Is the Russian Army Fighting in Syria? Western Journalism taken to Task

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Is the Russian Army Fighting in Syria? Western Journalism taken to Task
Published 17-09-2015, 18:07
The "Arab spring" with all long-lasting consequences has become a cemetery not just for the military-political experts and analysts, but also for so-called "honest Western journalism." Despite the fact that the very fact of its existence was put under serious doubt in the course of Soviet-American and Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, the belief in its existence proved to be extremely tenacious. Including in our country, which still cannot get rid of the remnants of the Russia’s 1990’s national idea of bowing before "white man from the West".
September 6th, 2015

By: Valentin Domogadsky forPolitRussia-

Translated for Fort Russ by Soviet Bear -

The "Arab spring" with all long-lasting consequences has become a cemetery not just for the military-political experts and analysts, but also for so-called "honest Western journalism." Despite the fact that the very fact of its existence was put under serious doubt in the course of Soviet-American and Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, the belief in its existence proved to be extremely tenacious. Including in our country, which still cannot get rid of the remnants of the Russia’s 1990’s national idea of bowing before "white man from the West".

Photo: / "Nikolai Phylchenkov" with "unknown cargo" on deck.

Photo: / And a little closerПосмотреть полностью:
The war in Syria in which Russia is actively involved (logistically, advisory and politically) raises the problem of adequate perception of information. It is unlikely that we will be mistaken if we assume that for most the Russians who are concerned about politics this conflict is a logical continuation of the global Russian-American confrontation, the beginning of which can be considered an operation of forcing Georgia to peace. Therefore, any information regarding the failure of the Russian party in Syria faces very painful reaction of the Russian public.

Any local victories and successes of Moscow in the framework of the Russian-American confrontation — which, to our infinite surprise many interpret solely as "failures” is invariably accompanied by the activation of local and Western "unbiased” journalism. Servants of the pen and keyboard take the old notes of "cold war" from the bottom of their chests and begin to write. In particular, the adaptation of slightly outdated propaganda postulates led to a very exciting quest called: "Find a Russian soldier!” In combination with the legendary quiz called: "Predict the Russian aggression" the effect is just fantastic.

So, the American publisher - "The Daily Beast" in its fresh material from the first lines adds the emphasis:"It seems that games in Ukraine is not enough for Moscow, because last month there was a whole stream of messages about the build-up of Russian military presence in Syria."Well, then the author begins to "expose”.

In confirmation of the thesis of strengthening of the Russian military presence in Syria Michael Weiss cites a number of arguments. In particular, refers to the "Bosphorus Naval News", which were published on August 22, pictures of Russian ship "Nikolai Filchenkov" passing the Bosphorus strait with military cargo on the deck. [see photos above]

The photos are really very exciting, but the reaction of the writer is somewhat surprising. Deliveries of Russian military equipment to the Syrian government, as well as providing logistical support, held in the framework of the contracts signed even before the civil war (2007-2010). It should also be noted that Russia agreed with the "international community” and suspended fulfillment of arms contracts with Syria, but after the decision of the EU concerning the non-renewal of the embargo on arms supplies to the so-called "Syrian opposition" the appropriateness of this gesture was multiplied by zero.

Here it is necessary to evaluate the comedy of the story-line. Western and Arab journalists in a fit of righteous anger denounce Russia for providing military-technical assistance to an elected and absolutely legitimate government of Syria. Anti-Russian revelations are being presented under the sauce of "illegality” of such actions. But the whole point is that these journalists are citizens of countries that officially allocate tens of millions of dollars for training and arming "moderate opposition" units, created with the sole purpose to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. But the most comical is that they are confident that truth is on their side.

But let's move on to the next argument of the writer: "24 June Oryx Blog which monitors military developments in the Middle East and North Africa, found that at least one BTR-82A has been spotted off the coast in Latakia province, where the family of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is from."

The news is interesting because this model entered service within the Russian army as recently as 2013 (came off the assembly line in 2011), we are talking about deliveries under new contracts signed after the beginning of military conflict. Let's give the floor to the experts:

"The BTR-82 is different from the BTR-80, 30-mm cannon is mounted instead of the 14.5 KPVT machine gun which was already tested on the BTR-80A. But now the gun and twin machine gun are stabilized in two planes, which allowed to fire on the move. The machine is equipped with the TKN-4GA sight, it is able work at night, equipped with hidden laser illuminator. The armor of the machine is coated with a special ballistic material on the inside, and the bottom has a new energy-absorbing design with two-levels of defense and special seat suspension. The survivability of a modernized BTR increased by 20 percent."

Judging by the fact that the Syrian government forces armored park is being replenished even with the most recent developments of the Russian defense industry, Moscow came thoroughly to the issue of re-equipment of the Syrian army. At least, the term "Syrian Express" among those interested in the fate of the Middle East is no less popular than legendary Donbass "Voentorg”.

But, perhaps, an American journalist alludes to the fact that supplies of Russian armored personnel carriers BTR-82A are contrary to international law? Let's give the floor to the Deputy Head of the Russian Security Council Yevgeny Lukyanov:

"Russia has concluded an agreement with Syria on the supply of weapons, but only within the framework of conventional arms, which is not subject to UN sanctions. Moscow refrains from implementing agreements onanti-aircraft missile systemsS-300 and Yak-130 aircraft".

Let's continue quoting The Daily Beast: "But the most curious is the information that the official TV channel of the National defense forces have accidentally revealed in one of its news from the front in Latakia. The channel showed an armored personnel carrier in battle, but the Russian speech can be clearly heard in the report. These are the orders to the crew of the BTR-82A".

Further, the author gives not the correct translation. In the second minute quite clearly audible:

2: 03: "Go!".

02:06: "Throw!"

02:10 "one more time! Once again!"

02:30: "Peacock, peacock, (callsign) we moving out."

Given the poor quality of the video it is not possible to accurately determine who gives and who takes the orders, but considering that the video recorded the performance of the BTR-82A, with which the Syrian military is not really acquainted, one can assume that the voice in the video is addressed to the Russian-speaking crew of the armored vehicle. Allegedly the "drills in the field" were recorded in the video. The participation of Russian specialists in such events should not come as a surprise: for the Russian defense industry Syria is the most attractive testing ground. Remarkably, based on the episode from the Russian speech during the BTR-82A performance, the writer speaks of the monumental: "This is convincing proof that the Russians are in the Syrian army."

Next, Michael Weiss demonstrates the skill of a competent investigative journalism: "In May the commander of the elite airborne forces of Russia Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov said that he would gladly have sent "his paratroopers, if there was such task and the decision of the Russian leadership".

Leaving aside the fact that this statement was made in August instead of May, and there was no joy in direct speech of comrade Shamanov, quote from the original Russian source:

"Airborne troops of the Russian Federation are ready to help Syria to fight with terrorists, if such a task is put by the Russian leadership. This was announced on 4 August, the journalists, by the commander of the airborne troops, Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov: "we will comply with the decisions taken by the leadership of the country, if the task is given – we will fulfill it” - said Shamanov, answering the question of the Syrian journalist about the readiness of the airborne troops to assist the government of the middle Eastern country in the fight against terrorism".

This statement caused a lot of noise at the time, and it’s not even the fact that it is actively used by Western journalists. This is their livelihood. I’m astonished with the reaction of our "armchair generals", which in the provision of international assistance to the brotherly people of Syria, ready to gratuitously send Russian tanks with Russian crews to Damascus for free. In any quantity. It is difficult to explain the logic of such proposals, but can hardly be mistaken if we assume that it is just a manifestation of nostalgia for Soviet policy in Asia and Africa - noble, but senseless and merciless.

With specific regard to the statements by Vladimir Shamanov, only Western journalists or the Russian bloggers can search for hidden clues. There was a question from a journalist — was the answer from the military man. If their will be the order – we will obey. And whether there will be an order or not – you should ask the political leadership of the country not the commander of airborne forces. The leadership, however, unlikely to share their thoughts on this, but in this case we can see only speculators, which are online telling your readers about the life of each tower of the Kremlin.

However, it is worth noting that Michael Weiss looks very presentable compared to his colleagues. Unlike the vast majority of foreign journalists who have dedicated themselves to the search for the Russian army outside Russia, Michael appeals to a specific factual basis, in his "investigation" he is quite consistent, and in general it felt that the writers understands what he wrote. There is no doubt that this material will find its audience in the West.

Separately it is necessary to mention the source of the September hysteria on the subject of the Russian military in Syria. On August 31 Israeli news website Ynetnews in the material under the heading "Russian jets in Syrian skies" informed that on the territories near Damascus controlled by Bashar al-Assad a striking squadron with Russian pilots is being formed. The gossip could be ignored, if not epic PostScript that in the near future about 1 thousand Russian soldiers will be deployed in Syria. According to the laws of information warfare this information was provided to the Israelis by the "sources in diplomatic circles”

Overall, even a cursory view of the news (2012-2015) on the increase of Russian military presence in Syria makes us to pay attention to the primitive presentation of information. The news of another movement of Russians to aid of Bashar al-Assad has been appearing consistently on the information resources of average attendance. The information comes in the grasping hands of journalists solely from "trusted sources in the government / intelligence / diplomatic circles". The news are usually accompanied by thematic photo, which, according to the writers, must demonstrate the Russian presence in Syria. Israeli source Ynetnews, for example, attached a photo of the Russian MiG-21 "stuck" to the aircraft-refueling. It looks really epic.

However, the resonance of another Israeli throw no the fan in its kind, is not unique. In 2012, the news of all the world's media outlets were full of loud headlines about the Russian special forces, who arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus in the holds of the tanker (!) "Iman". The source of the sensation was field paper of some factions of the Syrian opposition. Further information from "a reliable source" has migrated to the Israeli website "DEBKAfile", whence they appeared in news feed "Al Arabiya". The endpoint of this rumor turned out to be the Qatari "Al Jazeera".

Returning to the recent surge of increasing Russian military presence in Syria, we are obliged to quote the U.S. state Department spokesman Mark Toner:

"We have seen various reports in the press that it is possiblethat Russia sends military aircraft to Syria. I can only say thatwe are closely monitoring the situation. We study it. We are in contact with our partners in the region, trying to get more information. We are not sure for what purpose it is done and if it’s done at all. But, of course, we do express our concern about any attempt to support the Assad regime with military men,aircraft, any supplies or funding, because we believe that it is destabilizing and counterproductive step".

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