Recent news confirms that the Russian Federation, at its president’s direction, is further escalating the “privatization” of military action in support of its efforts to establish a new Russian “sphere of influence” – something that its leadership has been talking about for some six years now. But before discussing that, I need to attribute the “little green planes” reference as a creation of Taylor Rogoway, contributor and editor of The War Zone, one of the best military blogs on the internet.
The term “little green men” first came into play in the Crimea, when Putin deployed his military to seize that Ukrainian territory. He first denied those forces, only to much later admit that they were a combination of regular Russian military and volunteers. The volunteers went on to help trigger fighting in what became break away segments of Eastern Ukraine – over the years their initial efforts were supported both by deployment of regular Russian combat units and by private Russian military contractors.
I’ve covered that strategy in both Creating Chaos and In Denial and noted Russian involvement in Africa as a significant new Russian activity, significantly improving its economic reach based on the activities of private Russian “security contractors” .
The current escalation of its intervention in Libya involves the deployment of a considerable number of Russian fighter and fighter bomber aircraft to Libya, to support a strong man who is attempting to take over the Libyan government. Those aircraft will support a considerable number of Russian “contract” military personnel already in combat within Libya. Details can be found at these links:
Beyond access to Libyan energy, the question arises as to why Russia would involve itself in combat against a legitimate government, especially when it could pit its forces directly against Turkish units which are supporting the legal government.
The answer is simply “sphere of influence”. Putin has made it clear that he seeks to restore the geopolitical sphere of economic and security influence that the Soviet Union (and the Russian Empire) exercised well beyond current Russian borders – in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East and at times around the Mediterranean. His strategy of supporting strong men has given Russia key military bases in Syria (used to stage the new aircraft deployment to Libya) and access to airfields in Libya.
If he is successful in Libya he will be able to project Russian geopolitical influence across the entire Mediterranean, backed by military force – as shown with the shadowing of American surveillance and intelligence collections aircraft.
As I’ve mentioned before, Putin is highly focused and tactically brilliant – his privatization strategy is an example of that and he is simply advancing that step by step. In turn the American political leadership has turned inwards to the extent that while our military is clearly aware of what Russia is doing. it is receiving little or no strategic support in confronting it.
It is hard not to conclude that “little green men” and “little green jets” are literally taking advantage of a lack of any American counter geopolitical strategy. Whether this is a temporary anomaly or a new “America First” reality remains to be seen.
…….I thought I should update this; the major press is a few weeks late but its catching up with some coverage of the Libyan situation: