Home / In Depth / American missile strikes in Syria throw down the gauntlet to Russia. How will Putin respond?

American missile strikes in Syria throw down the gauntlet to Russia. How will Putin respond?

By Dr. Leon Tressell & Rosa Tressell * —

The cruise missile attacks launched by America and its allies France and Britain have escalated the Syrian conflict to dangerously high new levels. Trump has declared “mission accomplished’’ with the missile strikes. We can leave the relative failure of the cruise missile strikes, 71 out of 103 were allegedly shot down by Soviet era air defence systems such as the S125, to another discussion.


The missile strikes have not solved any of the military, economic and political consequences of the conflict. They have only served to exacerbate them.


The latest military adventure of American imperialism poses several question: Are we any closer to a resolution of this terrible conflict? How will Putin respond to this massive attack upon a close ally?


On the one hand we have further warnings from Trump and his puppet allies that any further use of chemical weapons by Assad will draw an even stronger response from the West. Meanwhile, the “moderate rebels’’ aka the Heinz 57 variety of Sunni terrorist groups are screaming that the missile attacks were a ‘farce’, while they steadily lose ground on the battlefields of Syria.


The use of chemical weapons in Syria follows a clear and consistent pattern. Whenever, the ‘moderate’ terrorist groups are losing a particular battle they use groups that are propaganda fronts, such as the White Helmets, to scream “Chemical Attack By Assad’s Forces’’.


The Russo phobic mainstream media and their corporate masters in Congress pick this up immediately and start hysterically denouncing Assad and Russia for crimes against humanity. At the same time they insist upon the need for humanitarian bombing to deter any further chemical attacks.


The hysteria builds up and up leading to fruitless debates at the U.N. Security Council where the U.S. and its coalition of the killing can denounce Assad and Putin as different versions of Hitler, monstrous animals etc. After failing to get the sanction of international law, through the auspices of the U.N., the coalition of the killing, believing in their god given mission to police the world, then resort to cruise missile strikes. Which brings us back to our original questions: Will these missile strikes bring peace any closer in Syria? How will Putin respond to these attacks upon a strategic ally?


It is quite clear that with Trump in the saddle the Western imperialist powers are renewing their attempt to overthrow Assad by any means necessary. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has made this clear in recent tweets condemning the U.S. missile attacks upon Syria:



The people of Syria desperately want to live in peace & do not want their country to be taken over by genocidal terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. If we are truly concerned about the suffering of the Syrian people & bringing about peace & stability … (1/2)




so refugees can return home & begin to rebuild their lives, then we should work for peace, end our policy of interventionist regime change wars and stop trying to be the policeman of the world. (2/2)


Economic sanctions will no doubt be stepped up, increasing the suffering of civilians, meanwhile the political drums to war will continue to resound while military assets are manoeuvred into place.


The current situation in Syria must be placed into the correct historical and geopolitical context.


The U.S. empire sees the removal of Assad as a stepping stone in its larger scheme of reasserting its control over the resources of Eurasia. This strategy has been outlined by Zbigniew Brzezinski  who has been the geopolitical brain of several presidents including Obama. In the introduction to his highly influential book, ‘The Grand Chessboard’, Zbigniew Brzezinski explains how imperative it is that U.S. foreign policy is geared to maintaining U.S. supremacy over Eurasia for this is central to, ‘America’s capacity to exercise global primacy’. Brzezinski reiterates the primacy of this theme again and again:


“Eurasia is thus the chessboard on which the struggle for global primacy continues to be played, and that struggle involves geostrategy—the strategic management of geopolitical interests. …it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus also of challenging America.’’


The U.S. strategy for full spectrum dominance over Eurasia will not be complete until the theocratic regime in Iran has been overthrown and a pro-Western puppet installed in power. Once this has been accomplished then the West can focus upon its ultimate goal of overthrowing the nationalist regime in Moscow and breaking up Russia into a myriad of small puppet states. The gigantic mineral resources and land mass would then be at the disposal of Western imperialism.


American imperialism has made it clear that it will proceed with the partition of Syria through its proxy Kurd forces in Eastern Syria and turn a blind eye to Turkey’s land grab in Northern Syria.


The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, whose is deliberately using provocative language towards Russia, has made it clear the U.S. has no intention on withdrawing its 2,000 troops from Syria.


Meanwhile, weapons, money, and manpower will find their way to support the jihad terrorist groups in Idlib, Raqaa, Aleppo and other provinces of the country.


The relative failure of the missile strikes must not be interpreted by Moscow as “victory’’ over Western imperialism. The USA and its allies are pressing Russia very strongly, with round after round of economic sanctions and the escalation of NATO’s presence up to its borders.


It is quite clear that Washington will continue to play the “Russia-gate’’ election meddling card as a diversion for the debt ridden populace whose total household debt has risen past the $13 trillion mark. Alongside this, it may well step up its propaganda offensive over the low level civil war in Ukraine as a further means of demonising Russia.


In many respects Trump and his coalition of the killing have put the ball in back Putin’s court.


Putin can continue to patiently play the diplomacy card while trying to build up Russia’s trade in non dollar terms, and acquiring more and more gold, while building ever closer economic, military and political links to China. Will this be enough to stave off further Western encroachments upon Russia’s economy and its geopolitical position in Syria and Eastern Ukraine?


The history of the Cold War and the appeasement period of the 1930s show that trying to negotiate while building up your economic/military resources is not enough to stop a “Terminator’’ like aggressor who just will not stop their aggressive actions towards you. During the Cold War there were times such as the Cuban Missile Crisis where U.S. imperialism was prepared to see nuclear armageddon rather than negotiate a compromise solution to the situation. It was only Kruschev’s willingness to back down, which cost him his position a year later, that averted World War 3.

Cuba was thousands of miles away from Russia so Khrushchev could afford to make such a climbdown. However, if he had been faced with U.S. aggression on Russia’s border then that would have been a completely different and much more difficult situation.


During the Cold War American imperialism was the dominant economic power on the planet which led to its aggressive foreign policy in defence of that economic position. Now the American empire is in decline it has become even more aggressive in a desperate effort to maintain its hegemony over the global economy. This imperial overreach is driven by several interlinked processes. Central to these processes has been the qualitative change to the nature of capitalism itself.


Global capitalism, whose epicentre remains the United States has been suffering from a general tendency towards stagnation since the 1970s. This has been partially solved for short periods of time by the financialization of the world economy that has provided an outlet for the development of a huge orgy of speculative capital to produce massive returns. This greater financialization of the global economy has increased the rate of wealth transfer to the super rich built upon a gigantic explosion of debt that has built instability into the foundations of capitalism. The dangers of this for the imperial centre of capitalism in Washington are clearly defined by the economic historians John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff:


“The financialization of capitalism has resulted in a more uncontrollable system. … a clear sense of the growing volatility and instability of the system. It is characteristic of speculative bubbles that once they stop expanding they burst. Continual increase of risk and more and more cash infusions into the financial system therefore become stronger imperatives the more fragile the financial structure becomes. The whole context is that of a financialization so out of control that unexpected and severe shocks to the system and resulting financial contagion are looked upon as inevitable’’.


U.S. imperialism has increasingly relied upon ever greater infusions of debt into the capitalist system to maintain profitable outlets for finance capital. Finance capital must have free rein over the global economy to do as it pleases. It cannot afford to let upstarts such as Russia and China challenge its position of dominance over the resources and people of Eurasia. It is forced to take economic. political and military action to defend its interests. At the moment those interests are focused upon preserving its position in the Middle East. After “victories’’ in Iraq and Libya the U.S. feels threatened by Assad’s regime in Syria that is trying to pursue an alliance with a newly resurgent Russia under Putin. The logic of this policy means that U.S. imperialism cannot even countenance a compromise deal over Syria with Russia. Nothing less than the overthrow of Assad and the installation of a pro-Western puppet government will do.


This brings us back to Putin’s dilemma in Syria. The relative failure of the recent missile strikes in Syria has been celebrated by some in the alternative media as a ‘victory’ for Putin/Assad and that the U.S. will now refrain from any more attacks. Such a view fails to understand that U.S. imperialism, which is an empire decline, cannot afford to let its rivals such as Russia challenge its supremacy over the economic resources and politics of the Middle East. Putin understands this but is caught in a dilemma.


Putin represents the interests of the billionaire oligarchs, who emerged after the collapse of Stalinism and the reintroduction of capitalism in the 1990s. In the 1990s Putin was part of Yeltsin’s inner circle known affectionately as the “Family’’. Was their major concern the well being of ordinary Russian citizens? Of course not. It was the re-establishment of capitalism in Russia under the control of the oligarchs. Once firmly in power Putin has taken a more nationalist position than Yeltsin but still his foreign policy has followed the same lines of trying to maintain friendly, conciliatory relations with Western imperialism.


Circa 2018 Putin is subject to a number of major problems. Despite his election victory Putin is acutely aware that sections of the population, particularly the youth feel disenfranchised both economically and politically. Meanwhile, older generations still harken back to the stability and certainties of the Soviet period. Putin has played the nationalist card rather skilfully in an attempt to bolster support for himself while large sections of the public are critical of public institutions in general due to widespread corruption and poverty.


The Russian intervention in Syria has been used by Putin to appeal to nationalist sentiment amongst the population while also being motivated by military and geopolitical concerns.


Putin is no doubt happy with the progress of the Syrian Armed Forces and their shia allies, with the help of Russian air support, in gradually liberating region after region from jihadi control. However, he still has major problems with regard to his Syrian strategy.


There are the Kurds protected in Eastern Syria by the U.S. which is actively building military bases in that area. Just as big a problem is the wild card of Turkey. Putin has successfully pulled President Erodgan of Turkey in to the Russian sphere of influence by the oil pipeline and nuclear power plant deals they have signed. However, Erdogan is an unstable and unreliable ally who is trying to play off the U.S., its ally for many decades, against his new found ally in the form of Russia.


Putin now has the added complication of Western imperialism resorting to open military intervention, after the failure of their jihadi allies to overthrow Assad’s government. The U.S. has made it clear that any more chemical attacks and the next missile strike will be much more formidable. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has warned Russia and Assad that President Trump has:


“made clear that the United States of America is prepared to sustain this effort to re-establish the deterrent framework that exists in order that the Syrian regime and its patrons know there will be a price to pay if chemicals weapons are used again against men, women and children,”


Recent history has show that as sure as night follows day the genocidal jihadi groups will try and repeat their tired old trick of screaming “chemical weapons’’ if they keep losing ground on the battlefield. The Russian Foreign Ministry have warned of these tactics repeatedly in recent months.


Now Putin has to face up to the fact that Western imperialism will continue using this   propaganda ruse as an excuse for much greater missile attacks against Assad and his military over the next period. What are his options?


He can simply try and wait it out until the jihadi groups have all been defeated by the SAA and its allies. A dangerous tactic as this may take some time yet, particularly the jihadi bastions in Idlib province.


Putin could try once again the diplomatic card and try to stall further U.S. military action. Yet he is aware the U.S. has no intention of leaving Syria over the next period and is waiting like a hawk for further excuses to attack/overthrow his ally President Assad.


Putin could send the latest military hardware to Assad such as the S300 and S400 with which to defend Syria from future attacks. A recent report on RT quoted General Staff Spokesman General Sergey Rudskoy lent some credence to this prospect:


I would like to note that a few years ago, taking into account a pressing request of some of our Western partners, we stopped supplying S-300 air defence systems to Syria’’. But given the recent missile strikes Moscow believes it is “possible to return to mulling over the issue, and not only with regard to Syria but also to other states as well.”


The problem with this approach is that Russia is continuing with its appeasement of Western imperialism. The general notes how Moscow has not armed Syria with S300 systems out of deference to its “Western partners’’. Has concern for Russia’s feelings stopped the U.S. from installing its Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence System in Poland and Rumania? Of course not.


Putin could of course, promise Assad that Russia will shoot down any future missile strikes entailing the risk of course of open military confrontation with the U.S. and its allies. This is something he is loathe to do as ultimately he just wants peaceful cohabitation with the West not war.




Russia under Putin’s leadership faces some major geopolitical and military dilemmas in Syria and Ukraine over the next period. Is Putin going to carry on letting Western imperialism box him into a corner where a future conflict is on ground chosen by his enemy? He must be aware of the potential for NATO to use the civil war in Ukraine as an excuse for military provocations upon Russia’s borders. Even worse, use Ukraine as a springboard from which to foment a colour revolution within Russia itself.


He does of course, have the other courses of action open to him. First, of all Russia must recognise that Western imperialism cannot be negotiated with. This does not mean that diplomacy is abandoned but recognise its role as a delaying tactic. Instead, Russia has to be far more assertive making its enemies think twice about the potential costs of military action against Syria or in Ukraine.


Putin should not hesitate in sending S300 systems to Syria and other military equipment that would helps its air defences. To cement the position of its Syrian ally and deter future unilateral action by U.S. imperialism Putin must up the stakes and make it clear that Russia’s armed forces would shoot down any future missile attack upon Syria. This would echo the military guarantees that the U.S. has given dozens of countries that are part of its military alliance know as NATO.


Putin could of course, take action to hasten the demise of the Petro-dollar and U.S. treasury debt that have been used for decades to fund the American war machine. Of course, such a course of action is fraught with risk as the global capitalist economy is more interconnected than ever before.


Putin can take some comfort from the impending economic crash coming to the U.S. economy due to the unsustainable mountain of public and private debt that it has accumulated. As the Fed and its allies in the ECB, BoE and BoJ stop money printing and raise interest rates then the subsequent crash in stock and bond markets will strike hard into the achilles heel of the U.S. war machine. How will the United States continue to pay for such a massively over bloated military when its bond market crashes? I suppose it could resort to the printing presses and QE4 which will finally bring about the long delayed reckoning with hyperinflation which will destroy the U.S. dollar.


Putin will have his own hands full when the next global economic crisis hits but can take some comfort from the impending bankruptcy of his American rival. The history of the British Empire shows that once its economic foundations have gone then military decline inevitably ensues.


*Dr.Leon Tressell is a historian of geo-politics. His PhD thesis looked at international relations in the 1930s leading up to World War 2. He articles on geo-politics have been published on sites such as Vineyard of the Saker and South Front.
*Rosa Tressell is a long time collaborator with Dr.Tressell and has a first class degree in history and politics.



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