August 2016 – MOSCOW — Following the 2008 war in Georgia, Russia projected an air of victory. Georgian forces were crushed, and the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were bolstered. And in the aftermath, Vladimir Putin, then Russia’s prime minister, launched a massive program to trim the country’s bloated military, beef up training, and replace its outdated hardware. Two-and-a-half months into Russia’s air war in Syria, the fruits of those reforms are on display as Moscow ups the ante in the Middle East.
Moscow’s operation in Syria is still relatively limited in scale, but the Kremlin has been using the military campaign as a testing ground for new weaponry and hardware. In doing so, it is alerting the United States and other Western powers of Russia’s newly restored military prowess after decades of decay. “The missiles launched from the submarine were more of a political weapon aimed at Washington, rather than a military one aimed at ISIS,” Chris Harmer, a senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Foreign Policy.
The Rostov-on-Don submarine is believed to be one of the quietest in the world, making it an excellent tool for stealth operations. But Harmer said the use of such sophisticated technology, along with cruise missiles, are a curious choice given that Russian air power would be much cheaper and more effective. “There is no tactical reason for Russia to fire a cruise missile. They are using these to show the world that they can,” said Harmer.
The bombing campaign in Syria is being conducted openly, is heavily documented on social media by the Ministry of Defense, and is trumpeted on Russian state television. Soon after Russia fired 26 sea-based cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea in early October, footage (which can be seen below) was shared across the Ministry of Defense’s social media accounts. –Foreign Policy
Russia using cruise missiles and Iranian base: Russia flexed its muscles again over Syria on Friday, for the first time launching cruise missiles at targets from warships in the Mediterranean Sea days after beginning bombing runs from a base in Iran. Taken together, the new military moves appeared to be a demonstration that Russia has the ability to strike from virtually all directions in a region where it has been reasserting its power — from Iran, from warships in the Caspian Sea, from its base in the Syrian coastal province of Latakia and now from the Mediterranean.
The United States also asserted its military might in a new way, scrambling its aircraft to protect its forces, and those it is supporting, from Syrian government airstrikes. The Pentagon issued a blunt warning to the Syrian government after its warplanes struck a Kurdish-controlled region where American military personnel were on the ground. “The Syrian regime would be well advised not to interfere with coalition forces or our partners,” said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.
Talks appear to have stalled between Russia and the United States on a proposal to carry out joint operations in Syria against militant groups both countries consider terrorist. Russian and Syrian government airstrikes have intensified lately, with no progress on the horizon for a political solution to end the war. –NY Times