Russian Federation in Military Withdrawal from Syria: Success but Deterrent Needed
Ramazan Khalidov, Takeshi Hasegawa and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation announced that the armed forces would start to withdraw the “main part” of its military capability from Syria. The announcement took many by surprise because the withdrawal will take effect immediately from March 15. However, according to Putin the main objectives have been accomplished on the whole. This applies to the galvanization of the armed forces of Syria, whereby rollback took place in various parts of the country along with the increase of modern equipment for the armed forces of this nation.
Despite this, ISIS (Islamic State –IS) is currently still in Raqqa and holding out in other parts of the nation, for example Palmyra. It could well be that the armed forces of Syria will make a fresh push against Palmyra, while other forces more compliant to America will tackle Raqqa. However, it surely would have appeared more powerful for the Russian Federation if Aleppo had fully fallen (gains have been made in and around Aleppo) – or Palmyra had been retaken prior to the March 15 withdrawal.
Putin comments “I consider the objectives that have been set for the Defense Ministry to be generally accomplished. That is why I order to start withdrawal of the main part of our military group from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic starting from tomorrow.”
Despite this, a military presence will remain in Syria at the important port of Tartus and the airbase of Khmeimim. Apparently the presence is based on the need to observe agreed ceasefires on the ground. However, by maintaining a military presence in Syria then the Russian Federation can respond quickly to unforeseen events. At the same time, a military contingency in two specified areas is highlighting the changing environment and that Moscow fully supports the central government of Syria.
It is hoped behind the scenes that the Russian Federation is being given certain guarantees by America. After all, it is difficult to trust President Erdogan of Turkey and other nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia. This is based on these nations having openly supported brutal sectarian Takfiri forces against Syria. Therefore, the Russian Federation should provide a genuine deterrence, whereby intensive bombing will be restarted if outside nations continue to follow destabilizing policies against Syria. In other words, the port of Tartus and the military airbase of Khmeimim should cater for a powerful contingency backup. If not, then it is too early for the Russian Federation to withdraw on mass unless Moscow is in full knowledge that places like Palmyra will fall soon.
Jonathan Marcus, the BBC, says “Russia’s intervention has achieved its main goals – consolidating President Assad’s position, enabling his forces to re-take key pieces of strategic territory and ensuring that Mr Assad remains a factor in any future Syrian settlement.”
Overall, it is clear that the armed forces of the Russian Federation have killed untold numbers of sectarian terrorists in Syria and altered events on the ground in a relatively short time. On top of this, military training, increased technological military equipment, greater coordination and the psychological boost to the armed forces of Syria by the Russian Federation is immense. Despite this, it is still essential that the Russian Federation maintains a strong military presence in Tartus and Khmeimim – and is prepared to enter Syria in the future if central forces make a request. After all, events in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya highlight the reality that Gulf and NATO powers have failed to predict events on the ground. Therefore, the Russian Federation needs a strong backup plan based on strong coordination with the central government of Syria if events don’t go to plan.
Modern Tokyo News is part of the Modern Tokyo Times group
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