Image courtesy of Freedom House via Flickr.
President Obama may criticize President Putin’s foreign strategy, but Russia has certainly been able to keep the rest of the world on its toes by acting swiftly and decisively.
This can be described as a “facts on the ground” approach: shifting the real conditions in countries like Ukraine and Syria by moving troops, thereby changing the situation in real-time for everyone involved.
Facts on the ground: How it works
This tactic of changing facts on the ground makes it difficult for other world powers to detect or anticipate Russia’s actions until they’ve seriously established military presence or taken game-changing action.
[contextly_auto_sidebar]It happened in Ukraine in 2014, when Russia strategically maneuvered military resources to support pro-Russian separatists, and eventually annex the region of Crimea. Such maneuvering adjust the facts on the ground to Russia’s advantage.
And now, Russia’s strategy in Syria reflects much of the same strategic maneuvering. With little warning or indication to motivation, Russia’s airstrikes against ISIS have appeared to target anti-Assad rebels — allies of the West.
Like it or not, the facts on the ground in Syria are now directly influenced by Russia’s intervention. Says John McLaughlin, former deputy director of the CIA, according to the Washington Post:
“These are facts on the ground… anything we do now will be conditioned by their presence and influence. This is a reality we now have to deal with.”
What it all means
Russia’s strategic military intervention in countries like Ukraine and Syria changes facts on the ground quickly, troubling countries like the US, which has been criticized scathingly for its inability to predict their actions.
In Syria, Russia’s deployment of 28 fighter aircraft and 2,000 military personnel was unprecedented.
But though swift maneuvering and occupation has leant advantage to Russia generally so far, their long game could be less successful.
Russia may hope to gain European favor by stabilizing the Middle East and easing refugee flight, but so long as they continue to support totalitarian leader Assad, favor from the Syrian people and their allies will remain scarce.
Should the country fail in Syria at cost of life and blow to an already suffering economy, they could be in even greater trouble without an obvious exit strategy.