Putin is Turning up the Heat on ISIL
Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, is a man of many faces to people in the West. Some consider him a political strongman, others a thug, others a modern day reincarnation of a Tsar, others see him as a defender of Christianity and nationalism, and others a crypto-communist. Whatever Putin is, their is a bit of mystery surrounding him, partly a result of him being a product of Russia culture which has always been considered to be an aloof and mysterious culture from the perspective of a Westerner and partly from his stoic and undemonstrative demeanor. Rather comically and childishly a Pentagon study suggested that Putin’s behavior resulted from him suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, a diagnosis which shows both the lengths America will go to to denigrate their enemies and their total lack of understanding of Putin’s actual motivations.
But one thing we do know about Putin is he is not a weakling. Putin himself goes to great lengths, which at times approach the ridiculous, to promote the image that he is a tough and rugged man. There are official pictures of him riding a horse bare chested, hunting with a rifle bare chested (I guess he likes to show off his pecs), catching large fish in Siberia, hanging out with Russian bikers, Judo tossing people, helping to tag tranquilized polar bears and tigers, and going underwater in a submersible craft looking like a scene out of a Jules Verne novel.
While we may get a laugh out of Putin’s PR campaign, which aims to promote his manliness to the Russian people, the photos are not that far from the actual mark. Growing up in Saint Petersburg he would regularly partake in street fights, an activity which he enjoyed. He was a proficient competitor in Judo, a technical and powerful martial art that requires considerable physical and mental toughness to succeed at.
A former British ambassador to Russia, Tony Brenton recalled an encounter he had with Putin. During a meeting British intelligence officials were explaining their anti-terrorism policies to Putin, to which he responded with his own, much more simpler and direct anti-terrorism policy, “We kill them.”
Now with all this in mind, we come to ISIL, who Russia has been bombing in Syria for around a month now. In response to Russia’s bombing campaign against them, ISIL decided to exact retribution by blowing up in mid-air over the Sinai Peninsula flight 9268 killing 219 Russians. When I first heard news of the crash of flight 9268, the cause of which at the time was unknown, my default assumption was that ISIL did it–planes just don’t fall apart mid-air, especially over the ISIL infested Sinai. Based on Russia’s initial reaction and other considerations I figured that the Russian response to this terrorist act would be limited.
Firstly, Russian officials did not come out immediately and claim that ISIL destroyed the plane, and they seemed to quickly dismiss any such assertions. These initial denials were likely because if the Russian people found out that ISIL downed flight 9268 they may turn against Putin’s bombing campaign in Syria. Furthermore the incident was a humiliating blow to Putin showing that ISIL could successfully take revenge on Russia, somewhat defying his desired tough guy image.
The other consideration I had in mind was that, while Putin has shown his ruthlessness against his enemies when he leveled Grozny to the ground during the war with Chechnya, I did not believe he would employ such tactics in Syria, because Syria is under the watchful eye of his adversaries the American’s and one would expect they would make a fuss if he started leveling Syrian cities.
Well I was wrong. It looks like Putin doesn’t take crap from anyone anywhere and could care less about how America will respond. Quite frankly he is beginning to unleash hell upon ISIL in Syria.
When it was officially confirmed on November 17 by Russian officials that flight 9268 was brought down by an ISIL bomb, Putin’s response was in motion. His rhetoric against ISIL is like something out of an action movie. “To forgive the terrorists is up to God, but to send them to him is up to me,” Putin coldly remarked. He also said, “We are going to pursue terrorists everywhere. If they are in the airport, we will pursue them in the airport. And if we capture them in the toilet, then we will waste them in the outhouse. … The issue has been resolved once and for all.”
Maybe this was just rhetoric, like the rhetoric our Western politicians constantly barrage us with. But Putin is not like our politicians, he does in fact mean what he says. In response to ISIL’s attack Russia has unleashed it strategic bombing force of Bear (Tu-95), Blackjack (Tu-160) and Blinder (Tu-22) bombers. These formidable air craft have been augmented by scores of shipped launched cruise missiles and by the other fighter bombers already stationed in Syria.
The targets have been ISIL oil industry and their capital Raqqa. The Dayr al-Zawr oil refinery was struck reportedly killing 600 ISIL militants in one day. ISIL’s fleet of oil tanker trucks has also been targeted and over a five day period 1,000 of these vehicles have been destroyed.[6,7] According to Russian officials such air strikes are costing ISIL $1,500,000 per day of lost oil revenue.
Raqqa is also in the cross hairs of Putin’s vengeance and is receiving the same treatment that Grozny did. According to DEBKAfile, Russian bombers are systematically razing ISIL’s capital, regardless of civilians casualties. It is also being reported that Russia will send 150,000 troops to Syria. I am not sure if this report is accurate, simply because this is quite a large force for Russia to send Syria, especially considering the situation in the Ukraine, which could require Russian manpower there. Also the report states that Russia has called up 150,000 conscripts, which does not necessarily indicate that they will be sent to Syria. But regardless, Putin has turned up the heat on ISIL.
It appears that ISIL has made a mistake in targeting Russia for revenge by bombing flight 9268. Maybe ISIL has grown used to dealing with the other Western powers, who although they are fighting against ISIL, they are not fighting against them in any significant way. But Putin is not Obama the golfer, Hollande the imbecile (this is the name ISIL has given him), or Mama Merkel to name just a few. Tony Brenton has said that Putin’s rise to power in Russia was based on two attributes, “loyalty and ruthlessness.” ISIL is currently learning first hand about the latter to devastating effect.