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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/11/16

The Russo-American conflict behind Syria

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Message Jean-Luc Basle

Are we fighting to remove a dictator or to prevent the construction of an Iranian-Syrian pipeline? Are we fighting the jihadists or for some other ungodly reasons? Could the objective be to dislodge the Russians from their Tartus naval base in Syria? Or is Russia trying to defeat jihadists in the Middle East before they create turmoil in Russia? Information is abundant, overwhelming even. It comes from government officials, the media and social networks. But is it information or disinformation? Could it be propaganda? Experts are not really helpful. There are two kinds: generalists and specialists. The first one gives an overview of the situation but misses out on the details. The second gets lost in the details with no comprehension of the overall picture. Are they independent or in the service of a cause?

How will this end? Cease-fires last a few days with each side blaming the other for breaking it. Washington hawks view a peaceful solution as a defeat. The United States must prevail. If it does, the underlying Russo-American struggle will move on to Ukraine. Russia will not sacrifice Moscow for Damascus but it might for the Donbass region. If it hangs on to Donbass, this means nuclear confrontation sooner or later. If it doesn't, it means being reduced to a United States' vassal status. An unappealing choice!

Time is of essence in this new Cold War. The balance of power between the two rivals is slipping in favor of the United States. At present, there is nuclear parity between the United States and Russia (4.500 nuclear warheads on each side). But, this will not last. Nuclear parity will soon be a thing of the past. In 2014, Barack Obama approved a one trillion dollar nuclear modernization program. Russia cannot keep up with such a plan. Its economy is less than one tenth of the American economy. The Soviets ran their economy into the ground trying to compete with Ronald Reagan's star war program. Vladimir Putin will not repeat that mistake.

Will the United States prevail in Syria? It's impossible to tell. Whether it does or not, fighting will resume in the Donbass region at some point. Putin will then have to make a decision: stand firm to avoid servitude or bow out. The Washington hawks know the dilemma they are cornering him into. They bet he'll give in, or be replaced by a more amenable person. But, he is not the type to surrender and the clock tells him to act now, regardless of the cost. In his June 17 th , 2016 press conference, he told foreign correspondents: "The balance of power is the absolute linchpin of international security." In reference to the American modernization plan, he added: "We know year by year what's going to happen and they know we know." He then said: "How can you not understand that the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction?" He knows time is working against him, and the end-game looks ugly.

Can China play a role in this incredible madness? China is the unwilling partner to this chicken-game. The undeclared choice Russia is offered is unacceptable to China, and to the rest of the world, for that matter. A nuclear conflict is obviously not a desirable option, and a Russian subjection would mean China is next on the list of future vassals -- an equally unpalatable alternative. So to get out of the dilemma Russia is boxed in, couldn't China act as a go-between and reason the two antagonists without delay? That's the layman's hope, for whatever it's worth.

PS It would appear that Russia is making headway in Syria. If so, the United States will up the ante. Putin will have a decision to make: follow suit or call it quit. Follow suit means getting caught in an Afghanistan-type quagmire. Call it quits means losing face and renewed turmoil in Ukraine that much sooner. The United States is in the driver's seat. It has ample resources to improve its strategic nuclear armament and alter the balance of power in its favor. The neoconservatives know it and are betting their strategy on it. "Endless money forms the sinews of war" -- Cicero.

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Jean-Luc Basle Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Former Vice President Citigroup New York (retired) Columbia University -- Business School Princeton University -- Woodrow Wilson School

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