Obama officials are spreading propaganda in support of the Assad regime whose purpose is to demoralize the Syrian opposition.
U.S. officials and military analysts in the Obama White House said that three months into his military intervention in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved his central goal of stabilizing the Assad government and, with the costs relatively low, could sustain military operations at this level for years.
That assessment comes despite public assertions by President Barack Obama and top aides that Putin has embarked on an ill-conceived mission in support of Syria’s psychopath Baschar al-Assad that it will struggle to afford and that will likely fail.
The only reason Obama officials are spreading propaganda is to demoralize the Syrian opposition to Assad.
“I think it’s indisputable that the Assad regime, with Russian military support, is probably in a safer position than it was,” said a senior administration official, who requested anonymity. Five other U.S. officials interviewed by Reuters concurred with the view that the Russian mission has been mostly successful so far and is facing relatively low costs.
The U.S. officials stressed that Putin could face serious problems the longer his involvement in the more than four-year-old civil war drags on.
Yet since its campaign began on Sept. 30, Russia has suffered minimal casualties and, despite domestic fiscal woes, is handily covering the operation’s cost, which analysts estimate at $1-2 billion a year. The war is being funded from Russia’s regular annual defense budget of about $54 billion, a U.S. intelligence official said.
However, what Obama’s officials did not say is that Russia’s sovereign wealth fund will be depleted in 2016 due to low oil prices. With no other reserves to tap into, Russia will have to collateralize future oil outputs in order to obtain international low-interest loans to fund the war in Syria.
The expense, analysts and officials wrongly said, is being kept in check by plummeting oil prices that, while hurting Russia’s overall economy, has helped its defense budget stretch further by reducing the costs of fueling aircraft and ships. However, any fuel cost reductions are opportunity costs booked as paper gains. Fuel costs are the same because no matter what a barrel of oil sells for, extraction, refining, and transportation costs of one’s own oil remain constant. There are no savings whatsoever.
Putin has said his intervention is aimed at stabilizing the Assad government and helping it fight the Islamic State group, though Western officials and Syrian opposition groups say its air strikes mostly have targeted moderate rebels.
Russia’s Syrian and Iranian partners have made few major territorial gains.
Yet Putin’s intervention has halted the opposition’s momentum, allowing pro-Assad forces to take the offensive. Prior to Russia’s military action, U.S. and Western officials said, Assad’s government looked increasingly threatened.
There are an estimated 5,000 Russian personnel in Syria, including pilots, ground crews, intelligence personnel, security units protecting the Russian bases and advisers to the Syrian government forces.
U.S. officials estimate that Russia may have suffered as many as 30 casualties in Syria so far.
Vasily Kashin, a Moscow-based analyst, said the war is not financially stressing Russia.
“All the available data shows us that the current level of military effort is completely insignificant for the Russian economy and Russian budget,” said Kashin, of the Center for Analyses of Strategies and Technologies.
“It can be carried on at the same level year after year after year,” he said.
Which is why we should be suspect that the opposite is true, especially when numbers and facts are analyzed.
Reuters contributed to this article.