No, NEVER.... Russia will only draw a red line if it really means it, if it is willing to accept the consequences of the US/NATO crossing that line. So far, the only situation in which Russia drew the line was with the war against Georgia. When its peacekeepers were attacked, the Russians not only told the Americans that if they get involved they will be militarily engaged, but they actually back up their threats with some very real military actions. Interestingly, the US Navy was very fast to feel that this time the Russians were really serious, and it backed down. I would make the case that in the case of the missile defense system in Europe, Russia is, for the second time, clearly drawing a red line. But in the case of Syria, Russia will do what it did with Kosovo, oppose the Imperial project on principle, but Russia will not pretend like it is willing to have a military confrontation with the USA and NATO over this. Frankly, just as the US and NATO did not have the means to fight Russia in the Caucasus (Georgia/Ossetia), Russia does not have the military means to fight the US or NATO in Syria, the Mediterranean or the Middle-East. One could deplore that - I don't - but that is a fact which the Russian government cannot ignore.
I like Pepe Escobar a lot, some of his analysis is excellent, but he is a typical journalist, a "generalist" who does not really specialize in one field (just look how he totally misread the Gucci Revolution in Iran"). Pepe does not understand the military implications of a standoff over Syria. He thinks that deploying S-300 (or even S-400, where did he get that idea?!) would fundamentally alter the equation. He is wrong, it would not....
Look at the rather brilliant operation of the Russian paratroopers to move a unit from Bosnia to Pristina, Kosovo, right under the nose of NATO. These paratroopers were, I assure you, quite ready to die to protect the Serbs from the KLA-NATO forces. And, really, for all the posturing of the East Europeans, if the Russian military had decided to send in reinforcements by air (say an Airborne Regiment) there is nothing they could have done. But this entire concept was torpedoed by the civilian leaders in the Kremlin who, at that time, were themselves NATO puppets (the Yeltsin Zioconned regime). But : if NATO had decided not to back down, if they had given an ultimatum to the Russian paratroopers, and it they had then acted on it, do you think that Russia did have the means of defending either Pristina, the Serbs or even their own paratroopers?
The sad reality is that they did not.
Bluffing in military matters is a very, VERY, dangerous thing. What if your enemy calls your bluff?
No, Russia should not and can not get militarily involved in Syria or, for that matter, anywhere else, unless it is fully ready to escalate as high as needed if its threats/warnings are ignored.
Lastly, I am personally not at all that sure that the Assad regime deserves being helped in the first place (unlike the Kosovo Serbs)....
Russia will oppose any US/NATO military intervention which does not have a UNSC resolution authorizing it, and Russia will veto any such resolutions in the UNSC, but Russia will not militarily protect any third party, of that I am sure.....
As for the Tartus naval base, I don't believe that the current Russian military strategy requires bases in Syria, Libya or, even much less so, Venezuela. All this talk about distant Russian military bases is really what is called "showing the flag", which is nice, of course, but not something crucial, in particular not for a country like Russia which, unlike the Soviet Union, has no imperial or global ambitions whatsoever.
Russia's current security strategy is to slowly, step by step, built up its position in Central Asia, to strengthen its cooperation with China, increase the EU's dependence on its gas, increase its role in the energy sector in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Iran, and to keep its economy safe from the current crisis (in particular by rebuilding its internal market).
I think that this low-key but crucial policy is fundamentally sound and I would hope that Russia would leave "grand" imperial policies (like sending Marines to Australia, LOL!) to Obama and his utterly criminal, utterly corrupt and Zioconned collapsing Evil empire :-)....
Russia will target US anti-missile sites in Europe, deploy advanced radars to monitor all missile launches from NATO territory, and might even withdraw from the New START arms reduction treaty that came into force this year unless Washington takes dramatic steps to allay Moscow's concerns over plans to deploy major elements of an anti-missile shield in several European countries, President Dmitry Medvedev warned this week.
In his toughest-ever foreign policy statement, which Russian officials qualified Friday as "a call to dialogue," Mr. Medvedev said he has ordered the Russian military to immediately take measures to restore the strategic balance – as Moscow understands it – to counter US plans to install advanced radars and anti-missile interceptors in countries such as Poland, Romania, and Turkey in the next few years.
Analysts say the harsh Russian line could undermine President Obama's "reset" policy of making concessions in order to establish practical cooperation with Moscow, at a time when it is already under withering fire at home from Republicans who argue that Mr. Obama has already given away too much to the Kremlin with little to show for it in return.
Medvedev said that unless Obama signs a clearly worded and legally-binding statement declaring that NATO's anti-missile weapons will never be used against Russia, he will have "no choice" but to go ahead with Russian countermeasures, which would include stationing medium-range Iskander missiles in Russia's western enclave of Kaliningrad, from where they could rapidly strike NATO facilities across Europe.
"If our partners show an honest and responsible attitude towards taking into account Russia’s legitimate security interests, I am sure we can come to an agreement," Medvedev said. "But if we are asked to ‘cooperate’ or in fact act against our own interests it will be difficult to establish common ground. In such a case we would be forced to take a different response."
"If the situation continues to develop not to Russia’s favor, we reserve the right to discontinue further disarmament and arms control measures," including withdrawal from the New START treaty, he added.
The impasse over US missile defense plans has long been viewed by analysts on both sides as a make-or-break issue in efforts to get beyond the cold war legacy and forge a genuine strategic partnership between the US and Russia. Moscow fears that future development of the shield could undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent, whose core is a force of aging land-based Soviet-era intercontinental ballistic missiles.
But analysts are baffled over why Medvedev appears to have chosen to force the issue right now.
Medvedev's gift to the GOP?
Some suggest that it may be for purely domestic consumption. Russia will hold elections next week for the State Duma and the ruling United Russia party, headed by Medvedev, has seen its popular support sharply eroded in recent weeks.
But others warn that Medvedev could be handing a political gift to Obama's Republican opponents, who might use it to bury the "reset" completely.
"This is an extremely tone deaf statement from Medvedev, which sounds as if it were written to appeal to hardliners in the West in order to draw the most rigid possible response," says Alexei Arbatov, head of the Center for International Security at Moscow's prestigious Institute of World Economy and International Relations. "As for the threat to quit START, it's like saying we are ready to cut off our own nose to spite our face."
Last year, Medvedev offered a plan to build a joint "sectoral" missile defense shield for Europe, in which Russia would cover its own territory and NATO's anti-missile measures would stop at the Russian border.
Since any rogue missile launch by Iran or North Korea would inevitably traverse Russian airspace, NATO leaders subsequently rejected Medvedev's concept as too limiting as it would leave European defense at the mercy of Russian capabilities and political will.
In a statement Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Andres Fogh Rasmussen said he was disappointed by Medvedev's suggestion that Russian missile deployments near the borders of NATO countries is an appropriate response to Western efforts to create an anti-missile shield. He added that NATO is ready to continue dialogue with Moscow to "show that cooperation, not confrontation, is the way ahead."
Obama's Zioconned 'reset' buttons.....
Besides the New START treaty, which slashes offensive nuclear arsenals on both sides, Obama's reset has brought improved Russian cooperation in pressuring Iran to give up its alleged nuclear weapons program.
It's also resulted in Russia's agreement for a "northern corridor" through former Soviet territory, through which more than half of all supplies for NATO's beleaguered operation in Afghanistan now flow.
"Russia is not going to leave the START treaty, that would be really foolish," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading Moscow foreign policy journal. "Medvedev just wanted to make it clear our talks with NATO on anti-missile weapons have failed. It's important to say so, because there is an impression [in the West] that everything's OK because we held talks on the subject. It's not OK. Russia is not happy, and this is an outstanding issue to be raised in future, and which will be key to US-Russia relations."