As the Syrian crisis continues, Russia and the US are finding each other in an increasingly likely confrontation due to the continual out-manoeuvring by Russia in Syria.
In the last few days a number of announcements have been made by Russia and the US that suggests a build up to confrontation between the two superpowers. Is the world heading towards a World War 3 scenario?
Throughout most of the Syrian crisis, the situation was one of semi-covert proxy war. However, with recent developments the situation is now more of semi-open conflict between the United States and Russia.
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For instance, the potential for direct military conflict between the two superpowers became a much greater possibility earlier in the month when Russia “announced” that it was sending a number of Special Forces soldiers to Syria. The Wall Street Journal has since tried to represent these troops as having been transferred from Eastern Ukraine, a claim backed up by an anonymous “Russian official.” However, while it is clear that Russia is indeed operating via Special Forces in Ukraine, the likelihood that a loyal “Russian official” would reveal such sensitive information to the U.S. media is highly suspect.
Regardless, it was reported by Chris Hughes of the UK Daily Mirror in early October that Russia’s Spetsnaz unit were being moved to Syria in order to combat ISIS and other assorted “relatively moderate cannibals” and it is certainly within the realm of possibility and reasonable military strategy that Russian Special Forces have been deployed to Syria. Russia has officially denied the presence of Special Forces troops in Syria for the record.
The United States, however, is not even attempting to deny the presence of U.S. Special Forces troops in Syria and instead is advertising the plan publicly. Last week, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would be deploying 50 US Special Forces troops to Syria under the guise of “fighting ISIS” and engaging in “aid and assist” missions with forces fighting ISIS and ostensibly the Syrian government.
Of course, US Special Forces have long been active in Syria. From taking place in direct combat support missions for terrorist actors to logistical organization and spotting maneuvers, Special Forces have been having an a cogent effect on the ability of terrorist forces to mount militarily sound attacks on government held positions for some time.
According to Sputnik, these Special Forces are not only operating far afield in the East where ISIS and “relatively moderate cannibals” have a tight grip on territory, they are operating in the West, where the Syrian government is the dominant force and where the Russian military is assisting in the mop up of terrorists most heavily. Sputnik reports,
US military advisors are alleged to have started training so-called moderate rebels near the city of Salma in the Latakia province in what amounts to breaking a pledge not to put US boots on the ground in Syria, Lebanon’s satellite television channel al-Mayadeen reported, citing an unnamed military source.
If the reports, attributed to an “unnamed Lebanese source,” are to be believed, then US Special Forces are right in the middle of some of the heaviest fighting between Syrian government/Russian military/PDF and Western-backed terrorists.
On November 4, Reuters reported that Russian military personnel stationed in Syria now numbers around 4,000.
All of this taken together suggests that there is a very real possibility that the United States and Russia will soon see an escalation from semi-covert proxy war via terrorists and Syrian government forces (though one can hardly call Assad’s forces proxies for Russia) to open conflict between U.S. and Russian Special Forces on the ground.
The question then becomes “what will happen if Russian Special Forces engage in combat against terrorists supported by and embedded with U.S. Special Forces?” How far will this conflict escalate? Will the Americans respond? Will the Russians and the Americans being firing on one another?
Indeed, if the United States commits itself to stay the course until the conflict is brought to an end, a confrontation between the two forces is almost inevitable since the Russian goal is to secure the territory currently held by the Assad government before moving East.
The recent U.S. escalation has now placed the world in a precarious position where two nuclear powers are acting in such close proximity to one another militarily that one trigger happy pilot or even one trigger happy soldier could now plunge the globe into a nuclear holocaust.