Americans and Russians are talking. Intensely. Putin’s spokesman has told the press the hotline the two militaries established to “deconflict” their parallel Syria interventions against ISIS, is still active and “being used by both sides”, which sounds like both sides are interested in talking.
Meanwhile Putin has, today of all days, thanked the Jordanians for their previous help in “deconflicting” US and Russian operations in southern Syria which probably means they’re still serving in a similar capacity. The Turkish press proudly reports Turkey is mediating as well. Finally Putin’s buddy Netanyahu reportedly serves as another middle man:
Trump has talked himself into a corner with his “get ready Russia” tweet and general hysterics so the Russians still think US strikes are highly likely even as they’re using the Israelis, the Turks and the Jordanians to try and work something out.
But the key point is that with all this back and forth between the Russians and the Americans on the military line, US strikes quite likely won’t be anything like when America bombs Sudan, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan or some other force that can’t fight back or incinerate New York City inside a couple of hours.
As per Suchkov’s report above, which I find very believable, the two are actually haggling over the details of the US giving target locations to the Russians in advance (probably over how much time in advance and for how many / which targets). That is quite unlike any war the US has recently fought — except for the 2017 strikes on Syria when the American side likewise told the Russians (who told the Syrians) that a strike was coming a couple of hours later and where it would hit.
Both sides have drawn their lines and neither is enthusiastic about losing face. Trump has vowed missiles are coming and Russia’s chief general Gerasimov vowed he’ll fire at any ship or aircraft that puts his men at risk. In such circumstances negotiating the details of the coming strike in advance is as wise as it is cynical. Unless Trump manages yet another flip-flop, or Lavrov can pull another rabbit out of the bag, it may be the only and best way to avoid this blowing up into something even far nastier.
That is something we should all be thankful for. Ironically the US-Russian military communication channel that is making this possible isn’t an outgrowth of past good relations, but of their rivalry.
Because it led to the hotline, it is ironically past Russian-American tension in Syria which has made the present crisis just a little less dangerous. As I wrote last year:
Truly, for all the Russian-American tension their respective military interventions in Syria have caused, one good thing to come out of them is that it has forced the two militaries to talk more to each other than they have done ever before, and at even comparatively low levels.
Aside from perhaps preventing a Russian-US clash in eastern Syria that could easily develop into something far more destructive, it gives the opportunity to officers of both to get to understand the other side directly on a more human level.
Perhaps the measure of their opponent they take during these exchanges, or the contacts they develop end up averting a US-Russian military miscalculation or catastrophe years or decades from now.
We may just get out of this one alive. Thanks to the fact the two militaries have been forced to talk to each other for nearly three years now.