Five Differences between Russian and Western actions in Syria

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October 6th, 2015 – – translated for Fort Russ by Soviet Bear

The first week of engagement
of the Russian aerospace forces against ISIL in Syria is behind us. And the
first thing that catches the eye is the effectiveness of combat application of
Russian aviation. It may seem that Russia started fighting abruptly, or as they
say in the Navy: “all of the sudden”. 

But even the first raids of the
Russian warplanes on the positions of ISIS have shown that we are not dealing with
the unexpected decision of the Kremlin, taken under the pressure of momentary
circumstances. The Russian operation in Syria was prepared for a long time, at
least since the beginning of this summer, and this is evidenced by the variety
of circumstances. First of all, the impact of the Russian strikes.

Shooting “bullseye”

Literally in the first
day, from 15:00 on September 30 to 15:00 on 1 October, 28 combat sorties were
conducted, eight of them –nocturnal. The result was at least 12 of the planned
objectives were completely destroyed. Given that some of the sorties were reconnaissance
and support, aimed to cover the strike groups, we see a rare modern aviation
efficiency. And what is remarkable, without a single loss or damage on the
Russian side. 

In the remaining days the strikes on the terrorists were also
effective, and again the Russian air group didn’t suffer losses. But the units
of ISIL, which today with help and support the U.S. have turned into a regular
army, have quite effective anti-aircraft weapons captured from the Iraqi Army.

Shooting “in milk”

 As they say: everything is relative. Russia
didn’t start the war in Syria, it had quite tangible predecessors, who also conducted
the “air operation” against the “Islamic state” (banned in
Russia by the decision of the Supreme court). And what is the result? 

US-led anti-terrorist coalition, which also included Bahrain, Jordan, United
Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, attacked the positions of the Islamic state
during the whole year. By strange coincidence, the coalition launched an air
operation in late September, but in 2014. 

During this time, according to a
report by U.S. military, coalition aircraft has made more than 2000 sorties,
mostly in Iraq. Through incredible efforts, the coalition managed to push the
militants away from Baghdad, which was separated from the vanguards of the
Islamic state just 200 miles away, and to win about a third captured Iraqi
territory from ISIS. 

Losses of the ISIS army during this time are estimated up
to 20 thousand people and about a hundred tanks, self-propelled guns and
armored vehicles. Simply put it, no more than two soldiers and 0.05 of a combat
vehicle per one sortie. Each of which, by the way, is no less than 50 thousand
dollars. Not a single significant object of terrorists and none of their
leaders were destroyed.

A time of contrasts

So, what’s the
difference? Why the actions of the coalition allies, led by the country with
the world’s largest army, the main force of which is aviation, were so
ineffective? 1. The USA negotiated the creation of the anti-terrorist coalition
for quite long with their future allies. 

There was a lot of rhetoric, a lot of
loud statements, and combat was commenced within one week after signing the
relevant documents. However. From the first hours of operation it became clear
that coalition forces do not have any detailed plan of operation, poorly
coordinated, and most importantly very vaguely know who they are dealing with. 

The bet was made rather for psychological effect, an attempt to demoralize the
fighters of the “Islamic state” and not to cause them any significant
loss. As a result of poor intelligence the lion’s share of
“coalition” air strikes occurred on a small, insignificant objects,
sometimes even “missed”. This leads to losses among civilians. 

Actually this is the usual handwriting of the USA and its allies. For example,
on October 3 “surgical strike” of the NATO forces in Afghanistan has
destroyed the hospital of “Doctors without borders” near the town of

A “success” can be called destruction of 2 bulldozers obviously belonging
to the troops of the “Islamic state” by an American drone. The Russian
army long and carefully prepared the operation, focusing primarily on the
military, rather than advocacy-political parts of it. 

First of all, it concerns
intelligence activities. Russia has expanded military contacts with all its
allies, has acquired extensive intelligence network, as evidenced by the
precise character of the strikes with a high efficiency. The Russian side in
advance, long before the beginning of combat amounted to a list of goals and
assessed the degree of importance, priority and possible negative effect for
the militants. In the event of their destruction.

2. If you assess the
tactics of the American army since the first “operation desert
Storm”, we will not see many changes. Bet continues to be placed on
massive air strikes from high distances, often even without entering the zone
of enemy air defenses with the use of expensive precision weapons. Recently
popular was the “war of drones”. Both leads to low efficiency and
frequent mistakes in identifying targets.

The same applies to new
equipment and weapons. Bet on “wonder weapons” in the form of a F-22
Raptor and F-35 Lightning II is not justified. Super-expensive in development
and operation machines were “raw” and incomplete. In addition, they
are intended rather for action against the enemy equivalent, and not groups of
terrorists, super-expensive weapons for which there is simply no targets in
anti-terrorist operations. 

More precisely, there is a target, but they need to
look and these targets are not on the battlefield. But to this we shall return.
And in fact the anti-terrorist coalition fighting with the weapons and
technology of the 70-s. That is, the Americans and their allies failed to adapt
to the tactics of terrorists, and they hope to wage war “by other

Entering a second time into Iraq, they, with manic sequence,
repeated all the mistakes of the first times, and then repeated them in
Afghanistan. And again resorted to the same tactics in Iraq, Libya and Syria.
This is colloquially called “the rake walking”. The Russian army has
shown itself quick to learn, to learn the lessons of past campaigns and make
appropriate conclusions. 

It is enough to remember the August war of 2008 in
South Ossetia. When the Russian air force lost six combat jets: three Su-25,
two Su-24 and one Tu-22M3. If the Su-25 is an attack aircraft, has a subsonic
speed and is forced to operate with low altitudes, which already puts it in a
very vulnerable position, Su-24 and Tu-22 are supersonic bombers, with great
potential for overcoming enemy air defenses. For a war that lasted only 5 days,
such a loss — a real disaster. 

However, now the Russian air force, specifically
the Aerospace forces, approached the issue much more seriously and took into
account not only their mistakes, but mistakes of “Western partners”.
There are new machines in service such as striking front-line bomber Su-34,
Su-35 and Su-25 were considerably modified. For the latest ammunition developed
for them, and the emphasis is not on their expensive high-tech
“stuffing”, but at optimal efficiency, reasonable cost and
adaptability to modern wars “of low intensity”. 

It is these that are
now in the Middle East. In addition, a special attention in the Russian army
now paid to communication means of radio electronic warfare and intelligence.
The weakness which, incidentally, was detected in South Ossetian conflict in
2008, when military commanders often negotiated with mobile phones. Now the
possibility of radio interception of negotiations on the part of ISIS is taken
into account already during the planning of sorties.

3. The Western
coalition is not particularly sensitive to choice of goals, and generally does
not “bother” with this question. In the end, the pilots shoot at
everything that moves, trying to quickly get rid of ammunition and to get out
of combat zone “away from sin”. Pilots don’t like to risk, analytics
and intelligence – to think, and the generals – to report the loss. And the Pentagon prefers “the path of least resistance”: to record facts
for the use of firearms, to find a crowd of people, preferably in turbans, and
if lucky, screaming “allahu akbar”, and strike. 

To such tactics, and
to losses in general, the terrorists are extremely insensitive, and it does not
bring tangible results. That’s what we see in practice. Russian military
rightly judged that to chase for single soldiers with guns, as does the
coalition aviation, is stupid and pointless. Another tactics was chosen – find
a “weak spot” of the army of the “Islamic state”. As with
any army that has the features of organized regular forces, the main role is
played by the infrastructure, on which depends the supply, intelligence, communication
and control (they are, incidentally are at a very high level in the army of the
“Islamic state”). 

That’s why the first strikes were targeted at the
control bunkers, depots of weapons, the spots of contact. In particular, the plant
manufacturing explosives in North of Homs was destroyed one of the first , and
then a communication node and a command post of the terrorists in the same
province, as well as a parking of disguised T-55 tanks. Now this led to panic
and increased the number of deserters among the terrorists. 

And now government
troops are preparing to storm Palmyra controlled by the “Islamic
state”. Prior to this ISIS positions were unsuccessfully bombed by the
aircraft of anti-terrorist coalition for almost a month. 

4. Every foreign
policy action by the U.S. and its allies is accompanied with powerful, and most
importantly – a long promotional “hype”. So, by the time when the United
States decided to finally start fighting even the Zulus in KwaZulu-Natal know
about their intention. 

It is a fact. Russia did not make a show of its military
operations and they were not accompanied by fanfare about the global terrorist
threat. That is why the decision of Russia to carry out air strikes on ISIS
positions in Syria has produced a bombshell. 

Both literally and figuratively.
On the morning of October 1, less than a day after the start of the operation,
the world’s media literally erupted a stream of indignant screams of Western
countries – the demand to Russia to stop it and not to touch “the poor
moderate terrorists”.

5. Well, finally, and
most importantly. The coalition forces simply don’t want any decisive action
against ISIS, which they actually raised, nor against others. The Middle East
crisis is beneficial for Russia. Especially it is beneficial for Russia to
return to the Middle East as an influential player. Time and place are chosen
very successfully.

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