by Stephen Bryen
I really like Marco Rubio as a Senator and as a candidate. But I think he is stepping into some big time quicksand with his position on Russia. He is proposing another cold war, a bunch of sanctions on the Russians, especially on Gazprom, and is critical of Russia’s activity in the Ukraine and Russian support of the Syrian regime. These proposals, to dignify them beyond the rhetorical, really won’t accomplish anything at all, even if they were actionable. Rubio’s proposals are akin to the latest leaks from the Pentagon, that somehow the United States is going to come to the aid of our “clients” in Syria since the Russians are bombing them. Exactly how is hard to see and could lead to a general war which is in no one’s interest.
Even if all the complaints against the Russians were certifiably 100 percent true, which is not the case, challenging the Russians means we would have to show we are militarily capable of doing so.
We are not. The US military is worn down, lacking equipment, and behind the power curve in critical areas of modernization, such as air power. Even more to the point, our alliance system is fading into history as the Russians put pressure on some of our NATO partners including Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland. We are doing almost next to nothing to beef them up while spouting a lot of words about Ukraine and Syria.
In the real world there is a lot of blame all around, and a lack of creativity by our government. As the Republicans have failed so far to offer any sensible alternative, we probably have to expect things to go south even more than now.
If Rubio wants to make a useful speech he can talk about rebuilding our military and strengthening the NATO alliance, or at least supporting our allies who face Russian power.
The idiotic notion that our clients in Syria, the likes of al-Nusra and al-Qaeda should be defended by US military power is disgusting in the extreme. But that is the burden of what the Obama administration and Rubio both are saying.
What would happen if our Syrian clients “win” against Assad? Would the civil war just end? Of course not, Along with a power struggle among the Islamic radicals that ISIS will probably win, there will be an unprecedented bloodbath as the Sunni’s slaughter the Alawites, the Kurds, the Druze and anyone else they don’t like.
If you look at where we are, the US is supporting a so-called “coalition” sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Turkey made up of Islamic radicals and a sprinkling of what we choose to label as moderates. Except we are against ISIS because ISIS directly threatens Iraq and Saudi Arabia, even though it too is Sunni.
While the American policy is cynical, so too is the Russian. The Russians are in bed with the Iranians and Hezbollah. A smart US policy would have been to cook a deal that would have pushed the Iranians and Hezbollah out of Syria in exchange for our cooperation and a transitional government. But Obama and Kerry were unwilling because it is not what Saudi Arabia and Turkey want. So now they are having extreme stress because the Obama policy is in tatters and Assad may survive thanks to the new coalition the Russians have formed that includes Iran and Iraq as well as Hezbollah, reportedly with headquarters in Baghdad. Wasn’t it Iraq that we fought to make democratic and pro-American? Seems like another failure, and one that cost a lot of blood and treasure.
I don’t know what Rubio is thinking. Rubio should be talking about America’s policy failures and the systematic weakening of our military and of NATO. More sanctions on Russia won’t fix anything and could backfire to the degree that the Europeans decide to do deals with Moscow. That’s another trap it looks like we won’t avoid.
Rubio is a very smart fellow. Maybe he will think a little more before he makes proposals that put us deeper into the quagmire.