Aviation Russia's operation in Syria is simultaneously a public relations campaign within Russia. The authorities want the same effect to be achieved as from the annexation of Crimea. However, military operations in Syria could turn into serious problems for the Russian authorities.
And if this action-operation had a code name, then it should be called “Crimea on the road”. Because the desired result is the same as from the annexation of the Peninsula to Russia: paramilitary mobilization of the Russian population and its consolidation around Vladimir Putin with maintaining the leader’s rating at a level not lower than 80 percent. In addition, the style of decision-making on Syria provokes the effect of deja vu - the same unanimous approval by the Federation Council of the sudden decision of the first person, as in the case of the annexation of the Crimea.
In the eyes of the Russian audience, which has already stocked up with dark glasses and binoculars, as at an air show, the Russian president a) “made” Barack Obama; b) confirmed that the status of a great power is indeed restored, - Russia plays by its rules where it wants, and as it pleases, thousands of kilometers from its own borders and shouting, “Well, go away!”; c) thereby deserved the next presidential term.
The medium- and long-term consequences, such as an increase in military spending, which means a worsening of the crisis, damage to morals — the war is finally justified and morally acceptable, and no one is interested in increasing the risks of terrorist attacks and problems with a part of the Muslim population inside the country. Russia lives today. Show must go on. The pressure in the pipes of public opinion is to remain the same. Almost at any cost.
The Levada Center survey conducted by 18 – 21 of September, that is, before Putin’s speech at the UN, the meeting with Obama, and even more so before the beginning of the air operation, showed that Russian citizens were more likely to approve of Syria’s political and diplomatic assistance: This form of support for Bashar al-Assad. And if military-technical support was considered reasonable by 67 by the percentage of respondents, then only 43 was approved by direct military assistance.
Even the nature of the events in Syria was assessed by the Russian respondents to a greater extent as a civil war - so 46 percent of the respondents thought. And 32 percent supported the version according to which "terrorists, incited by the West, are waging a bloody struggle with the country's legitimate government." Only eight percent considered Assad a bloody tyrant.
It is clear that the air operation and even against the background of such a light-weight attitude of Russians towards the Assad figure and his regime mobilizes the population and the number of people approving of military intervention, especially if there really is no ground operation, will increase dramatically. But still, the Syrian war for the Russians will not be the same “native” as the Crimean or Donbass episodes.
Yes, this war is fair in the eyes of the post-Crimean majority, yes, it represents self-defense against terrorists, even if it is preventive. Yes, as long as she sees it as easy, with polite pilots, as the operation in the Crimea. But this war is a bit alien. And I really do not want a second Afghanistan.
For all the PR appeal for the domestic audience of the Syrian steps of the Russian authorities, this is a very dangerous game. In Afghanistan, the Soviet Union also entered gradually, in fact, like the United States in Vietnam, starting with weapons and advisers and ending with the hardest years of fighting in the jungle, desert, mountains (underline the necessary). And when the “narrow” Politburo decided to invade Afghanistan, this was also done at the request of, so to speak, the receiving party. History either forgotten, or Soviet clichés are reproduced by themselves in the framework of the “rut effect”, or analogies with the Soviet time are brought up from the past on purpose.
And if the Syrian war makes sacrifices? Shall we again cover the law of secrecy losses in peacetime?
In the Syrian PR project, another problem is sewn up: this cartridge can be shot ahead of time, because the elections are still far away. The authorities are accustomed to maintaining a very high degree of patriotic wave and excessively high ratings of trust and approval ratings. As soon as the effect of the Crimea and Donbass on the souls and brains of Russians began to fizzle out, Syria emerged as a sort of “Crimean substitute.”
Syria, of course, is a very successful manipulative pill in the sense that even nostalgia for the USSR, for “our bitch sons,” at the times when the country settled processes in the Arab world within the boundaries of its zone of influence and the range of “friendship peoples. "
But the action of this medicine, designed to divert attention from the economic crisis in the logic of “war instead of wages, pensions and jobs,” sooner or later, if not exhausted, will weaken. And then, instead of Syria, you will have to invent something new, equally symbolic, mobilizing and consolidating.
Since there will be no economic miracle, there is a high probability that a small, victorious high-latitude war will start for “our” shelf in the Arctic Ocean, for “our” Lomonosov Ridge in the Arctic. Or, in the Kremlin, they will be puzzled over something imitative, such as the struggle against “Albanian terrorists” in Barry Levinson’s famous film “Trickster”.
It is terrible to even think who the Russian aircraft will bomb when the Syrian effect comes to naught and the presidential election approaches. Syria would be very useful in 2018 year. But it was used in 2015, and now I’ll have to find another point on the map. Or another globe.