According to military correspondent Mikhail Khodarenok, if Washington decides to eliminate the current Syrian government, Russia will not help Assad’s regime to resist – the Kremlin is not in a position to oppose a massive US strike.
In his article for Gazeta.Ru, he expresses the opinion that the reasons for a full-scale American attack against Assad may be another chemical attack and also the “disproportionate use of force by Assad against the armed opposition, or the violation of human rights and national minority rights”.
In the expert’s opinion, the US currently has all the necessary means to deal a series of blows against key faclilities of the pro-Assad infrastructure. More specifically, the US has:
- The George Bush aircraft carrier
- Two cruisers
- Two destroyers with guided missile weapons
- Presumably two or three multi-purpose nuclear submarines
- Tactical aircraft from airports in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait
- Strategic aircraft from airports in Great Britain and the continental US
- B-1 strategic bombers, deployed at the Thumrait Air Base in Oman
- Potentially another one or two air strike groups, two or three naval strike groups, several multipurpose Ohio-class submarines with cruise missiles, as well as tactical aircraft units from Europe and the continental US, deployed at air bases in the Middle East.
In the author’s opinion, the above-mentioned forces are either already in a full combat state, or they could be activated to carry out missions “in the shortest possible time”.
According to his conjectures, during the first military episode in Syria, the Americans could use as many as 1,500 sea and land-based cruise missiles.
He referred to the fact that during Operation “Iraqi Freedom” in 2003, during the first two days of the campaign alone, more than 400 sea and land-based cruise missiles were launched against targets in Iraqi territory. The total number of cruise missiles used during the armed conflict was in excess of 1,500. The US’s capabilities have grown significantly in the last 15 years.
The next, possibly parallel, stage in the attack on Assad would be massive bombardment of the regime’s targets using anti-bunker and super heavy bombs, the analyst notes, adding that in this case Assad’s followers will have no chance of escaping death.
He outright denies that Moscow has any chance of opposing the American operation, for a number of reasons:
- The tiny number in military standards of armed forces in the region, only several thousand military personnel
- Several dozen aircraft, of which only a few are modern
- Two incompletely fitted S-300B and S-400 surface-to-air missile divisions
The expert admits that in order to repel a real attack by the US in Syria, nearly half of the Russian army and navy would need to be deployed in this country, including dozens of fighter and bomber regiments, surface-to-air missiles and radio units, intelligence, electronic warfare and communications divisions and logistics facilities. However, no such maneuvers are expected from Russia.
Even if Russia considered repelling the United States’ attack, the author is uncertain of the military and political goals which would motivate Russia to get involved in an armed conflict of that scale which would also threaten to grow into an exchange of nuclear missile strikes. Acknowledging the conflicts between the countries, he does not see any which would justify “such an escalation”.
In the end, the Kremlin could be faced with a hypothetical choice, to face the existential risk of full-scale escalation with the US, or to surrender Assad, being “disgraced” and “effectively removed as a competitor in global politics”, the expert continued.