Thursday, October 08, 2015

Russia has a lot of limitations on its military capabilities

What Max Fisher said.

But the problem isn't just the limitations on Russian military technology. Putin has also created political limitations which hamper Putin's reach. Syria has a coast line. Russia even has a naval facility on that coastline (the base at Tartus is Russia's only overseas (i.e. beyond the borders of the former U.S.S.R.) military base that it still has--or at least it was, until the recent Russian military build-up in Latakia). Why not just launch cruise missiles into Syria from the Syrian coast instead of launching them from the Caspian and hoping they don't crash as they pass over Iran and Iraq before they reach their targets in Syria?

They can't because it is not easy for Russia to get warships into the Mediterranean Sea. They have naval facilities on the Black Sea, but those ships can't get to the Mediterranean without passing through the Bosporus, which Turkey controls, and Turkey is at odds with Russia over its Syrian intervention. They could try to send a warship from further afield, but to get a ship from a Baltic Sea port (like St. Petersburg or Kaliningrad) means passing through the waters controlled by Denmark and Sweden, both NATO members who are also opposed to Russia's Syrian adventure. Russia could send a ship from one of its Arctic Ocean ports all the way around Europe, but even then, it would need to get through the Strait of Gibraltar, which is controlled by Spain and the U.K., more NATO countries. Its could also send a ship from one of its Pacific ports, all the way around Asia, through up the Red Sea and through the Sinai Canal. That might work (I'm not sure what Egypt would do or if the have the capability of blocking military traffic), but it would take a really long time.

So they are stuck with shooting badly guided missiles over two allied countries, hoping they don't accidentally blow up something important in that country, before hitting whatever they want to blow up in Syria. It's not a great plan, but it might be the best one they have if they want to continue with the Putin strategy.