Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Russia in a Corner?

Russia has long denied that its advanced weaponry, sold to Syria and Iran, was getting into the hands of Hizbullah. The battlefield evidence may now be conclusive. Many of the weapons have serial numbers, and unless I miss my guess they match those sold to Syria (or Iran). The Israeli media indicates that this evidence has been handed over to the Russians.

If true, this could not have come at a worse time for the Russians. In the run-up to this conflict, Russia was coming under increasing pressure from the West for selling armaments to rogue states (most recently Venezuela) and using gas supplies as a foreign policy tool, which Russia vehemently denied. If it is true that Russian arms have been trans-shipped to Hizbullah through Syria, then there are only two conclusions to be reached here. Either Russia knew of this, or it did not. If the former is the case, then Russia’s duplicitous game is up, and the West has the advantage of unity against Russia as a supporter of regional instability. If the latter is the case, then Russia will be chastened, arms supplies to Chavez may not materialize, and Syria and Iran are going to find it a whole lot harder to deal with a West joined by a Russia whom they have humiliated.

The only “wild card” here is that Russia recently succeeded in killing “public enemy number one,” the renowned terrorist and Chechen field commander Basayev. The Russian press reported that Western intelligence agencies (the US and Turkey) were behind the successful assassination. That seems a little far-fetched and begs the question of who told them of Basayev’s whereabouts? It seems more reasonable that either Syria or Iran did. If so, then Russia “owes” them, and if they do not make good on their debt, they may well be subjected to a resurgence of internal terrorism, for which the country’s notoriously bloated, inefficient, and clumsy security services are ill-prepared.

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