[Strategic Intelligence] Russia likely to bomb U.S. forces in Syria — on purpose

An analysis by Tom Rogan in the Washington Examiner makes a dire prediction: Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to order his air force in Syria to intentionally bomb U.S. forces and their allies, as a way of testing President Donald Trump. And there’s no telling where the escalation would go from there. Excerpts of the piece with a link for subscribers is below.

The one thing to keep in mind here is that the United States, of course, is a NATO member. If attacked, Article 5 of the charter states that all other NATO members are required to come to the defense of the NATO member under attack. Putin knows this. So would Putin risk this?

He might if he wanted to test the boundaries of NATO and break the alliance, as well as advance his objectives in the Middle East, as Rogan notes.

Here are excerpts of Rogan’s analysis:

Russia is likely to bomb U.S. ground forces in Syria in the coming weeks.

It’s a realistic assessment, not alarmism.

But when it comes to Russia’s growing threat to U.S. ground forces, I have three specific concerns.

First, there’s the context of escalating physical risk. As I noted in June and September, Russia has repeatedly threatened to attack U.S. personnel on the ground and in the air above Syria. Russian jets are also increasingly entered into U.S. controlled “deconfliction zones” east of the Euphrates river. That they are not responding to radio warnings (if they were, the F-22s wouldn’t have fired flares) suggests that Russian aircrews have been instructed to challenge U.S.-controlled airspace. Because of the political sensitivities and the risks of miscalculation involved in such encounters, Russian commanders are almost certainly operating under orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That speaks to the second concern, here: Putin’s strategic calculus in Syria.

Put simply, the Russian leader wants the U.S. out of Syria in order to advance his interests and those of his partners. Putin knows that while the U.S. retains a military presence in eastern and northern Syria, the Russians, Iranians, Turks, and Assad won’t be able to turn Syria into an artery of imperialism and sectarian terrorism.

Fortunately, Secretary of Defense James Mattis recognizes the reciprocal utility of a continued U.S. presence and President Trump seems to support him.

Still, if Putin believes that killing a few Americans with an “accidental” air strike would not meet retaliation and would help push the U.S. out of Syria, he’ll do just that.

But that’s only half of the strategic context.

Read the rest here.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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