The ISIS Threat Once Again Creates Confused Alliances in the West

There’s been a lot of talk on this blog recently about Russia, and the increasing tension in Eastern Europe that’s persuaded the Pentagon to send heavy armor back to Europe. Vladimir Putin isn’t the sort of existential threat to western civilization that the USSR presented at its height, but he does have the capability – and possibly the intent – to make life very difficult for NATO’s newer members.

Russia is only one of the big threats right now though, and the other one is the Islamic State. The fanatics continue to cause havoc in Iraq and Syria, and they’re drawing in growing numbers of deluded western Muslims who want to join their crazed jihad. They’re under a lot of pressure from the Kurds and parts of the Iraqi army, and Syria’s president Assad is still holding out, but ISIS has ambitions. They’re determined to expand their “caliphate” and they’re willing to claim any patch of land that has an islamist insurgency running. And guess who their latest target is? It’s Russia.

ISIS flagRussia’s been having problems with Islamic extremists for a long time. One reason the USSR intervened in Afghanistan was to prevent the insurgency there spreading into their own Asian republics, and two wars in Chechnya played a big part in Putin’s determination to rebuild his country’s military. Now their biggest problem is the Caucuses Emirate, which claims 15,000 members and has carried out several suicide attacks in Moscow over the last five years. The group’s declining just now because many of its members have gone to the Middle East to fight and the rest are being hammered by the security forces, but ISIS have now claimed a huge chunk of southern Russia as part of the “caliphate.”

The chances of the jihadis actually taking control of Russian soil is pretty remote and the response if they tried would be brutal, but it’s another complication to an international situation that’s already complicated enough. We’re helping the Iraqis to fight the Islamic State; a lot of the new insurgents joining the group are coming out of Russian territory. Would it be useful to get intelligence on them from Putin’s security services? Yes, it would. Are we going to get it? That’s where it gets tricky. I have no doubt there are some channels open between the FSB in the east and the CIA and SIS in the west, but the European situation will definitely make it difficult.

There’s not a lot anyone can do about the current three-way confrontation; the USA and NATO can’t leave Eastern Europe undefended, Putin has his own reasons for pushing that make sense if you look at them from the Kremlin, and ISIS is insane. It makes life pretty difficult for western defense planners though; much of the world is starting to look like the three permanently warring superpowers in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. With one potential enemy to deter, and a real one to deal with, we need to have more military assets available than current plans allow for. The USA and its major allies ended up being heavily committed enough in Iraq, then Afghanistan, that there wasn’t a lot of capacity left for anything else. That’s not a situation we can afford to have any longer. It’s time to match capabilities to threats again.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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2 thoughts on “The ISIS Threat Once Again Creates Confused Alliances in the West

  1. The military has always been the whipping boy of the left. The old, but very true saying, “If you want peace prepare for war”, has never been truer. All the governments of the west must begin to rebuild their military strength if they do truly want peace. In addition, the west must clearly define just who or what our enemy is. Sun Tzu’s dictum of “know your enemy” is just as true today as it was when he wrote his “The Art of War”.

  2. “The USA and its major allies ended up being heavily committed enough in Iraq, then Afghanistan, that there wasn’t a lot of capacity left for anything else. ”

    Oh, give me a break. Do the numbers. The US alone has over double the air power, matches Russia’s sea power and almost matches ground power of Russia. NATO combined has at least double – if not triple – Russia’s power.

    This fear-mongering by lobbyists doesn’t help matters. We have much more pressing matters economically than spending more on defense. We should instead get Japan to pass an amended Article 9 compromise so they can build their defense, then shift some of our Pacific assets over to Europe.

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