The biggest loser from last week’s cruise-missile strikes on a Syrian air base wasn’t “President” Bashar al-Assad. It was Vladimir Putin. The Syrian leader was punished, but Russia’s new czar was humiliated.
Even with an hour’s warning of the attacks, Putin’s military in Syria did nothing to defend its ally. For all of the Russian bluster in recent years, Putin couldn’t stop our strikes. His military lacked the means to do so. And any attempt to interfere with our operation would only have revealed the inferior quality of Russian armaments — including their much-ballyhooed air defense systems.
This is vitally important, because Putin used his military leap into Syria to show that Russia was a reliable ally at a time when US policy was timid, incompetent and flighty under President Barack Obama. Russia looked strong. We didn’t.
But the wave of cruise missiles unleashed on Syria early Friday called Putin’s bluff. And Russia didn’t dare to lift a finger.
Much has been written and spoken about our attack’s potential effect on North Korean calculations. Whether or not the strikes affect Kim Jong Un’s behavior, the strategic math has been altered.