For all the hysteria about Russian collusion and President Trump being in Vladimir Putin’s pocket, you would be hard-pressed to find in the mainstream media the fact that the United States military just killed at least a hundred Russian mercenaries, possibly twice that number or more, with hundreds more wounded.
I am speaking of course about the recent battle in Syria, where American air power decimated a ground force advancing on U.S. positions and U.S.-backed local Syrian allies.
The media would rather froth at the mouth about Kellyanne Conway saying the wrong thing in a TV interview than a hot war between the two nations who could literally destroy the human race in a few minutes.
Why does no one want to talk about this? The answer is obvious — the inevitable conclusions are just too horrifying to contemplate.
The 30,000-foot narrative of the incident was that a Russia oligarch, affectionately nicknamed “Putin’s cook” because he literally served meals for the Russian president and then the Russian military for lucrative contracts, decided upon his own to ink a deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad to “take” some oil fields the regime had lost control of, and naturally, share the profits.
This oligarch, Yevgeny Prigozhin, also runs a private mercenary force, called Wagner, which made lots of money in East Ukraine and has been involved in the Syrian conflict for some time, fighting for Mr. Assad and taking care of things Mr. Putin doesn’t want to use official Russian forces to handle.
Once the necessary agreements were signed between Wagner and Syria (agreements the Kremlin was most assuredly aware of and maybe even approved), Mr. Prigozhin decided to send in a few companies of his private army to attack in the middle of the night.
The American command center saw them coming and contacted the Russians, asking if they were sending forces into the American area. The Russians denied they had military operations near the U.S. positions. The result was a massive airstrike using close air support aircraft from Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and Army Apache gunships, among other assets. The results were devastating, as only an AC-130 can deliver.
The reason no one wants to talk about the killings is obvious. First of all, American air power literally tore up the Russian mercenary force like a rototiller in a spring garden. It was just too easy. Of course there was no Russian air power or air defense systems to deal with, so it was not a fair fight. But the thought of hundreds of Russians being killed easily by American air power is something I’m sure the Kremlin doesn’t want to advertise.
Second, the image of the two nations with the largest nuclear stockpiles literally fighting to the death is also a mental picture most national security professionals don’t really want to think about. The thought is just not pleasant.
Finally, the suggestion that President Putin may have authorized Russian nationals to attack American special forces is also very disturbing. Perhaps Mr. Putin wanted to give the world the same “unpredictable” image that Mr. Trump has so carefully nurtured in the press. If he did, it backfired spectacularly. If you notice, it was only a few days after the Syria clash that Mr. Putin gave his now-famous “I’ve got invincible nuclear weapons” speech.
Mr. Putin has said the West should not “forget” that Russia is a nuclear power. He has also made a conscious decision not to meet the West head to head with conventional forces, preferring to spend big bucks on modernizing his nuclear stockpile, including cruise missiles and underwater drones.
The Syrian incident shows that probably was a wise decision. Nuclear forces have been shown to be Mr. Putin’s trump card, not massive conventional force.
I’m sure the Chinese have been monitoring the situation as well.
• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.