The Russian economy is in freefall. Notable economic experts are now declaring that Russia’s economy is doomed and believe it is only a matter of time until the obvious cracks currently appearing turn into a full rupture. Then an inevitable Russian collapse.
The Russian ruble is down significantly against the US dollar and the Russian central bank has been raising interest rates in a desperate bid to halt the ruble’s collapse. The ruble today is near an all-time low.
Russia’s problem is simple—oil, which has traditionally propped up the Russian economy, is falling in price due to competition. At the same time Russia’s central bank has allowed interest rates to rise to exorbitant levels meaning that ordinary Russians no longer want to put their money into Russian banks. They don’t want to put their money into oil either.
This is a huge problem because Russia doesn’t really have much of an economy in a traditional sense as much as it has a vast oil exporting business. The combination of more of a supply from the United States and less demand from countries like Europe, China and Japan have decimated what was left of their already fragile economy.
Cheaper oil means Russia’s vast oil companies have less dollars to turn into rubles which means the value of the ruble falls and falls. It is a decline that is almost impossible to stop. What Russia’s economy certainly cannot manage at this time is a whole scale, prolonged military adventure in the Middle East.
Today, in late October, 2015 Russia is actively subjugating Syria. The rapidity of this action, in what now must surely be termed an invasion, is astounding. This is an event of worldwide significance and some geopolitical experts believe that September 30, 2015 may become known in the future as a day of infamy. Some believe that history will record this day as the beginning of the Third World War.
It was on September 30 that Russia’s Parliament, the Duma, granted Vladimir Putin complete authority to use military force in Syria. Since then the Russian military build-up has been exponential. Full Russian militarization of Syria has begun in earnest. What has been an open secret for some weeks is now fully in the open; Russia are in Syria to stay, and they are bringing their Iranian and Chinese friends along with them.
Vladimir Putin has quickly mobilized a force of 150,000 Russian soldiers, expressly for the Syrian battlefield. This is no half-hearted, piece meal bombing campaign, this is a full scale invasion. The satellite imagery of Russian military equipment gathered at Latakia is deeply suggestive of a wider Russian military campaign aim, other than the stated aims of propping up Bashir al Assad or the destruction of ISIS.
The collation of military equipment hints instead at a full blown effort to insert themselves forcefully and militarily into the Middle East on a permanent basis. The military assets at Latakia are suggestive of a clear Russian intent to militarily influence and dominate the entire Middle East region for a long time to come.
The Russian air force at the Bassel-al Assad airbase comprises at least 32 fighter jets, including twelve Su-25 Frogfoot jet aircrafts, twelve Su-25 Fencers and four SU-30 Flanker, in addition to reconnaissance drones, transport and MI-24 attack helicopters. It is being added to on an almost daily basis.
Some of the aircraft identified at the base are designed for aerial interception, others are for ground support. While some aircraft at this base do seem fit for a campaign against ISIS such as the six SU-34 Fullback attack planes, which are purposely designed to attack ground forces, other aircraft present at the base raise serious questions. The SU-30 Flankers, for example, are expressly for air to air combat and do not therefore have an obvious role against militants. ISIS does not have an air force.
As well as the attack helicopters, the six main battle tanks, the countless artillery pieces and armored personal carriers, Russia have also installed up to sixty SA-22 surface to air missiles. These are highly sophisticated and efficient air protective systems. The Russians have carved out for themselves a “bubble” in the heart of Syria from which they are projecting their considerable force outward.
In effect, they are using this as a “beach head” and are launching out from it to subjugate and pacify the rest of the country. Latakia has become a large Russian forward operating base.
General Phillip Breedlove, Nato’s supreme allied commander in Europe stated: “These very sophisticated air defense capabilities are not about Isis.” That is an understatement.
Additionally, at the Naval base of Tartus, the Russians have amassed an equally formidable array of naval hardware including two guided missile cruisers, various amphibious warships, a surveillance ship, a warship and the icing on the cake – a fully armed, state of the art Russian nuclear submarine.
Russia’s entire military involvement in Syria seems to follow well-known Soviet military doctrine: Decisive action, deception and a layered and careful rollout of forces. This has the hall- marks of an operation that has been exceptionally well planned and thoroughly thought out well before actual Russian engagement in Syria.
It also seems to have been a coordinated effort.
Russia’s ally—Iran, has in the last week sent a force of between two to three thousand army personnel into Syria. This significant Iranian force has been sent directly to the Golan Heights region of Syria; next door to Israel’s border. Russia is using its air assets to cover this force, prompting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to concede last week that he fully expects to have to deal with Russian incursions into Israeli air space in the coming weeks and months over the Golan Heights region of Israel.
Shockingly, Benjamin Netanyahu expects Russia to infringe Israeli airspace.
Aligned to this impressive military build-up, Russia have also completely overridden the cyber waves of the Middle East. Gaining access and control of the Iraqi air base of Al Taqaddum, Russia has secretly delivered two Ilyushin-20 super-surveillance planes to Iraq and Syria. All of this provides Russia with a, “…strong arc of aerial control over the whole of the Middle East region.”
These aircraft are exceptional intelligence gathering platforms, able to stay airborne for up to twelve hours each and are capable of collecting, organizing and disseminating vast amounts of data to field operators and mission command facilities in the Middle East and at home in Russia. They can supply Russian commanders with a complete and detailed up to date picture of events on the ground.
Ominously these aircraft have been flying so close to the Israeli border that the widely held belief is that Russia are not in fact gathering intelligence only in Syria, but on Israel too. Gathering information related to IDF movements on the Golan and eavesdropping electronically on conversations between IDF personal and Israeli command Headquarters in Tel Aviv.
All this military build-up takes place against a backdrop of a ruined and doomed Russian economy that can ill afford this kind of vast and ever expanding military commitment. Astronomically expensive though it is, it is now clear that Russia are going to be a significant presence in the Middle East for the foreseeable future.
What remains unclear is the real aims of Russia in the Middle East. The world has been caught off guard and simply does not know how to respond. Fortunately, the Bible, which reveals the “end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10), plainly states Russia’s aims when it eventually invades Israel. Russia will come, “…to take a spoil.”
Russia will: “…plunder and loot and turn my hand against the resettled ruins and the people gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the land” (Ezekiel 38:12).
Whether this attack comes this year, next year or in five years only the Lord God knows. Russia are coming to pillage the Middle East and if the wealth of Israel is not already at the forefront of Russia’s aspirations, it soon will be. What is very clear, even at this stage is this: The platform for this eventual invasion is being laid right now and the bricks completing Russia’s domination of the Middle East are almost in place.