THE BLOG
06/10/2015 06:14 BST | Updated 04/10/2016 06:12 BST

Is Putin's Syria the Road to Armageddon?

This time it's not Crimea or Ukraine but President Bashar Hafez al-Assad's Syria where Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun to establish his very own 'Caliphate' in the Middle East. And because he has 'The Bomb' nations stand by helplessly as he defiantly ignores their condemnation and doesn't even wait to see if anyone will lift a finger to stop him.

This time it's not Crimea or Ukraine but President Bashar Hafez al-Assad's Syria where Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun to establish his very own 'Caliphate' in the Middle East.

And because he has 'The Bomb' nations stand by helplessly as he defiantly ignores their condemnation and doesn't even wait to see if anyone will lift a finger to stop him.

Although President Obama said during his press conference on Friday that he has decided not to directly confront Russia over its new air offensive, believing that Putin will soon find himself in a Syrian "quagmire," he has approved a new escalation of U.S. efforts against the Islamic State.

It seems the Obama Administration is betting on Putin's Syrian involvement turning out the way The Soviet Union's did in Afghanistan - as a failure both internationally and domestically.

In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to prop up its communist government.

The Mujahedeen in Pakistan formed an alliance to fight the Soviet Union and in 1986 the U.S. began to supply the Mujahedeen with Stinger missiles enabling them to shoot down Soviet helicopter gun-ships. (See the film "Charlie Wilson's War" with Tom Hanks in the title role)

In 1988 Afghanistan, the USSR, the U.S. and Pakistan signed a piece accord, and the Soviets abandoned their nine-year war in Afghanistan.

It is believed that the last Soviet involvement in Afghanistan almost bankrupted the USSR and lead Mikhail Gorbachev to pursue "glasnost" and "perestroika"--and the unravelling and dissolution of the Soviet Union.

A "quagmire" is also an interesting word for any U.S. president to use especially one who has been trying to extricate himself from both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - where last Saturday a U.S. led coalition airstrike on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) in Afghanistan's Kunduz province killed at least 22 people including patients, children and staff members.

The overall U.S. military involvement in this region and its seeming lack of success to make real and permanent progress is becoming increasingly unpopular with the American public with Election Day 2016 just a little more than a year away.

What seems sadly clear in both Iraq and Afghanistan is that the hard-fought victories the brave U.S. and Coalition forces have gained seem to be slowly unravelling in a part of the world that has stubbornly resisted what we all consider western style progress for decades.

President Obama also was clear during his press conference that "we're not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia. That would be bad strategy on our part. This is a battle between Russia, Iran, and Assad against the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people. Our battle is with ISIL, and our battle is 'with' the entire international community to resolve the conflict in a way that can end the bloodshed and end the refugee crisis, and allow people to be at home, work, grow food, shelter their children, send those kids to school. That's the side we're on."

President Obama continued "This is not some superpower chessboard contest. And anybody who frames it in that way isn't paying very close attention to what's been happening on the chessboard."

Unfortunately, just like everything else in the Middle East nothing is very clear or simple.

The time when America and the West might have made a quick and decisive impact on the events in Syria is long gone.

The U.S. and its Allies, who were already war weary when it might have been easier to make a difference in Syria, did their best to steer clear of that conflict.

Now Syria has become a failed state - a magnet, haven and training ground for various terrorist groups including ISIL, and now the source of the greatest refugee crisis since World War II as literally millions of fleeing men, women and children seek comfort and asylum in a most unaccepting and now frigid environment.

With 14 months left before he vacates the Oval Office this president would very much like to move on to other more legacy-rich accomplishments other than his involvement in two wars which, to be fair, he inherited on that freezing cold day back in January 2009.

Russia is now well into a bombing campaign and additional military action in Syria and according to Russian Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Head Alexi Pushkov this action could last 3 to 4 months. So they are clearly committed to this effort.

In a sign of disdain and utter contempt, not long after the 90 minute meeting between President Obama and Russian President Putin at the UN on Monday, September 28, Russia gave the U.S. lead coalition only one hour's notice before they began their bombing campaign.

On Thursday, as the U.S. and its allies continued their military actions to defeat ISIL in Syria, "Inherent Resolve" Spokesman Colonel Warren in the Pentagon Press Briefing Room responded to a question about the dangers of the associated topic of de-conflicting with Russian operations, air operations:

"So, we're continuing our strikes. We have not altered operations in Syria to accommodate new players on the battlefield. There's been a lot of talk about crowded skies. I've seen that written a few times. I think it's important to keep in mind that these -- these air operations, while there's always the potential for miscalculation and for accidents, it's important to remember that it is -- there is a lot of square miles in Syria."

In a joint statement on Friday, Oct 2 with the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Gulf Arab allies, Turkey said Russia's actions constituted a "further escalation" of the conflict and would only fuel more extremism.

And let's please not forget Damascus, Syria is less than 100K or 60 miles from the Israeli border.

So we now have two nuclear powers with "The Bomb" Russia & The USA engaging in military bombing campaigns in Syria perhaps wing-tip to wing-tip with limited or no military coordination just across the border with Israel, another nuclear power with "The Bomb" - Hey! What could possibly go wrong???

Keeping in mind what good ol' DefSec Don Rumsfeld said during the aftermath of 'Shock and Awe'..."Stuff happens"

Well what about during the Fog of War or during the Fog of Unintended Consequences of Unintended Confrontations?

Just look at the U.S. led Afghan airstrike on the Kunduz hospital.

Who Is Responsible? Who Will Be Responsible?

Who was responsible for the First World War, and how did it start?

You may want to read Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August" for a pretty sobering answer.

So it isn't hard to imagine an "unintended confrontation" considering all these players - Russia, Iran and the current Syrian government and the U.S. led coalition of Britain, France, Germany, Turkey and the Gulf States - and then what? A Doomsday scenario, as Putin 'flips off' the rest of us and goes for broke?

These are clearly dangerous times and whatever Putin's goals might be on the world or home stage "Tzar" Vladimir' is clearly playing high stakes Russian Roulette.

Putin has been very consistent and quite transparent in his intentions - whether it is in Ukraine, Crimea or now in Syria and possibly beyond in the Middle East.

He has said "The breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20thcentury". Putin's plan seems to be to re-establish Russia's Super Power status as a force to be reckoned with.

For the U.S. and its Allies to turn a blind eye to what is happening right in front them will not make it go away.

Question? - Is there a "Red Phone" set up between President Obama and President Putin to ensure that any "unintended accident" does not escalate into something we won't be around to regret?

For a glimpse of how this may all play out, in the worst case scenario, one need only view two very informative and quite chilling 1964 Cold War films: Sidney Lumet's "Fail Safe" and Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove and the Doomsday Machine" - which I make reference to earlier this year in my Blog "Obama v Putin: 'Dr. Strangelove' and the Doomsday Machine" https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jonchristopher-bua/obama-putin_b_6756782.html.

Hopefully there is a Fail Safe contingency plan of operations between the presidents of both nations...just in case!