Russian President Vladimir Putin is no admirer of President John F. Kennedy.
Yet he would no doubt agree with the spirit of the poem that Robert Frost intended to read at Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural.
Entitled “Dedication,” the poem went unread because the sunlight reflecting off snow blinded the elderly poet. So Frost relied on memory to recite an earlier creation: “The Gift Outright.”
“Dedication,” however, was far more in keeping with the upcoming aggressive hubris of the Kennedy years:
It makes the prophet in us all presage
The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young ambition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay
In any game the nations want to play.
On September 30, Putin embarked on a game of big-power politics. He started launching airstrikes against Syria.
The objective: To bolster the dictatorship of Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is now caught up in civil war.
This began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of al-Assad. More than 310,000 people have been killed in the fighting.
The Obama administration is worried about Russian intentions. And Republicans are furious, demanding that American military forces directly confront those of Russia.
Yet despite Right-wing fears about Russia, there is no reason for alarm–by Americans.
Putin’s intervention in Syria’s civil war offers three possible outcomes for the United States. And they’re all positive.
First, the Russians will kill thousands of America’s sworn enemies.
Russians are well-known for their disregard for human life. During their invasion of Germany in 1945, Russian soldiers literally nailed civilians to barn doors, squashed them under their tanks, and raped countless women of all ages.
In Syria, they will slaughter everyone who gets in their way. Thus, they will kill far more of America’s Islamic enemies than even our own military–hamstrung by do-gooder “rules of engagement”–could possibly eliminate.
Second, Russia will replace the United States as “The Great Satan” in the eyes of most Islamics.
The Soviet Union waged a ruthless war against Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. Out of that war grew Al-Qaeda. Millions of Islamics still hate Russians for their brutalities.
From 1999 to 2009, Russia fought a brutal war against Islamics in Chechnya. Chechens responded with terrorism across Russia.
Russia’s intervention in Syria will only harden its image as an enemy of Islam–even if it’s supporting one group of Islamics (the Assad regime) against others.
If Islamic terrorism starts raging throughout Russia, Putin may be forced to back down from his military moves against Syria and Ukraine.
Third, if Russian planes get shot down or Russian soldiers killed, Russia will suffer the casualties–not the United States.
The Soviet Union never fully recovered from its losses in Afghanistan–13,310 soldiers killed, 35,478 wounded.
If Russia starts taking heavy losses in Syria or at home through terrorism, this could lead to widespread unrest. Even Vladimir Putin could find himself in danger of being replaced.
And for Russia, the chicken Kiev has already come home to roost.
On October 31, Airbus A321, a Russian airliner, broke up in mid-air, then crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board.
The plane was carrying holidaymakers from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg when it crashed into a mountainous area of central Sinai.
In Egypt, a militant group affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed that it had brought down the plane “in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land.”
On November 19, ISIS published an online photo of a soft drink can and two components–a detonator and a switch–that it claimed brought down the plane.
The crash has proved emotionally wrenching for Russians.
Flags across Russia flew at half-staff and Russian Orthodox priests conducted services to pray for the victims.
President Putin declared a nationwide day of mourning. In St. Petersburg, home to most of the victims, authorities ordered the mourning to last for three days.
Flag of ISIS
And, on November 24, another such loss occurred: A Russian fighter was shot down on the Turkish-Syrian border by two Turkish F-16s.
Turkish officials claimed that it had violated Turkish airspace 10 times within a five-minute period.
This marked the first time in a half-century that a member of NATO–in this case, Turkey–has downed a Russian plane.
Vladimir Putin quickly called the shootdown a “stab in the back committed by accomplices of terrorists.”
And he warned: “The tragic event will have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations.”
With the armed forces of so many Great Powers–France, Russia, Britain and America–now crowding into Syria, such an outcome was probably inevitable.
It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts involving their small-state allies/clients–that triggered World War I.
A conflict between Russia and Turkey–a member of NATO–could easily trigger World War III.