|TU-160 Blackjack Bomber|
Friday, 6 November 2015
What would be the consequences/repercussions if it is confirmed Isil blew up the Russian plane with a bomb on board?
Note: This started out as a short submission in response to a request from one of the organisations I occasionally submit for; but the ended up not wanting it as they felt events had moved on. However, I liked it, as did my grammar checker, so I decided to polish it up and put it here; just in case anyone else finds it of use. The original article is italicised, the regular writing is what I have added for here.
The recent events in the Middle East have served to remind everyone of the fluidity of the region, as the interconnectivity of groups and organisations means that actions in one area will often result in reactions elsewhere. The fact that some organisations have become more about franchise, and branding, than about location makes them far more difficult to deal with. Turning though to the recent, suspected, bombing of the Russian airliner, this is going to have some very specific impacts.
The big question of course is what will Putin's Russia do? What will the most powerful man in the world according to Forbes do? We can discount the idea of retreating from Syria, that's not Putin's, or Russia's, way. The discussions on the internet have already turned to Russia's Heavy Bombers, and with last month’s announcement of a new US Heavy Bomber (LRS-B); then this unfortunate event maybe the perfect opportunity for Putin, to not only put a pounding on ISIL, but also to remind the world just how long Russia's reach can be.
The announcement that Russia has followed the British lead in suspending flights to Egypt, this has not been done lightly; but the fact that Russia is taking its time for confirmation before reacting, should not be taken as passivity. Putin is a ‘Strongman’, his security as leader rests in large part on his ability to project an image of a strong resurgent Russia; the more time he has to prepare it, the larger the reaction can be, and Sergey Shoygu has proved able in his role as Defence Minister in delivering such responses.
The impact though will not only be immediate it will be long term, Russia may deploy its carrier, the Kuznetsov, to the Eastern Mediterranean again. However, instead of going to deter NATO, its job will be to ramp up the air strikes on ISIL, and probably other 'terrorist' groups.
There is of course also the possibility of an increased ground forces deployment to Syria, but that is unlikely beyond the possible use of more elite units. Russia is in the process of professionalising its forces, and upgrading its equipment, so deployment of larger formations than currently deployed could be disruptive.
This is not to say ground forces will not be deployed, Russian advisors have a rich history of working with the Egyptian armed forces; they will undoubtedly be offered to help with ISIL in the Sinai. The question will be whether Egypt accepts them.
President Sisi is another 'strong man', and like Putin he has a background in Intelligence, although unlike Putin's his was military rather than KGB. He will also be very cognoscente of his countries dependence upon tourism for income and employment; Sharm el Sheikh is along with Cairo and the Valley of Kings one of the key hubs for this, and threats to it will have to be taken seriously.
Egypt is likely therefore to ramp up further both its security efforts and its operations against ISIL in the Sinai; else they become further emboldened by their success and decide to attack the other great source of Egyptian income that runs through the Sinai, the Suez Canal. The worst thing from an Egyptian perspective would be for ISIL to achieve any further 'successes' in the coming weeks; they have so far done a good job of protecting themselves from 'association' with the troubles of the Middle East, this attack at the moment can be played as a one off - for their economies sake they have to make sure it is.
The growing number of nations putting restrictions on travel to Egypt is going to have an impact even if there are no more events. It’s economically essential tourism industry was already suffering, but this could seriously put into trouble for the next decade.
Rest of World
In the modern age though ripples rarely stop within a country or even a region; this event and the actions that result will have a major impact on the world. If Putin goes on the offensive, if he deploys overwhelming military force he will once again in the eyes of the world show his 'credibility', and show in comparison the US under Obama's 'weakness'. If Russia deploys 'advisors' to Egypt that will be a further demonstration of a resurgent Russia, of it reclaiming a place at the front of the world not through economic or diplomatic strength but through the judicial use of military strength. The West would also be faced with a modern Russia that had achieved what decades of Cold War Soviet efforts had failed to do; a dominant position in the Middle East, and all the benefits of influence over oil and gas prices that it will bring.