Understanding Russia and Syria

Robert S. McNamara once said that a salient cause behind the failure of American policies in Vietnam was our inability to understand the motivations of our opponents there. We understood our opponents in the Cuban Missile Crisis, so nuclear war was averted there. We did not understand Vietnam, so we failed in our goal of securing a friendly, democratic government there. We now find ourselves in a new struggle with Russia, this time involving Syria. Proper understanding of the situation there is going to be vital if we want any hope of a peaceful resolution that all parties find acceptable.

Understanding Russia is simple in this case: they need to sell gas to Western Europe to survive. A pipeline from Qatar to Turkey through an Assad-less Syria is a cut across Russia’s throat. Who does Russia sell its gas to if not Europe? How does Russia survive if it does not get money from the sale of gas?

With survival on the line, Russia will risk even war to keep that pipeline from happening. Do we in the USA understand that? Are we in the USA willing to risk even war so that Qatar can sell gas to Europe and al-Qaeda can add Syria to the list of nations it has a free hand to operate in?

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