple the Assad regime and defeat the Islamic State. At a cost of billions of dollars, it predictably came to nothing. In contrast, Putin’s no-nonsense approach to Isis has not only weakened the group inside Syria but has also sent a clear message to other Islamic terror groups on Russia’s borders.

Of course, the fact that Russia’s withdrawal was timed to coincide with the new round of peace talks in Geneva is hardly coincidental. The wily Putin is able to cultivate the story of his military ‘success’ in Syria while promoting his own image as an international peacemaker. And in this way, Putin has not only demonstrated that the Russian military is to be reckoned with, but that it also has an indispensable role in determining the future of Syria and other world trouble-spots.

For, even if peace negotiations fail or if the Islamist rebels enjoy a resurgence, Russia has promised to return to the battlefield if necessary. Indeed, Syria’s Hmeimim airbase in Latakia and its Mediterranean port at Tartus will be protected by Russian warships and S-400 missile defence systems — on Europe’s doorstep. Western leaders, via Nato and their undemocratic Gulf allies, have been forced to soften their demands for Assad’s departure.

The result is that the thuggish Putin is viewed in parts of the world as someone who not only manifests diplomatic skills, but has the guts to confront the jihadist scourge come what may: a leader — albeit an autocratic one — who doesn’t show weakness under pressure. This impression has been reinforced by the web of alliances Putin has cleverly forged with other countries during the Syria campaign, further pushing Western leaders to the sidelines as Russia emerges as the new, power broker in the region. Perhaps most worryingly, he has been allowed to do this by Obama’s misguided decision to lift sanctions against Iran (a steadfast ally of Russia and Syria’s President Assad) shortly after Putin entered the Syrian war. There is another area where Putin has caught Western leaders napping. With the Assad regime propped up by the Kremlin and internal terrorist enemies seriously diminished, it seems that Russia’s long-held goal of building a lucrative and politically valuable gas pipeline through Syria to Europe looks like it will be achieved.

In addition, there are the billions of dollars to be made by the Kremlin from reconstructing Syria itself, a massive project that Assad will have little choice but to hand to Russian companies since the Damascus government owes the Kremlin an estimated $100 billion in outstanding debts. Meanwhile, Egypt, the most populous Arab country, has already thrown itself at Russia’s feet, signing arms deals worth billions of dollars and contracting a Russian company to build its first nuclear plant in the coastal city of Alexandria. Putin has even managed to forge diplomatic and military ties with the region’s two arch-enemies: Israel and Hezbollah.  Russia has been fighting alongside Hezbollah in Syria while co-ordinating with the Israeli air force — even, astonishingly, when it was attacking Hezbollah inside Syria.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that what Putin has achieved by helping the survival of Assad would represent the biggest shift in geopolitical influence in the Middle East since the 1956 Suez Crisis. For Assad would be the first Arab leader to survive Western attempts at regime change since Egyptian strongman Gamal Abdul Nasser.
Then, a failed attempt by Britain, France and Israel to seize Egypt’s Suez region — and its vital canal — marked the moment our commanding influence in the world came to an end, and pushed Egypt into the arms of the Soviet Union.
The Syria debacle may come to be seen as the moment the West conceded hegemony in the region to Russia.
It’s clear that in our post-nuclear weapon age, Putin understands that brash and unapologetic deployment of conventional forces is what gives countries military and economic dominance.

— JOHN R. BRADLEY (author of four books on the Middle East).

The original article can be found in this link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3494373/As-craven-West-caves-Putin-biggest-shift-power-Suez-writes-JOHN-R-BRADLEY.html