As Russia and Europe slowly make inroads against ISIS, this week Vladimir Putin demonstrated why he is a force to be reckoned with. During a meeting with the Russian Defense Minister, Sergey Shoigu, Putin was captured stating: “We must analyze everything happening on the battlefield, how the weapons operate.
“The Kalibrs [sea-based cruise missiles] and KH-101 [airborne cruise missile] have proved to be modern and highly effective, and now we know it for sure — precision weapons that can be equipped with both conventional and special warheads, which are nuclear,” Putin said,
‘Naturally, this is not necessary when fighting terrorists and, I hope, will never be needed.’
Reality or just machismo
The question on everybody’s mind was: Is Putin serious? Certainly, as the war against ISIS continues, it is routine for weaponry to be analysed, but rarely will this be done on camera for all to see.
Putin’s meeting with the Defense Minister was recorded live before an audience of journalists, like a piece of well-choreographed theater. So, it is possible that this was merely fear mongering against ISIS, or was it for another audience entirely?
Watch the meeting with the Russian Defense Minister and Vladimir Putin, by RTQuestionMore:
According to Natalia Antonova from the International Business Times, Putin’s casual dropping of the nuclear option was more about cultivating Russia’s image as a superpower at home and abroad. Currently, Russia is in the trenches of an economic depression, with poverty and inflation on the rise, so in utilizing these old methods of redirection, Putin is attempting to divert attention away from the domestic crises, and install a renewed sense of nationalism.
Furthermore, by demonstrating a calm decisiveness with his weapons of last resort, Putin appeals to the demagogues at home and abroad seeking to find a new superpower, who can deal with the pressing threat posed by ISIS more quickly than the measured American led alliance.
But while all this bluster may further cultivate Putin’s macho image, in reality, Russia has never utilized its nuclear arsenal on an enemy at home or abroad, and given the international co-operation on ISIS, it is highly unlikely that it will utilize these weapons.
Rather, ending ISIS’s reign of terror will be done through a good old-fashioned siege. Currently, Global Research reports that ISIS’s strongholds in Syria and Iraq are able to utilize permeable borders in countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey to support their regime.
Germany’s international broadcaster, Duetsche Welle, supported this claim with a recently released article that contained a video that comprehensively demonstrated that ISIS is not surviving off black market oil exchanges or hostage ransoms. Instead, it appears that ISIS is utilizing support groups from inside countries like the Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey to facilitate all its needs.
Watch the DW (English) article here:
This is where the problem in destroying ISIS lies. To completely starve ISIS out, the NATO powers are going to have to secure all the borders around Iraq and Syria in a concerted effort. This means that current tensions between the opposing states of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, and Turkey would have to be overcome.
They would then have to join forces and allow each other access to borders, and share military information and data in a show of goodwill. However, without this cooperation on all fronts, ISIS will be able to play a game of cat and mouse, exhausting all those who try to end its existence.
Dr. Victoria Kelly-Clark received her doctorate in political science and international relations from the Australian National University. She has lived in Central Asia and specializes in Russia and its former Soviet territories. For more information, go to Central Asia and Beyond.