Granted, this picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was taken eight years ago. However, recent news stories have suggested that Putin is in favour of directly supporting Assad. This doesn’t mean that they will be sending troops over to assist … yet. But, how can you believe a statement such as that when it’s blatantly clear that the Russians have had soldiers supporting Russian separatists in the Ukraine from the very start? In fact, they were probably there before things truly kicked off.
Ukraine aside, let’s look at how authors can use the news to create speculative military/science fiction short stories, or even novels.
From the picture it’s clear that Putin, and therefore Russia, stands with Assad. It’s also very clear from the news that the West i.e. most NATO countries, stand with a number of the more moderate rebel factions. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that if one side takes pro-active military action such as sending troops in – rather than just carrying out bombing raids – that it’s highly likely (for this speculative story) that the other side will do so as well.
Even if only advisors are in place, there is still potential for escalation. For example, members of the US Special Forces are in situ with moderate rebel group, the Secular Brotherhood in Homs after a successful push in direct contravention of terms agreed in 2014, training them on the use of small-arms fire and Urban Operations (UO). At the same time, a number of Russian advisors are also in situ with members of the 15th Special Forces Division, in truth a light infantry unit as opposed to what the West would term to be a true special forces unit. However, compared to the more conventional units of the Syrian Army, they are what might be termed as elite.
Neither side is aware that the other is present. The Secular Brotherhood has claimed a large amount of territory including the Old City, and the 15th Special Forces Division has been tasked once again with pushing them out. The Russian advisors attached to them have agreed to go along on an advisory role. As the attack begins, the US Special Forces members find themselves unable to exfiltrate and are trapped. Under orders to only engage in fighting if they deem themselves to be at risk of death, they commence firing upon Syrian Army soldiers, calling for additional assistance as they do so.
One of their anti-tank rockets hits the APC that the Russian advisors are in, seriously injuring some, and killing others. The rest are forced to abandon the vehicle and counter-attack the building from which the rocket came from, bringing them into direct confrontation. Both sides immediately realise what they are facing and accuse each other of instigating the attack. calls for help from both units are sent, and the hotline between Putin and Obama sees heated exchanges.
Meanwhile, coalition jets that are in the air are responding to the US Special Force’s initial request for assistance. All further communications were then directed solely to their commanders on a secure US Military Comms Net. This means that the bombers, RAF strike planes, are not aware that they are now engaging Russian forces. The bombing run catches the surviving Russians, killing all but one who then reports that he is under attack from British forces as well.
Russian planes, situated at one of Assad’s airfields have already scrambled and successfully intercept the British plane, shooting it down. The pilot is capture by pro-Assad forces after she ejects. Already injured from ejecting, she is tortured and raped multiple times before the Syrian Army is able to reach her. Videos of her treatment are posted up on Social Media, causing public outrage the world over. The British government then approves increased bombing strikes against both pro-Assad forces and the Syrian Army, in direct support of the US.
Despite the best attempts of Syrian doctors, she dies a few days later, causing even more outrage. There are further clashes between units of US and Russian advisors, and Russian planes start intercepting even more coalition planes, fortunately without incident. Both sides have started to place troops on the borders of Syria within countries friendly to them, as well as increasing the number of advisors within the country itself.
One week after the initial engagement, Russian planes are conducting another interception. At the same time a Syrian Air Force fighter is also in the air slightly higher and to the rear of the Russians. As the Russians approach the coalition planes, which are again RAF, the Syrian locks onto and fires upon them. The RAF pilots, believing that they are being engaged by the Russians, return fire, shooting them and the Syrian fighter down, whilst losing two of their own.
The opening shots of the Third Gulf War have been fired.
All of this is obviously speculation, but it’s something that could well make a good novel, and which is a clear example as to how you can use the news to write speculative fiction.