According to a story on MSNBC, a ship carrying military attack helicopters and missiles from Russia to Syria was stopped off the coast of the UK yesterday. The insurers cancelled the coverage of the ship forcing it to turn back. The interesting part of this scenario is the fact that the ship was carrying Russian Mi25 (HIND) attack helicopters to Syria. Thee Mi25 is one of the most noticeable and lethal attack helicopters in history. It was highlighted in numerous movies including Red Dawn and Rambo 3. It is very effective at ground support. For those who have been living in a cave for the past few months, Syria is currently engaged in a revolution and the government has been accused of a brutal crackdown on the revolt with the indiscriminate killing of civilians. The international community has nearly universally condemned Assad’s actions….nearly. Russia and China appear to in support of the Assad regime. Syria and Russia have a long standing relationship extending to the days of the Soviet Union. You can read more about it here. Syria is one of Russia’s only allies in the Middle East and if Assad is overthrown that could create issues for the relationship. Syria is a strategic partner to Russia as it provides access to the Mediterranean Sea. Interestingly, the Russian’s have used their UN power to prevent international support from helping the rebels. According to Russia: “…deposing a government using external pressure is unacceptable.” Apparently, keeping a despot in power using external pressure is completely acceptable.
There may very well be another reason the Russian’s are supporting Syria. In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. After a bloody 10 year war in which tens of thousands of Soviet troops were killed, the Soviets finally withdrew from the country. It so happens that the US was supporting the rebels then known as the Muhajideen. The US armed the Muj with stinger missiles specifically to shoot down the Mi25 HIND attack helicopters. Superpowers do not engage in direct conflict. They fight proxy wars in which each side supports a different position. Vietnam, and Afghanistan (’79-’89) are but two examples. Could this be the start of a third?