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Moscow Has Only Gained From Syria Campaign

Geopolitical gains aside, Russia not only tested but showcased her military hardware, leaving customers lining up

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The author is the Director General of the Moscow Center for Political Information, an influential think tank close to the Kremlin.

Some analysts are saying that despite claims to the contrary, Russia has not accomplished its mission in Syria. It’s impossible to know exactly what the Russian Air Force has failed to achieve from its earlier statements. 

<figcaption>The significant SU-34 strike fighter was combat-tested in Syria</figcaption>
The significant SU-34 strike fighter was combat-tested in Syria

However, the obvious result is that now there are two Russian military bases on Syrian territory. With our support, the Syrians have revamped and begun to rearm a sovereign military that is getting top military advice. So Russia has a real opportunity to influence the region as guarantor of social and political stability. 

Given that the so-called ‘broad coalition’ headed by the US was the primary ‘guarantor of instability’, this has to be worth a lot. About 2,000 terrorists – immigrants from the former Soviet Union — have been killed, including 17 leaders of armed groups that will never return to Russia or other former regions of the USSR to pursue their terrorist activities. 

Russia demonstrated its first-class weapons and tested them in combat. Without giving away vital information, our arms contracts have increased to a dozen billion dollars, covering the cost of the Syrian operation. We foresee a significant expansion of military and technical cooperation with our long-standing partners (India, China etc.) and new clients are impressed by the success of our planes. 

Add to this the strengthening Russian leadership in strategic locations, first of all in Europe. The question is whether Russia will be able to bring its effective ‘Syrian project’ to completion. What if the civil war continues after the withdrawal of Russian Forces? 

Well, it’s better to leave the game with money in your pocket. It’s up to the population of a sovereign country to solve its problems without gross outside interference. There’s no need for Russia to get bogged down in a quagmire as the US keeps doing. In fact, the withdrawal of Russian air forces from Syria is part of the gradual reduction of Russia’s presence that preserves control over the military situation in the region. 

Secondly, a lot of depends on the actions of regional ‘underminers’: ISIS, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and their allies. NATO’s presence mainly serves the national interest of the US, and should not be ignored. However, our agreements with the US enable us to fairly well predict the behavior of ISIS, Turkey and the so-called Islamic coalition. 

Third, Russian support for Bashar Assad is about safeguarding the legitimate power of a  sovereign country, and he is simply one political element of the future Syria. We expect this issue to be a main subject of conflict with our ‘Western partners’, but it’s important for Russia not to make demands beforehand to avoid a strong reaction. 

Fourth, Russia has already begun to build more productive relationships with Assad’s opponents, who will obviously be involved in the forthcoming constitutional reform. The US and its allies have armed separate Syrian groups, setting them against the Assad regime. But they were largely beyond NATO’s control, some morphing into ISIS or other terrorist groups. Some of them are disappointed in the US and are ready to build relationships with Russia, a chance not to be missed. 

Finally, with respect to possible Russian actions in Libya and Iraq, these countries learned the price of  ‘forced democracy’, ending up with the collapse of the political structures of the region and the formation of groups of criminal radical Islamists. Their representatives have already made unofficial overtures to Russia, but NATO is preventing them from moving forward.

Russia is suffering from illegitimate sanctions, and the world financial crisis doesn’t allow it to provide major assistance to Libya and Iraq, however, it could do so in alliance with other countries. We need to build new military alliances even if they are of convenience, for example, as with China. 

China is highly interested in preserving its investments in this region, but it needs not only a partner but a policy driver, with an explicit division of responsibility.

It’s also likely that one or more European countries seeking to stabilize relationships in North Africa and the Middle East and in regaining their own independence, will become Russian allies. This could help Europe solve the urgent economic problems that resulted from the US forcing it to impose sanctions on Russia and insisting on their endless prolongation under specious pretexts.

Source: Izvestia
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