In August 2015, the government of the Russian Federation embarked its military forces on an intervention in Syria. Ever since, there is no end of discussions about Russian military capabilities and intentions – in Syria and beyond.
To many, the performance of the Russian military – and especially the Russian Air-Space Force (VKS) – in this war was a clear demonstration of advanced technology, improved training, fearsome firepower, and great mobility.
To others, the military operation only experienced limited success and exposed a number of weaknesses. Foremost between the latter are aircraft ill-suited to the necessities of expeditionary warfare, and a gross lack of advanced weaponry and equipment.
While the military component of their intervention can only be described as providing clear evidence that the Russian military is in no condition to directly challenge the NATO’s eastern frontiers, it cannot be denied that through this action Moscow instrumented a turning point in the Syrian Civil War, and indeed one on geo-strategic plan. Organized and run in cooperation with very diverse allies – ranging from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran (IRGC), Hezbollah of Lebanon, the Kurdishan Workers Party (PKK) and a myrad of local warlords and their armed militias – their combination of intentional bombardment of insurgent-controlled parts of Syria, and indirect protection for the IRGC’s own military intervention in the country from a possible counter-intervention of the West, the Russians did succeed in saving the regime of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Through this, this campaign created an absurd precedent in newest history: a brutal dictatorship involved in systematic elimination of hundreds of thousands on industrial scale, and frequently with help of chemical weapons, was even made popular within circles of far-right and far-left alike around the World. In turn, the resulting flow of refugees destabilized the European Union and large parts of the NATO – two parties considered the actual primary opponents by the government in Moscow – and increased the popularity of the President Vladimir Putin to unprecedented levels.
Illustrated by over 130 photographs, maps and color profiles, ‘Moscow's Game of Poker’ is providing a clear outline of the participants in this extremely complex conflict, and areas it impacts. It is providing a unique and in-depth study of Moscow’s political aims, strategy, doctrine, target selection process, military technology and tactics, day-by-day operations, and the way the Russian Federation cooperates with diverse local allies. This story is told in combination with an exclusive insight into the similar campaign run by what is left of the Syrian Arab Air Force.
About the Author
Tom Cooper is an Austrian aerial warfare analyst and historian. Following a career in worldwide transportation business – during which he established a network of contacts in the Middle East and Africa – he moved into narrow-focus analysis and writing on small, little-known air forces and conflicts, about which he has collected extensive archives. This has resulted in specialisation in such Middle Eastern air forces as of those of Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, plus various African and Asian air forces. Except for authoring and co-authoring more than 30 books - including about a dozen of titles for Helion’s @War series - and over 1000 articles, Cooper is a regular correspondent for multiple defence-related publications.