Russia has quietly moved troops to a point in southern Syria that is 8km from Israel’s Golan border, in the face of Israeli objections, Moscow used the uproar over the Temple Mount standoff and the diplomatic crisis between Israel and Jordan to cover its creeping troop deployment almost up do Syria's borders with Israel and Jordan.
Tuesday, July 15, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avidor Lieberman and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott visited Bashan Division headquarters on the Golan for a rundown on the Russian deployment just opposite. (see photo)
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that some 800 Russian troops face Israel and another 400 are positioned on the border with Jordan. They have set up a roadblock east of Quneitra 8km from Israeli positions on the Golan. They have also strung an additional four to six lookout posts, some of them 13km from Israeli military positions, along the 64km Syrian-Israeli border - from Mount Hermon in the north, up to a point south of Qunetra in the south.
Most of the Russian troops were recruited in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, republics known for their Muslim extremist activity.
Israel has repeatedly objected to the proximity of this Russian military presence, and asked the Trump administration to prevent it. But the protests from Jerusalem went unheeded in Washington and Moscow. President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis regard the creation of US-Russian sponsored ceasefire zones in southwestern Syria as an essential component of their military cooperation in Syria and the war on ISIS.
Moscow announced the Russian deployment after the fact in messages to Washington, Jerusalem and Amman. They were all too engrossed in coping with the crises that had sprung up over Temple Mount and in relations between Jerusalem and Amman to pay much attention to this Russian fait accompli.
According to the announcement by Col.-Gen Sergey Rudskoy, Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, the Russian units were in already in place on July 21 and 22:
“We informed our colleagues from the United States, Jordan and Israel, through military diplomatic channels in advance of the deployment of the Russian-controlled forces around the perimeter of the de-escalation zone in southern Syria,” he wrote.
China's military has been increasing the strength and number of its forces along its 880-mile border with North Korea as Pyongyang's military provocations cause the US and its allies to think long and hard about military action against the rogue regime.
A report from The Wall Street Journal says that China has established a new border-defense brigade, implemented 24-hour video surveillance of the border, and constructed bunkers to protect from possible nuclear or chemical attacks.
China conducted a live-fire drill in June and July with helicopter gunships and armored infantry units, including a simulated battle with artillery, tanks, and helicopters, according to The Journal. The nature of these military exercises goes beyond securing a border, and they mimic fighting a nuclear-armed adversary.
While China and North Korea exist on paper as allies, Sim Tack, an expert on North Korea at Stratfor, a geopolitical-analysis firm, previously told Business Insider that China would not likely defend Pyongyang from a US-led attack and instead try to prevent or dissuade the US from taking such a step.
Still, a US-led attack on North Korea remains unlikely. South Korea's new liberal government has sought to pursue engagement with its neighbor, and the US would ultimately need its support for such a campaign. From a purely military point of view, North Korea's artillery and nuclear arms hold too many civilians in Seoul at risk.
In June, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis described possible conflict with North Korea as "a serious, a catastrophic war, especially for innocent people in some of our allied countries, to include Japan most likely."
Even short of war, China now has reason to view North Korea as a liability.
In response to North Korea's missile tests and military provocations, the US based its powerful Thaad missile-defense battery in South Korea, frightening Chinese military analysts who think the Thaad's powerful radar could one day effectively neuter China's ability to engage in a nuclear exchange with the US.
Beijing, which could play a role in handling a refugee crisis, should the North Korean regime collapse, has now assembled forces sufficient to shape the outcome of any conflict between the West and Pyongyang.
"We believe in peace. We will not take the initiative that could lead to war. But we will not back down in the face of threats."
Effectively, the message from Moscow and Beijing is that the era of Western—and particularly American—naval dominance is coming to a close. But there are questions as to how durable the partnership is between the two great Eurasian powers. Moscow and Beijing have had troubled relations in previous decades during the Soviet-era where tensions have nearly spilled over into open warfare between the two.
“The message is that the end of the age of Western maritime mastery is at hand. A couple of bonus effects - the PLA Navy gets to show it can operate effectively very far from home, while Moscow and Beijing get to make a show of unity,” Holmes said.