The Great Military Bust-Out of this decade has many facets; they can’t all be retailed in a single post. There are more than the ones I will mention here, but the following list includes some of the most important developments affecting conditions over which the US has exercised supremacy for the last 20 years. The challenge is underway. The world will never revert to the post-1945 “Pax Americana”; whatever stability we enjoy in the future will have to be cobbled together out of a changed geopolitical landscape.
Syria and Southwest Asia
Syria is, in key ways, merely a geographic focus of a much larger regional upheaval. The Western media persist in misunderstanding the dynamics of this situation. Russia cannot and will not allow Syria to be guided into the hands of Islamist radicals by a Western-Arab consortium. As far as Russia is concerned, Erdogan in Turkey is already an Islamist with radical tendencies, and with Mohammed Morsi, “tendencies” are not even the issue: he is an out-and-out radical.
Russia sees this, in fact, more clearly than the West does. These men are Islamists. That doesn’t mean the West is bound to adopt a hostile position toward them. It would have been nice if we had established a more serious policy on state Islamism several years ago (something Bush as well as Obama could have done better on), and taken a greater interest in the outcomes of the Arab Spring – but we are where we are. Our policy now should be to discourage Islamist takeovers anywhere else, most particularly in Syria, and to build up economic and political power around the newly Islamist nations, and clearly indicate our intent to preserve – and improve and strengthen – the conditions of Western freedom. Doing this in Syria would be a signal victory.
But we are not pursuing any such policy. Instead, we are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in its effort to take over Syria (see here, here, here, and here as well). Remarkably, the Brotherhood-led Syrian National Council was close to strategic collapse earlier this year, but the Brotherhood’s fortunes have been revived by the combined assistance of the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Objectively, the Russians are not wrong to conclude that we intend to foster Islamism in Syria, as apparently in other Arab Spring nations as well.
Russia’s concerns with security in South Asia and the Middle East are coming to a head in September in the major exercise “Kavkaz 2012.” (Kavkaz means “Caucasus.”) Kavkaz 2012 will be the most comprehensively-scoped Russian military exercise in the Caucasus since the collapse of the Soviet Union, involving all of the conventional services, the internal security services, and even the “strategic” forces, which would include at a minimum the strategic rocket (missile) force and the strategic bomber force.
It is by no means improbable that the Russians will also simulate launches from ballistic-missile submarines – or, indeed, conduct live launches, although their incorporation in a strategic-defense scenario would be notional. The missile(s) would land, as usual, on the remote Kamchatka peninsula in the Far East. If the Russians wanted to make a really pointed statement, they could launch a missile to a “broad ocean area” impact point in the Pacific, something they haven’t done since the Cold War. They are likely to demonstrate their newest strategic missiles, in any event.
The use of strategic forces in a Caucasus-defense scenario opens up the possibility of simulated reactions against American allies, or even the United States. How it plays out will be informative, clarifying how the Russians see the security issues there, and sending a signal as to how they will respond to a US incursion (i.e., in Iran), should it occur.
The Russian forces deployed for Kavkaz 2012 in Armenia and the provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia – fully sufficient for a medium-scale military action – will also flank Georgia. Analysts have pointed out the alarm this must cause in Tbilisi, especially given the exercise’s objective of establishing “transit corridors” for the Russian military through Georgia, “if necessary.” Georgian independence remains a thorn in Moscow’s side; the Russians justify their posture with predictions that the US will operate out of Georgia if we or Israel go into Iran.