The Russian Air Forces began active strikes in Syria against positions of ISIS and Al Qaeda allies. All this happened right after president Putin spoke at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday Sept 28th. Russia has been preparing for this in the last weeks and it was a matter of time to take an active role in the conflict. The actions fully comply with international law.
Russia will not participate in ground operations. They will support the existing Syrian army of president Assad plus anyone who takes part in a larger anti-terrorist coalitions (Kurds, Iraq, Iran, Hezbollah units).
The airstrikes conducted by the US-led coalition against ISIS are not effective (admitted by the US, it’s another topic why) and that’s why Russia has to lead a new coalition against those radical terrorists.
So why is Russia doing this? Why do they support president Assad and the Syrian government? What are the goals?
First of all, contrary to the whole anti-Assad propaganda in the western media, Russia doesn’t consider the president of Syria illegitimate. He is elected president who has the support of the majority of the Syrians. There are millions of people there who stand 4 years for him.
Now, here is why Russia took active role and why they can’t let the Syrian government fall:
The official argument by all Russian officials is that ISIS is a direct threat to the national security of Russia. There are at least 2000 terrorists (more likely about 10000) who are citizens of Russia or citizens of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Those people are a big problem for Russia, especially when the have visa-free travelling with Turkey and those Central Asian countries.
The Russians have suffered from terrorism over the last 25 years. And they try to destroy those dangerous people before they come back. They remember the attacks in Moscow, Volgograd, Beslan. It’s a real threat and it’s understandable why they take such action.
Of course this is not the only reason why Syria is so important for Russia.
There are at least 4 more major things for Russia to gain…
Russia can gain enormous geopolitical influence.
Russia can gain influence in the whole Middle East. They basically come back as a major player there. Get new potential allies and take the leading role from the United States in the region.
Russia can ensure a relative peace in the Middle East.
It’s not in there interest if a major wars sparks there. Russia is in good relations with almost all countries there. For example, Russia in Syria can give real guarantees that will ensure safety of Israel. They can prevent a possible major war between Iran and Israel.
It’s important from strategic military stand point
Russia will most like establish permanent military bases on the Syrian coasts. They already have naval facility in Tartus but it’s not a fully operational base. Now they will have it. This is extremely important for them. Having military and naval presence in the Mediterranean sea is a counter measure against possible naval positions of US missile defense (NMD).
There are economic reasons
Obviously, there can be economic gains as well, even though they are not guaranteed. Russia can stop competitive oil and gas pipeline. They are likely to explore the Syrian shelf for oil and gas. And they might get some control in the Syrian oil fields that are currently controlled by ISIS.
Possible downsides of this involvement for Russia:
– Any military operation costs a lot of money. Russia is not in a great economic shape so a war won’t help it.
– Even though they will use only air power and adviser, there is still a possibility for military losses.
– Terrorists who currently live in Russia can be used by their radical leaders to commit attacks
Brace yourself for bullshit propaganda:
You will hear a lot about how Russia is supporting the evil dictator Assad against the “peaceful opposition” not against ISIS.
You will also hear a lot about the countless innocent victims of the Russian air strikes.