Travelling west from the centre of Moscow past the Kievskaya building leads one to Park Pobedi – Victory park – and to one of the most dramatic monuments in the world to victory over fascism. The huge bronze sculpture of St George slaying the Nazi dragon provided the inspiration for my Christmas greetings card in 2015, some three months after Russia’s dramatic entry into Syria to slay the Dragon of Daesh as it advanced on Damascus.
Russia’s intervention began much as it has in Ukraine – with a “stand-off” attack using cruise missiles, in Syria’s case fired from ships in the Caspian. The targets were oil tankers, which had been trucking Syrian oil out of the North East via Iraq and Turkey for export to Europe through Israel. Russia had been demanding that the US stop this trade by Da’esh – whose profits it used to fund its operations and war against Syrian forces – but the US did nothing. Along with Turkey, where Erdogan’s son Bilal was profiting from the shipping, the US and Israel both benefited from selling the stolen oil.
Following the cruise missile attack, which eliminated around 1000 tankers and ruined Da’esh’s nice little earner, Russian forces moved in to help the beleaguered Syrian Arab Army push back jihadist groups who were advancing rapidly towards Damascus with tanks and rocket launchers and with the blood of Alawites in their nostrils. They had recently launched a truck bomb that destroyed part of the National Hospital in Jisr al Shughour, killing and injuring both civilians and soldiers who were trying to protect it. Jaish al Fatah – the Army of Islam – which entered Syria from Southern Turkey in March following cooperation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, filmed the truck-bomb’s journey and explosion – below is the moment of detonation from their video:
Now Russia has launched a similar intervention in Ukraine, and the monument in Park Pobedi reminds us why. Behind St George are sculpted the names of the terrible battles fought against the Nazis – in Minsk and Kiev, Sevastopol and Stalingrad:
It's hard to do justice to this awe-inspiring monument, with its golden angel at the pinnacle - but helps one understand the depth of feeling in the Russian psyche about the purging of Nazism from Europe and the sacrifices made to achieve it. Another angle:
While it appeared that Moscow's hand was forced by Western scheming and finally by the launching of a new offensive against the residents of Donetsk and Luhansk, there can be little doubt that Russia was well prepared to respond and do so decisively. The effective neutralisation of Ukraine's defences against aerial attack immediately put Russia in a commanding position. Despite many advance warnings from the US in particular, most of which were nonsense at the time, NATO didn't seem prepared for this cruise missile assault - which incidentally hindered any attempt to supply further arms and equipment to Ukrainian forces. The serious problems Russia might have encountered with a land invasion following the generous supply of anti-tank weaponry to the Ukrainians and various special forces battalions don't appear to have arisen yet, and instead we have the rather ludicrous spectacle of men standing in front of military convoys and tanks, only to have them stop or drive around. By contrast there was news and video today from an Al Jazeera team in Dnipropetrovsk that was fired on by a Ukrainian army contingent. One of the crew sustained two bullet holes to his phone, but these undisciplined soldiers were excused for "just doing their job". It's hard not to draw comparisons with Syria, particularly following news recently revealing the CIA's programme training "insurgents" in Ukraine since 2015 - the date of Russia's intervention in Syria. "At least" since 2015 is probably more accurate, given that the UK appears to have been cultivating nationalist forces in Ukraine for decades. While the official CIA line is that these paramilitaries were being prepared to react in the event of a Russian invasion and occupation of the country, it seems also likely or certain that recapturing Crimea would be the ultimate goal. Such a threat would quite clearly go beyond Russia's red line, given that Crimea is now part of Russia. At the same time, what the US is actually doing in Syria is hard to ascertain - beyond its totally illegal occupation of land east of the Euphrates, theft of Oil and Gas from there and support for terrorist groups to maintain instability to its advantage. Perhaps Russia isn't quite sure either - so took the opportunity to demonstrate its naval resources and capabilities from the Hmeimim base near Lattakia. Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu made the trip there, accompanying strategic bombers and more vehicles for military police, and demonstrated his genuine commitment to Syria's protection in a human way:
It's a view that you wouldn't see on the permitted TV services in the West, now that RT and Sputnik and Press TV have been cleansed from the hemisphere. Apparently their spreading of lies and misinformation endangered national solidarity, both within and between countries. This was a point made a month ago in an interview with a "journalist" in Kiev, from Euromaidan, who was trying to stop Russian TV services from being broadcast in Ukraine as they spread false ideas about Kiev and created popular unrest. Much as the broadcasts of the BBC's Steve Rosenberg and the exiled Sarah Rainsford - now in Lviv - are doing in Moscow and St Petersburg. These broadcasts also have a multiplier effect, as Western media are focusing excessively on the deluded young Russians waving Ukrainian flags and getting arrested. Meanwhile here in the world's retrograde underbelly anyone displaying Russian sympathies is liable to be hounded out or worse. Bearing that in mind I thought it important to pin my own colours to the mast:
I bought that T-shirt of "Moi President" in Moscow in 2016, having developed enduring respect and admiration for Russia's leader over the few previous years, both for his brilliant thinking and humanity, and following his careful support for countries and people under attack from NATO and the Empire. Of all those hypocritical countries in the West who espouse their "Responsibility to Protect" but are motivated only by self interest and their responsibility to protect the profits of their shareholders, only Russia has actually done so. In coming to Syria's aid materially in September 2015, Russia risked much, including domestic support, and despite Western claims of ulterior motives, in seven years none of these has been shown to be a priority over the basic principle of protecting an ally and protecting civilian lives. In what would now be interpreted by cynical and ignorant Western commentators as some sort of payback from Syria at the UNGA, their UN representative spoke out strongly against the NATO allies over their aggression and agenda in Ukraine, and joined other victims of US destruction, North Korea and Venezuela in supporting Russia's intervention. Syria in particular is all too familiar with the disinformation machine of Western agencies and their media, and its lethal effects on their previously harmonious multi-ethnic and multi-religious community. These were at their most destructive as well as most visible in the long battle to liberate Aleppo from the clutches of foreign-backed terrorist groups. No-one in Syria or with access to non-Western media had any doubt that this battle was one of final liberation in December 2016, after at least 100,000 civilians were helped to escape from the terrorist-occupied East of the city through humanitarian corridors, created and secured by Russian military police and the Syrian army. Yet still Aleppo is regarded in the West as having "fallen to the Syrian regime" following sustained Russian and Syrian bombardment. This was recently made very clear after several commentators at the BBC and other Western State "news" services claimed that Russia was "following its old playbook" and "leveling cities like it did in Syria". This incendiary and abusive claim must be answered - and can be answered in a following article, with the true credentials of those making it exposed. DM 28.2.22 (updated 4th March)