Say what you will about Russia.  There are some things that are axiomatic.  One is that the Russians have no base in the Mediterranean to take the place of Tartous.  They have also spent over 1.5 billion dollars refurbishing and restoring the base.  The Admiral Kuznetsov is stationed there along with a full battle group.  Another warship is now crossing the Bosporus from the Black Sea port of Sebastopol and will be in Tartous by Sunday, at the most. 

Secondly: This has been tossed around by so-called “experts” for months now: Russia is miffed about  Western trickery at the U.N. that led to her abstaining on the vote to authorize force in Libya to “protect civilian lives”.  That resolution resulted in “regime change” with Russia’s client, Colonel Qaddhafi, being hunted down and killed, “execution style” by some smiling little street urchin who wasn’t worth a tinker’s damn.

It is obvious that the Colonel has looked better in the past.  Here he is after being shot at point-blank range by an adolescent Libyan barbarian.  Russia did not approve of the Stalinistic way he was dispatched.

Thirdly:  Russia has a vested interest in Syrian military power in the Eastern Mediterranean what with all that natural gas off the coast of its client state of Cyprus, the Lebanon and Syria.  We have written about this before in previous analyses.  But it’s time to put it, once again, on the radar screen.  Turkey is trying to shoehorn itself into the EU by relieving the Euro states of the monopolizing stranglehold with which Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas-producing giant, clutches the Western windpipe.  The huge gas reservoirs under the sea off the Lebanese and Cypriot coasts mean European freedom, if only the damn Russians would remove their naval base.  Not likely. Vladimir Putin is fully aware of the ramifications of Turkish control of the seabed and won’t allow it.  By the way,  Cyprus, besides being mostly Greek Orthodox like Russia, is also a member of the EU but totally living off Russian purse strings.      

Fourthly:  Russia’s influence with Syria is getting a lot of attention at a time when Vladimir Putin is flexing the big bear’s muscles on every level.  Iran maintains excellent relations with the Kremlin and trade between the two countries is brisk.  That Iran has a painful grip on the Persian Gulf’s main artery at Hormuz is not lost on the subtly conniving Russians. Iran also buys weapons systems and has immense influence in neighboring Iraq.  But Syria, keeps the Russian game alive with its key role in arming Hizbollah and influencing events in financially powerful Lebanon.  It is Russia’s grand global game which must be watched.

Fifthly:  Russia benefits from European and American bumbling.  When Russian anti-aircraft missiles knock down a Turkish jet over Syrian territorial waters,  potential clients pay attention.  Syria’s judicial use of its Pantsyr M-100 anti-aircraft guns demonstrated the high-tech character of Russian arms and radar.  Syria did not even use Russian-supplied S-300 missiles.  And just recently, Syrian naval exercises supported by air power and anti-ship cruise missiles were deemed so successful that Russian t.v. trumpeted openly the ability of their client state to “thwart any attack”.  It’s not easy to get advertising like this.  All this makes NATO look feeble and ineffective. 

You’ve seen this photo before on our blog; it shows Putin’s steely eyes; his Cold War mindset; his confounding ability to absorb complex issues; his seeing through Western machinations.  

At the sixth level:  Russia plays the diplomatic game so cleverly that sometimes it does not seem possible that human beings are behind all the moves.  It must be coincidence married to fantasy.  Yet,  as we all watched the plangent rise of American and European propaganda, month after month during the Syrian affair, we noted that the Russians consistently modulated their position on Dr. Assad – sometimes making remarks to the press which hinted at their indifference to his survival.  Today there was talk that Russia was “restricting” weapons deliveries to Syria except those for which there were already paid contracts.  This was a bow to Annan’s efforts to mediate the “crisis” in Syria.  It was a slap on the shoulder for Mr. Annan.  It was Russia tweaking its policies to match the West’s, which now seemed all the more belligerent, while Moscow’s seemed all the more pacific.  It is genius chess playing.   

                                       Here Kofi Annan graces the cover of Mad Magazine.    
But don’t ever get distracted by the thrust and parry in Russia’s balletic foreign policy performance.  In the final analysis, you see, Syria has so many contracts for Russian weapons that restricting their delivery seems almost a joke. 

At the seventh level, Russia knows that the Syrian armed forces have not folded or fallen apart.  This was very crucial to their willingness to carry out weapons contracts and deliveries of crucial anti-terrorist materiel to the Syrian army.  The trust which they have shown in Maj. General Dawood Rajiha’s abilities, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, is remarkable.  They view him as reliable and committed.  Unlike the United States and the Europeans who must deal with a veritable hornet’s nest of incongruous and motley opposition figures, Russia seems to have found a solid core in the command hierarchy of the Syrian armed forces.  This is very reassuring and promises even greater support for Dr. Assad.   

On the eighth level:  Russia knows Dr. Assad is more popular than unpopular.  They know the Saudis and their simian cousins, the Qataris, are brewing up this storm because of their bigoted and ignorant hatred of all things Persian or Shi’i.  But the Saudis and Qataris are also very vulnerable as our readers shall soon find out when Hell breaks loose in the Gulf area and the “royal” Morlocks are seen rushing in their soiled dishdashas to the nearest American airbases to fly out to Paris or London.  The Russians have a long-term strategy which sees Russian warships in the Indian Ocean and gulf oil flowing through control towers leased by the Kremlin.

Watch tomorrow.  Annan is going to condemn the West and its Syrian militarized allies for defying his Six-Point plan.  The Russians have sculpted Annan’s persona and he has no choice in the matter.