By denial and indirection, Moscow has tried to suggest that American forces are to blame for the deaths of Russian mercenaries in Syria; but in reality, “responsibility for what happened rests on the closest effective powers – the Russian command,” says Yevgenii Ikhlov, and their actions raise the old question: “was this stupidity or treason?”
In a comment on the Kasparov portal (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A85D2EE E903F), the Moscow analyst offers a five-part argument in support of his overall conclusion:
• First, no one disputes that there were at least some casualties among the irregular Russian forces or that they were there with the approval of both the Syrian authorities and the Russian military command in Syria.
• Second, those who suffered were mercenaries under the terms of international law.
• Third, “responsibility for all their actions is in the hands of the closest effective powers – the Russian command,” something the Russian Defense Ministry has indirectly confirmed by asserting that the mercenaries had acted “without the agreement” with Russian commanders, an indication that from Moscow’s point of view, they should have done so.
• Fourth, “these mercenaries attacked citizens (military personnel) of the U.S., despite repeated warnings by the U.S. representatives” against such actions. “The organizers certainly knew that they were beginning a direct military confrontation with the U.S. [and] that the U.S. would quickly discover” that those doing so were connected with Moscow.
• And fifth, once the American response began, the Russian command “for several hours” did nothing to tell the Americans that they were attacking the wrong people although they had done so in the past; once the Russians made such a call in this case, the Americans ceased their operation.
Paul Goble is a long-time specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia who has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau, as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The article above is reprinted with permission from his blog called “Window on Eurasia” (http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/).