Setup for a Showdown

Russia responds to the US Navy’s provocative move into the Mediterranean:

As the Israel-Gaza conflict escalates, with the expected involvement of various regional powers, the inclusion of global ones after the United States sent a massive naval force to the Eastern Mediterranean was guaranteed. And indeed, this now includes Russia which decided to send its superfast, high-flying MiG-31 jets to patrol the Black Sea. Namely, on October 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly announced that Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) will deploy MiG-31K/I (interceptors modified into strike fighters) armed with 9-A-7660 “Kinzhal” air-launched hypersonic missiles (usually given the unconfirmed Kh-47M2 designation) in response to large-scale US naval deployments. Although this doesn’t immediately indicate that the jets are on combat duty to tackle the possible involvement of US forces, the “Kinzhal’s” range and speed are more than enough to jeopardize American assets.

With the USS “Dwight D. Eisenhower” Nimitz-class supercarrier (CVN-69) joining the USS “Gerald R. Ford” (CVN-78), the US Navy now operates two carrier strike groups (CSGs) in the Eastern Mediterranean. Combined, both vessels can carry up to 180 aircraft, in addition to other ships escorting them as part of the CSGs. This massive force is a threat to Russian allies in the region, particularly Syria, and by extension, Moscow’s forces deployed in the Middle Eastern country.

The MiG-31s armed with “Kinzhals” and flying over the Black Sea cover the entirety of the Eastern Mediterranean without going anywhere near American CSGs. Namely, although estimates vary significantly, the “Kinzhal’s” range is up to 2000 km, meaning that the MiG-31K/I strike fighters are capable of launching the hypersonic missiles well beyond the range of any US ship-based air defenses, interceptors or similar assets.

It should be noted that the US Navy also sent the USS “Bataan” (LHD-5) Wasp-class amphibious assault ship with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (SOC – Special Operations Capable) and additional naval forces.

The USS “Bataan” can also carry up to 20 aircraft, further reinforcing the already massive US presence in the area. In addition, the 26th MEU has at least 1600 marines, although its full combat strength is up to 2400. Apart from these, the Pentagon deployed other assets such as the A-10 “Thunderbolt II” attack jets, F-15E “Strike Eagle” strike fighters, as well as the B-1B “Lancer” long-range bombers. The latter were sent from their home base in Texas on October 12 and forward deployed to RAF (Royal Air Force) Fairford airbase in the United Kingdom. From there, “Lancers” could launch strikes against targets across the Middle East and elsewhere, jeopardizing at least half a dozen countries in the region.

As previously mentioned, all of the aforementioned assets are a threat to Russian forces deployed in the area, as well as to Moscow’s allies, particularly Syria. It should be noted that the forces Washington DC sent so far are absolutely unnecessary against Hamas.

This underlines expectations that the Middle East will be the second front in WWIII. Most of the US forces arriving in nominal support of the incipient Israeli offensive in Gaza – and quite possibly Syria and Southern Lebanon as well – are not only useless against Hamas, but against Hezbollah as well.

Since Russians have resolutely refused to directly engage the NATO in Ukraine, it appears that the neoclowns are determined to find a way to provoke them into open war in a manner that they can’t resist.

When military leaders make their final, fatal mistake, it is usually the sort of action that has hitherto been very successful for them. The cautious leader fails to act when he must, the aggressive leaders bites off more than he can chew. Israeli officers are indoctrinated in the romance of the bold and daring stroke that wins the war, and revere aggressive generals like Dayan, Sharon, and Patton. This is why I am beginning to suspect that instead of simply beginning the ground offensive in Gaza, we’re going to see a bigger, more comprehensive attack on two or more fronts that is intended to catch Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah by surprise.

The presence of the US military would be to ensure that the IDF holds its gains by keeping Iran and Russia from defending their allies. I tend to doubt, however, that the US forces still command the respect that used to render them such a compelling deterrent.