Why are the Russians Leaving Syria?

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The Russian forces in Syria are beginning their withdrawal as of tomorrow. The question I am asking is why. Russian President Vladimir Putin made this announcement (among others). I edited the full statement for the sake of brevity on this blog:

“In a short period of time, Russia created in Syria a numerically small but quite effective military task force, made up of various forces and assets. These included space reconnaissance, unmanned aerial vehicles, combat assault systems – both fighter aircraft and ground assault aircraft. There were also naval forces, which fired the most up-to-date weapons from the waters of two seas – the Mediterranean and the Caspian, both from surface ships and from submarines. A powerful air defense system was set up, including the most up-to-date S-400 systems.”

“I believe that the objectives set before the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces have on the whole been achieved. I therefore order the Defense Minister to begin the withdrawal of the main part of our task force from the Syrian Arab Republic starting from tomorrow.”
“Tartus and the air (base) at the Humaymim aerodrome, will operate as before. They should be reliably protected from the ground, from the sea and from the air. This part of our military task force was traditionally stationed in Syria, for many years before, and these days it will have to perform the very important function of monitoring the ceasefire and creating conditions for the peace process.” 
“I hope that today’s decision will be a good signal for all the parties to the conflict. I hope that it will substantially increase the level of trust among all the participants in the conciliation process in Syria, and will assist in resolving the Syrian issue by peaceful means.”
Mr. Putin declared victory and is pulling out for all intents and purposes, but Putin’s comments about creating conditions for peace talks are not completely accurate. The Russians have created conditions for talks to begin, but achievement of a settlement agreement would require more sustained military pressure because the negotiating parties are far apart. Without the threat of Russian air attacks, the motivation for compromise is weakened. 

A Russian withdrawal over the next few months will leave the Syrian Kurds essentially unprotected from Turkish air attacks.

I suspect that Saudi Arabia and its allies bought the Russians off. It had to have been a very significant number, but it’s the only thing that makes sense. 

9 thoughts on “Why are the Russians Leaving Syria?

  1. Why is Russia doing this? Some cite the enormous cost of the Russian military presence in that area, but I think the Russians have come to the conclusion that they have gotten themselves into another Afghanistan-like quagmire. They have realized that it would take hundreds of thousands more troops to win the war in Syria — and even then it is unlikely that would quell the violence (or assure Assad stays in office — their only ally in the Middle East).

  2. The Russians are stretched logistically in Syria, but they are not THAT far from their home turf. I think that the Saudis paid them to leave so that the newly minted Arab League could solve the problem.

    It's a good thing. Let Arabs solve Arab problems for a change.

  3. Makes sense to me. Saudi petro-dollars spend just as well in Russia buying vodka and T-80's as they do in the US buying politicans.

    And now that the Saudis have a working relationship with the Russkies, and no longer trust Uncle Sam at all, this arrangement makes perfect sense.

  4. Trump has said that if the Saudis want our help, they need to pay for it. I sense a trend…if he wins. If not, it's back to business as usual.

  5. I'm not a betting person, but I think the old adage, "follow the money" is a good bet here.

    LL, you mentioned Arabs solving Arab problems a good thing for a change, well, IMO I think that's like squeezing an orange and expecting apple juice. Let's hope I'm wrong.

  6. That is the intent of the newly minted Arab cooperative because they have a common enemy in Iran. (and perhaps Israel)

  7. The ruskies aren't leaving, just pulling back to their Syrian bases. They have spent some money, maybe they got paid to become the supporting actors. But Barry has now felt the heat of being called the pussy when Vlad gets the man credit. Barry says ooh ooh ooh me too and wants to flex his flabby excuse for muscles so Vlad says have at it wimpy. Barry will spend ten times the amount as Russia and to less effect but incrementally escalate (the absolute wrong way to do it) and find himself (that means US) in a quagmire which he can leave to his successor. Meanwhile the USA looks like the big bad bully drone-ing on and killing with lots of real or imagined collateral damage, death and destruction. Vlad can wait for Barry to overstep his bonds and make all the mistakes that he will assuredly make. End result, no downside for Vlad, no upside for Barry until he leaves office and blames the mess on whomever. Unless it is Trump, which Barry might be thinking it will be so Trump starts with what Barry thinks is a shit sandwich but Donald sees as an opportunity and will unleash the pro's on it without telling them how to do it just what the goal is and when to be done. I love it when a plan comes together.

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