Russia in Syria: Out of Area or Out of Business?

Rome–In the early 1990s, US strategic military planners worried that, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO would find it hard to make itself useful and just wither away.

No, Syria’s in the other direction.

The solution to the quandary (though why was defined as a quandary is anyone’s guess) was encapsulated by Indiana’s then-Senator Richard Lugar, who coined the spiffy statement that NATO had to go “out of area or out of business.”

That formulation was absorbed by the Clinton Administration and put into operation in the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. President Bush took NATO further afield by involving NATO in Afghanistan and to a minor extent in Iraq, where the organization agreed to defend Turkey in case of nuclear attack from Iraq, a country which, as it turned out, had no nuclear weapons.

US perfidy in launching the Iraq war  and botching of the eight=year occupation has made it unlikely that NATO will soon follow the US lead into more distant ventures. Moreover, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has woken up the organization to dust off focus on its original mission: to actually protect Europe.

Curiously, Russian president Vladimir Putin is following an out-of-area or out-of-business script similar to NATO’s two decade odyssey.

In Bosnia and Kosovo, the NATO took upon itself the task or bringing order to places beyond its border: pieces of the former Yugoslavia. In Putin’s view, Russia has the same mission in Ukraine, part of Moscow’s self-declared near abroad (see also: Georgia).

In Afghanistan, NATO took upon itself the mission of backing a US-led war on terror. Voila, or however you say that in Russian. Putin says he’s doing the same in Syria, though at the behest of a Syrian government that is itself largely responsible for nurturing terrorist hate through cruel governing. And no following the US lead, if there was one.

Will Vladimir have any more success in Syria than NATO seems to have had in Afghanistan, i.e., little? We’ll see. But in the meantime, he seems satisfied to have declared Russia the great power it once was and trying to put it back in business beyond its “near abroad.”

Time took up the parallel (referring to Ukraine) a year ago.

The Washington Institute tells why Russia’s there and its implications.

Daniel Williams

Published by Daniel Williams

I am a former correspondent who, for more than 30 years, did time in China, Southeast Asia, Central America, Mexico, the Middle East, Europe and Africa and covered wars that went from episodic to non-stop. My book, "Forsaken," about Christian persecution in the Middle East came out January, 2016. NextWarNotes is a news and analysis blog designed to fill gaps, provide background and think about what’s next. The name of the site comes from a 1935 article by Ernest Hemingway in Esquire Magazine called “Notes on the Next War,” in which he predicted the coming conflagration in Europe, told why it would happen and warned Americans to stay out.

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