Putin & Syria: Shifting the Paradigm of Social Media “Analysts”

By Ollie Richardson

On June 22nd, 1941, Hitler’s calculated Operation Barbarossa began, whereby masses of Panzerschrecks, SS infantrymen, and Luftwaffe planes rapidly approached the border of the Soviet Union. These events took place at a time when technology was obviously not as developed as it is today, in 2017. Instead of the UN Security Council, proxy warfare, social media diplomacy, drones, satellites colour revolutions etc the men most often seen in black and white photos only had basic means of communication, paper-based diplomatic channels, and physical camouflage of military assets.

The cause for such a transition – from second generation warfare to fourth generation warfare – was the natural (by human standards) evolution of civilisation, where the population constantly grows and the need for access to food, water, and shelter grows with it. The horse and cart are replaced by petroleum-powered tractors, the village well is replaced by a much bigger electrically powered water station, the flint and tinder is replaced by solar panels, etc. And ultimately, as life is short, and time increasingly (with the onset of capitalism especially so) is money (pieces of gold in old currency), humans strive to make their experience on this planet as pleasurable and fulfilling as possible.

Unfortunately, the planet’s resources are only finite. Yes, there is a water cycle, but the actions of human beings have done much damage to the wooden providers of oxygen, and ultimately life. Thus, rare minerals and rocks became a motive for one human being to kill another human being. But not the only motive. And now we return to June 22nd, 1941. At that time the USSR defended itself using collective labour, which at first produced things of quality, and then quality plus quantity. If the USSR was outnumbered in military personnel by Nazi Germany in 1941, then by 1943 the picture was the complete opposite. The rest is history, as is said.

But when this history repeated itself after September 11th, 2001, when the US and allies invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, which ultimately led to the creation of Al Qaeda in Iraq (the revamping of the Afghanistan Bin Laden cell), which subsequently became Islamic State in Iraq (after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was ordered by Al-Qaeda to create another project in parallel), then The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (spilling over into Syria), the new Hitler, like before, would be steered towards Russia via the Caucasus. This is not to mention the events in Ukraine, where the US tries to hit Russia from another axis…

Thus, in September 2015, Russia decided that it was now or never to cut the head off the hydra, and to also bring some balance back to the world, which for many decades has suffered from Anglo-Saxon aggression. Now, bearing in mind that the means of warfare have evolved significantly since the days of the siege of Leningrad, it is important to understand how on this occasion Russia approached the task. The heart of the operation to thwart the US’ proxies in Syria/Iraq/Yemen/Ukraine/ Libya, as was declared by the acting Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation Sergey Shoigu himself, is a supercomputer boasting 236 petabytes of storage.

“Shoigu told RIA Novosti in 2014 when the HQ was inaugurated that its storage capacity exceeds that of the Pentagon 19-fold… He added that the giant machine can process ’50 Russian State Libraries [worth of data] per second,’ referring to the country’s largest library with its collection of over 17 million books, making it the fourth largest in the world.”

So, to cut a long story short, this supercomputer is powerful, and there are no analogs of it in the world. A simple way of imagining it is the AI of a chess computer game, which uses mathematical algorithms to determine the probability of success of a certain move. And, furthermore, Russia is only using it at HALF CAPACITY. Remembering who it is who produces the rockets needed to blast into space, it’s not surprising that Russia once again can inspire awe with such a feat of technology. Yes, this computer cannot predict things 100%, but it isn’t designed to – it is designed to provide a solid foundation for decision-making based on human observation (since we can only be at one place at any one given time), which is why the choice of staff in the Russian HQ is extremely important.

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However, there is another “supercomputer” analysing the event as they happen. Since Russia’s first jet landed in the Latakia province of Syria nearly 2 years ago, the actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces have been closely scrutinised by followers of the war on social media – social media “analysts”. Whilst Russian decision makers do care about PR and how their actions are perceived not only by “partners” and actual allies, it cares less about what the Starbucks worker from Pennsylvania, the aesthetician from London, or the potato farmer from Hamberg thinks. Why? Because war is not staged entertainment – it is a manifestation of geopolitical processes. Moreover, the Russian State works for… the Russian people. And when jihadists and ISIS militants started moving North-East towards Russia, this posed a threat not only to Russia people (terrorism), but also to the Russian State – infrastructure, diplomatic missions, financial institutions, law enforcement bodies etc…

So, already the reason why Putin accepted Bashar al-Assad’s request for assistance against US aggression needs no justification. At this moment it was possible to manage both the Ukrainian crisis and the Syrian one – in parallel. The supercomputer was programmed with algorithms based on all the knowledge Russia gained not only from the USSR’s experience in theatres like Afghanistan and Korea, but also from other nation’s experiences in Africa, Asia, Middle East, South America, etc. Calculations are made using Inputs, Processes, and Outputs. For example (simplified, because events themselves are sums of parts):

• Coup in Ukraine staged by US in 2014 = one input

• Pre-determined algorithm provides predictions of what option X, Y, Z will result in = a process

• The output is the human element based on the given predictions of different actions. In the case of Ukraine: recognising Poroshenko as the “legal” President, refusing to send tanks to Kiev, staging a referendum in Crimea, creating the Minsk Agreements etc.

Of course, this example, as was already stated, is extremely simplified, and in reality it’s simulacrum when compared to the actual calculations that take place. For example, whilst events almost carry a binary character in the newspapers and on social media (Russia reacts/doesn’t react, US bombs/doesn’t bomb, Assad is guilty/not guilty, Iran is involved/not involved) the reality is very different. The time domain is completely lost in translation – US troops magically arrived in al-Tanf? Or did they travel, encountering many variables along the way? Iran woke up one morning and decided to bomb ISIS in Deir Ezzor, or was this act in the works for a long time, but just needed the correct INPUT to trigger it (open the gate of the process)? 

So, to conclude this point, contrary to what many social media “analysts” think, geopolitical events happen in parallel, and NOT in series. Believe it or not, but Russia can operate on two fronts simultaneously – Donbass and Syria. Maybe even three fronts – Yemen. Maybe even four fronts – Libya. Maybe even five fronts – Africa. Maybe even six fronts – Cuba. Maybe… (you get the idea) They are ALL connected.

In order to demonstrate the supercomputer in action, let’s compare the outputs of various events in Syria against the outputs forecasted by social media “analysts”. Please note that the algorithm is much more complex than a 3-stage serial design, but to illustrate the role of war in post-modern International Relations, this layout will suffice:

1. INPUT = On 24th November, 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 jet in Syrian Airspace. The pilot was killed by Turkmen militants embedded in the “moderate” rebels, and the copilot was rescued by the Syrian Army. 

OUTPUT (according to social media “analysts”) = Russia must bomb Ankara and assassinate Erdogan.

CONSEQUENCE (as a result of the output of social media “analysts”) = destruction of Russian nation due to direct retaliation from NATO bloc, Russia justifiably labeled as aggressive and war criminals, Putin’s positions almost untenable, Russia’s presence in Syria is also untenable. 

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Actual OUTPUT as a result of the actual PROCESS = Russia launches brief economic warfare against Turkey and bombs many of its proxies in Syria, cutting off ISIS’ illegal oil extraction operation from Erdogan’s mafia scheme. Turkey, pushed into a corner, begins to cooperate with Russia like never before, even actively helping to separate its proxies from Al-Nusra and to stop the formation of “Rojava” – an illegal US proxy Kurdish zone of occupation north of Aleppo. This would lay the groundwork for the future Astana talks – a venue for unprecedented Iranian and Turkish cooperation. Turkey starts a media and diplomatic attack on Germany over the refugee crisis, German jets leave Incirlik airbase, Russia negotiates with Turkey over the sale of the S-400 SAM system, and so on.

2. INPUT = The US bombed the Syrian Army and allies 3 times in 2017 near the al-Tanf border crossing, where an illegal US/Jordanian/French/British camp was established as a springboard for an attack on the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor and to partition the South.

OUTPUT (according to social media “analysts”) = Russia must bomb American troops either in Syria or on US soil. Every US jet that enters Syrian airspace must be downed, and the Russian regular army must be deployed immediately. 

CONSEQUENCE (as a result of the output of social media “analysts”) = Destruction of US military property and the murder of US pilots and infantry. An overt declaration of war, even by fourth generation warfare standards. Everything Russia achieved after the Yeltsin-Gorbachev era of pillaging and rape is reversed, China is in danger due to the shock in the stock markets after such events, the Russian nation is destroyed.

Actual OUTPUT as a result of the actual PROCESSRussia and allies cut off the US’ path by blocking the northern and eastern roads out of al-Tanf – both of which lead to Deir Ezzor. The US’ garrison thus becomes useless. US deploys HIMARS missile systems in the same area to try to regain some leverage, but the roads will not be unblocked regardless of any aggression (US won’t directly kill Iraqi Hash’d forces, neither Hezbollah ones). Iran launches airstrikes on Deir Ezzor (officially –  a response to the terrorist attacks in Iran committed by ISIS, unofficially – as a message to Israel and friends) to help prevent the occupation of the area by the US. Compared to what was lost because of the US’ attacks near al-Tanf (a few pieces of equipment, a few military personnel – yes, a horrible event, but in the grand scheme of things, war is war), Russia and friends only benefitted from the Pentagon’s short-sightedness, as the Shia Crescent is now even more solidified.

3. INPUT = On June 18th, 2017, a US F-18 shot down a Syrian Su-22 (2 missiles were fired, 1 missed, the other hit the rear of the Syrian jet) because it “posed a danger to the SDF (US’ Kurdish proxies) in the area”.

OUTPUT (according to social media “analysts”) = Russia absolutely must bomb every American soldier in Syria, shootdown every American jet, and a nuclear bomb must be dropped on Washington. Anything less is treason to the Russian people (and to everyone else on the planet).

CONSEQUENCE (as a result of the output of social media “analysts”) = the US now has the legal justification to directly attack Russia, and everything accomplished in Syria thus far by Russia and friends would be erased in the blink of an eye. The Shia Crescent would be torn to pieces, and the wave of repercussions would sweep Donbass away into the grasp of NATO. The Russian nation would be destroyed.

Actual OUTPUT as a result of the actual PROCESSRussia sends a message to the US-led coalition that their patience is running thin, as a result of which Australia hightails out of Syria, choosing to leave the coalition. The US moves some jets away from the hot zone. Russia and friends are even more determined than ever to take back the North-East of Syria from the US, and Iran’s role in the conflict becomes even deeper. The Shia Crescent becomes even stronger, and the cooperation between Baghdad and Damascus concerning the actual destruction of ISIS becomes even stronger. Russia maintains its peaceful, international-law observing status, and the lives of Russian troops and diplomats are in no more danger than they were before (the actions of social media “analysts” would put the lives of the Russia personnel in so much danger that any victory would become a Pyrrhic one). And most importantly – the situation continues to work in Russia and friends’ favour, as any escalation only benefits the US and friends (who at this point have nothing to lose).

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Thus, as can be seen from the input/output breakdown of 3 important events in the course of the Syrian war, there is a pattern: the actions of the social media “analysts” would result in the destruction of the Russian nation. I.e., Russia would be obliged to enter Donbass with tanks in order to compensate for the losses in Syria, the US would have a perfect pretext to send troops into Donbass, scores of civilians would die, Russia’s peaceful image would be soaked in blood, and Putin, justifiably so, would be labeled a war criminal. In the blink of an eye, because of short-sighted stupidity, NATO bases will be popping up all over Ukraine, and this is not to mention the shock this would have on all financial markets of the world. The best Russia could hope for in this scenario is a zero-sum game, but by then there will be nothing left to salvage – the US will have managed to do what their puppet Hitler couldn’t. 

Thankfully, the social media “analysts” are exactly that – on social media. They don’t consider that Russia, for example, could make a move in Yemen to achieve the same thing – a blow to the sponsors of terrorism, involving half the risk. The Ministry of Defence of Russia is composed of experienced and qualified parts, which receive information directly from the place of events, which is then fed into the supercomputer’s algorithm. When Erdogan shot down the Russian jet in Syria, this algorithm did its work, and it calculated that the best way to neutralise Turkey’s role in Syria is to economically paralyze it. This conclusion was implemented, and now the Turkish card offers Russia much more as leverage than it did before, where it was almost exclusively acting in the interests of the US.

Conclusion: the content on social media does not reflect the actual events on the ground – the map is not the territory. Furthermore, war is not a form of entertainment for people observing from thousands of miles away. We are talking about real people, real consequences, actual skin in the game. And there is no respawning, or turning the games console off when things get difficult, or no leaving the cinema if the plot is “boring”. There is no save file, or walkthroughs, and there is no time machine. Russia makes decisions with the future decades in mind, not the next month (like the US, which has temporary business partners and not long-term allies).

This is not to say that every decision is taken without a drop of emotion, after all, the supercomputer algorithm was built by a human. But because of the rapid way in which humans now communicate, mistakes can be seamlessly made that can cause irreversible consequences. Ukraine found this out the hard way, and is now paying the price for decades of gazing over the Atlantic. And the Kurds in Syria, who are now aligned with Saudi Arabia, will discover the same thing – that a dance with the devil might last forever. At the end of the day, the US hopes to provoke Russia enough to bring the “Russian aggression” myth into existence. With this in mind, who would you trust – the Russian Ministry of Defence and its proven-to-be-reliable supercomputer, or a social media “analyst” sat thousands of miles away from the frontline with zero skin in the game? A rhetorical question, of course. Think the algorithm is faulty? Then by all means, build another one and save the day. Putin is waiting…

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