Diplomatic talks with Russia are shutting down. Words and conversations do not matter and action remains the final negotiation. The goal on the battlefield will be to remove the Russian air threat, which is both a threat to our proxy elements and behind a humanitarian crisis.
It’s been over two years since the Russian surface-to-air missile brought down a commercial airliner over Ukraine. Today, the airspace remains a de-facto ‘no-fly zone.’ It exposed the brutal repercussions of MANPADS entering the battlespace. A similar scenario is beginning to play out in Syria. Just now, the U.S. State Department announced it is going to cease the diplomatic conversation with Russia. Citing the Russians have violated the ceasefire on several occasions and have proved uncooperative. The world needs diplomacy to work, at least, for a little while longer.
The next step is an escalation. Yes, we share a goal with Russia to eliminate ISIL. But ISIL is also a force present in the Middle East and North Africa. Russia has flexed low flying aircraft to dominate the battlespace in Syria and Aleppo. Regardless of the cease-fire hostilities have continued to rage in Aleppo. The UN has come out against Russia and Syria because the violence is taking the lives of children in Aleppo.
In light of work in the UN by Russia and their reported unwillingness to be cooperative in diplomatic talks, we might be making the right decision. But, the alternative is not necessarily an improvement. It most likely means increased arms and funding were flowing into Syria, propping up the war economy as our proxies move in on Aleppo, ISIL, and the regime. In reality, that’s too much to ask and unlikely to work before 2020 without an enabling ground presence.
We know that MANPADS might be headed into the Syrian theatre. As diplomacy continues to crumble – is there any doubt “Plan B‘ has encroached to Plan A? Plan A would make a big difference. The impact on the battlefield would be immense. It would mirror the success story of the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980’s. The same tale romanticized in the film “Charlie Wilson’s War.” However, we have a better example in Ukraine. In Ukraine, the result was a loss of civilian life. People who have little role to play in the civil war were killed for no apparent reason. Now, most private air travel is restricted over Eastern Ukraine. It’s become too dangerous.
The rhetoric today insists that we will not have a ground presence in Syria. “No boots on the ground,” is the resounding refrain. If so, with surface-to-air missiles flowing in the battlespace, who is going to venture in there? As hostilities calm – more UN and other organizations are undoubtedly going to flow into the country. Worse is a scenario where Al-Qaeda or unaffiliated Islamist extremists manage to take control of MANPADS. If the goal is to keep the Russians from using low flying aircraft in Aleppo and elsewhere, MANPADS would work to that effect. But it could also serve as a disincentive for any aircraft, from either side, to enter Aleppo’s airspace.
Featured image courtesy of eaworldview.com.