Enough, let s go home

Putin said

The president withdrew part of the Russian troops from the Arab Republic.

In recent days, 1140 Russian servicemen have left Syria, as well as 13 aircraft and 14 helicopters. This was announced on June 28 by Vladimir Putin.

“We began the withdrawal of our units even during my arrival at the base station of Khmeimim. This conclusion continues even now, “the president said at a reception in honor of graduates of military universities in the Kremlin.

How many Russian soldiers and equipment remains in Syria, the head of state did not specify.

Recall: in December 2017, the president and the supreme commander-in-chief had already ordered the leadership of the Ministry of Defense to withdraw the bulk of the Russian forces from Syria. The reason was the complete liberation of Syria from the militants of the “Islamic state”, under the control of which, as the military claimed, there was not a single settlement left.

Noting “the growing power of the Russian army,” Putin then stressed that the task that had to be resolved in the SAR “with the help of large-scale use of armed forces, was brilliantly resolved.” “By helping the people of Syria to maintain their statehood, to repel terrorist attacks, you inflict and deal a crushing blow, defeat to those who directly, brazenly and openly threatened our country,” the president said to the servicemen while visiting the air base of Khmeimim.

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The military itself began to talk about the withdrawal of troops even earlier – at the end of October 2017. By that time, the government troops of Syrian President Bashar Assad took control of about 95% of the territory of the republic, and no longer needed large-scale Russian support. However, in the General Staff, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation were reinsured, deciding that it was necessary to clean up the last enclave of Islamists in the east of the Euphrates, and only when Assad’s troops are fixed in positions, start the withdrawal of military and technical equipment.

According to General Sergei Surovikin, commander of the Russian Federation in Syria, in December 2017, 23 planes and two Ka-52 helicopters were withdrawn from Khmeimim, as well as a detachment of military police, a special task force, a military field hospital and a detachment of the mine clearing center. The total number of equipment and personnel serving in the republic was never officially called, but experts estimated that as of November 2017, there were about 35 different aircrafts in Khmeimim and about 2.5 thousand servicemen.

Prior to this, Putin twice issued orders to reduce the grouping in the SAR – March 14 and December 29, 2016. Then it was about dispatching to the places of permanent deployment about half of the aircraft, which was at the airbase in Latakia.

And now the Russian grouping in Syria is further reduced. It is clear that we do not completely leave the country. Two Russian military facilities will continue to function in the republic: the Khmeimim airbase and the logistics center of the Navy in Tartus. This means that there will remain equipment and armaments that are used for their cover: the S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile systems (in Khmeimim and Masyaf), the S-300V4 anti-aircraft missile system (covers Tartus), some anti-aircraft missile and cannon missiles complexes “Pantsir-S1”. Most likely, there will remain in Syria and Russian drones, with the help of which the de-escalation zones are being monitored.

Nevertheless, the fact remains: our military support to Assad has decreased. And, coincidentally, Putin ordered the withdrawal of troops on the eve of a meeting with US President Donald Trump.

What is behind this decision, how will the situation in Syria develop now?

“It’s hard to say how many planes and military personnel remain in Syria,” said Mikhail Alexandrov, a leading expert at the Center for Military and Political Studies of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

We then withdraw some of our forces from the Arab Republic, then we introduce them again. To a large extent this is due not only to the military situation, but also to politics.

So, in March 2016, a statement about the beginning of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria was heard a few hours after the next round of talks on a peaceful settlement began in Geneva.

That’s the current withdrawal of troops, on the one hand, the planned rotation, on the other – a political game. President Putin has a meeting with Trump, and now he has an opportunity to tell his American colleague: we are reducing the military presence in Syria – now you are withdrawing troops from there.

Can we say that Putin “leaves” Assad? If the decision to withdraw a part of our group from the side looks like this – it’s a deeply erroneous idea. Russia invested too much in Syria and political capital, and material, just to leave. Even in the name of relations with the United States. Simply because these relations are improving today, and tomorrow they are already deteriorating. With the Americans, one can never be sure of their reliability as partners – the whole story of ro I think the current withdrawal of troops is more of a tactical maneuver.

The positions of Russia have strengthened. Enclaves of militants in the center were liquidated. The struggle is in the south, for the responsible sector on the border with Israel, and in the area of ​​Tanfah. In this region, I recall, the military base of the international coalition led by the United States is located. It is built two dozen kilometers to the north of the Syrian border with Jordan, and a territory of 44 km radius around the base is declared a no-fly zone. Syria, Iran and Russia have repeatedly accused the US that under the guise of opposition fighters on the base, militants of Islamist terrorist organizations train. In the Pentagon, this information is consistently denied. I fully admit that the current withdrawal of our troops is due to the fact that the Syrian army is about to advance on At-Tanf, and we do not want to “shine” there. If the Assad army approaches Russia, and the US persists, Russia will avoid the risk of a direct clash with the Americans.

The US can smash the army of Assad under At-Tanf?

The US will strike at the Syrian troops. But, firstly, Syria’s air defense system has now intensified, and it can work quite effectively. Secondly, it will be difficult for Americans to act strictly for purely political reasons. It is one thing to deal individual strikes against Syrian troops – supposedly random. Or to beat the Syrian units, who allegedly accidentally attacked the Americans. But it is quite another matter to constantly and openly engage in war with the Syrian army to protect the militants. Anyway, we want to distance ourselves in this matter. Especially, Assad’s army now has enough strength and money to deal with the militants independently. And only if the United States crosses the “red line”, the Kremlin will decide how the Syrians will be helped.

It depends on the actions of the United States. And, in this case, Russia will most likely expand its contingent secretly – it will not be announced. One can note that the USSR did so during the wars in Vietnam and Korea – our missileists and advisers worked actively there, but few knew about this. I think in Syria it will be exactly like that.

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