25
Sep

Russian Power Projection

Written on September 25, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, International Conflict, Terrorism & Security, News, Security

Putin Doesn’t Care if Assad Wins. It’s About Russian Power Projection.

MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin wants Syria to know it still has a friend in Russia. Last week, more than a dozen military flights from Russia to Syria reportedly delivered six T-90 tanks, 15 howitzers, 35 armored personnel carriers, 200 marines, and housing for as many as 2,000 military personnel. Moscow has also reportedly delivered surveillance drones, attack helicopters, armored carriers, over two dozen fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles (including an SA-22 air defense system), and four Su-30 aircraft. Russia also established a new base south of Latakia, Syria’s northern port city, and is continuing the expansion of its naval base in Tartus, about 50 miles south of Latakia.

Despite this serious uptick in military assistance to Damascus, Russian government officials and analysts in Moscow noted in conversations over the past few days that the Kremlin is not planning a major military offensive in Syria, belying recent press reports. Nor does Moscow plan to send ground forces to Damascus to shore up Assad’s flank. Rather, with Assad’s forces continuing to lose ground, Moscow wants to ensure it has a voice in any effort to reach a political solution to the conflict. Its military presence is designed to force Assad’s foes — the United States included — to respect its interests in Syria, while strengthening its hand as a regional power broker.

Moscow has provided significant diplomatic and military support to the Syrian regime since the 1970s. This support has included training and equipping the Syrian military, as well as intelligence cooperation. In exchange, Moscow has enjoyed access to the Tartus naval base (currently, its only military facility outside the former Soviet Union), while Syria has long supported Soviet and Russian efforts to limit the influence of the United States and its mostly Sunni allies in the Gulf. In the current conflict, Moscow has portrayed Assad as the most effective bulwark against the type of radicalism that animates the Islamic State, arguing that Washington’s insistence on Assad leaving power is dangerously naïve, given the lack of viable alternatives. Earlier in the conflict, the Kremlin did invite members of the Syrian opposition to Moscow; but Russian officials were reportedly disappointed with the outcome of their conversations. Read more…

 

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