Russia’s success in Syria
by Olivia Kroth
Russia’s military success in Syria is enormous. In spite of many bloody provocations against the Russian Federation at home and abroad, it has been able to help Syria’s embattled government with President Bashar Al Assad to hold out in a hostile environment. The recent liberation of Aleppo and the UN ceasefire agreement, reached during the last days of 2016, have turned the tables in this ugly war, waged by the western alliance and several terrorist groups against Syria. Nevertheless, on the 29th of December 2016, the Russian Federation, Iran and Turkey were able to find a solution, even if it might be only temporarily. They have agreed to cooperate in a UN-backed ceasefire agreement. Furthermore, the Russian Federation is sending humanitarian aid on a continuous basis to Syria, while the western alliance has been trying hard to destroy Syrian infrastructure, similiarly to its previous devastation of Iraq and Libya.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced, on the 29th of December 2016, “An event that we not just long since hoped for but also worked hard for has taken place. Three documents have been signed. The first is an agreement between the Syrian government and the armed opposition on a ceasefire on the Syrian Arab Republic’s territory. The second document agrees a series of measures to monitor the ceasefire. The third document is a statement of readiness to start peace talks on ending the Syrian conflict. The Russian Defence Ministry and Foreign Ministry were in constant contact with our partners in Damascus and other capitals and worked hard together with our partners in Turkey. We know that the Russian, Turkish and Iranian foreign ministers recently held a trilateral meeting in Moscow, at which all three countries committed themselves to not simply monitoring but also guaranteeing the peace process in Syria” (VOLTAIRENET, 29.12.2016).
The ceasefire came into effect on the 30th of December 2016, shortly before year’s end, marking a successful year of Russia’s defence and help for Syria. Russia and Iran will monitor the ceasefire, both governments are supporting Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Turkey has agreed as well, although it remains to be seen how long the Turkish promise will hold. Turkey is a NATO country. So these good intentions might be hard to fulfill, since NATO has been trying for a long time to topple the Syrian President and split up the country into different zones of interest for Western countries. But the Syrian government’s continued resistance and Russia’s defence of Syria against western backed terrorists have weakened NATO influence and greatly strengthened Russia’s importance in the region.
“Syria’s withstanding would not have been possible without Russian involvement, firmly placing Russia as a counter to western power as we move into 2017. Russia has emerged as the key actor in global politics, in recent years. It was Russia’s direct involvement in Syria and its provision of crucial military and strategic support to the Assad government that allowed Syria to resist the proxy war, waged against it for almost six years. Overall, though the West tried to topple the Syrian government, using terrorist or ‘rebel’ groups as proxy, it has not succeeded—and this failure arguably weakens western hegemony going forward” (Ghada Chelade, GLOBAL RESEARCH, 03.01.2017). Moscow’s military engagement in Syria has helped to bring stability and boosted the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), saving the embattled Near Eastern country from repeating the fate of Iraq and Libya. “The Russian Aerospace Force changed the agenda. Moscow prevented radical groups active in Syria from making further advances” (SPUTNIKNEWS, 03.10.2016).
Just like in Iraq and in Libya, the “US-led international coalition has been systematically bombing the Syrian infrastructure since 2012 but has not targeted Daesh-held oil facilities”, according to Major General Igor Konashenkov of the Russian Defence Ministry.
He explained that “long before the start of the Russian campaign, the international (western) coalition has been systematically destroying Syria’s economic infrastructure to weaken the legitimate government as much as possible, heedless of burdens for civilians, resulting in millions of refugees. Surprisingly, the coalition has not attacked oil facilities captured by Daesh, which allowed the terrorists to make tens of millions of dollars per month through illicit oil trade and recruit mercenaries from all over the world. Thanks to the Russian Aerospace Forces, over 12.000 square kilometres of Syrian land and 499 settlements were liberated, 35.000 terrorists including 204 of their commanders have been eliminated” (SPUTNIKNEWS, 04.01.2017).
The ‘Bulletin of the Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides in the Syrian Arab Republic’, which has been set up by the Russian Ministry of Defence, informed about details of its latest humanitarian support for the Syrian population, “Within the last 24 hours, four humanitarian events have been held: citizens have received humanitarian aid in schools located in Al-Hamdaniya and Aleppo city – about 1 ton; in the Sahur 3 area of Aleppo city – about 2 tons; in the Jibrin temporary accommodation facility near the Al-Nayrab airport of Aleppo (with hot meals) – about 5.5 tons. Posts with hot meal and items of first necessity for citizens of Aleppo city continue their work” (SYRIA.MIL.RU, 04.01.2017). While the western alliance seeks to destroy all Syrian infrastructure, the Russians are helping to keep it up.
Thanks to Russian help, Aleppo is slowly returning to normality, at the beginning of 2017. “Municipal authorities of Syria’s Aleppo have managed to partially repair 17 schools in eastern neighborhoods of the city destroyed by terrorists. A total of 3,825 school students have resumed studies after the New Year and Christmas holidays. Six more schools will be opened shortly in the eastern part of the war-ravaged city that had remained under control of militants for four years. On January 7, the Syrian government approved a plan for a step-by-step restoration of Aleppo. The plan envisages restoring electricity, water and fuel supplies to the city. Experts will examine housing facilities stock to decide which of the dwellings are reparable” (TASS, 07.01.2017).
The war in Syria might drag on for some time because the western alliance will not give up its strategic position in the Near East so easily. Furthermore, it wants to prevent the Russian Federation to gain access to ports in the Mediterranean Sea. The Russian naval facility in Tartous, Syria, is a leased military installation of the Russian military, classified as a material-technical support point (Пункт материально-технического обеспечения, ПМТО). It is the Russian Navy’s Mediterranean repair and replenishment spot, installed in 1971 and staffed by Russian naval personnel. Most recently, the facility hosts the Amur class floating workshop PM-138, capable of providing technical maintenance to Russian warships deployed in the Mediterranean.
Entrance to Russian naval facility Tartous in Syria:
Furthermore, Russia has an airbase south-east of Latakia city in the Latakia Governorate. Hmeimim Air Base, which is accessible only to Russian personnel, shares some airfield facilities with Bassar Al-Assad International Airport. In October 2016, the Russian Federation ratified a treaty with Syria making Hmeimim her permanent air base in Syria. Its structures include an air traffic control tower, field kitchens, refuelling stations, runway extensions and storage facilities. Supplies are flown in from Russia or shipped via Tartous harbour, which lies about 50 km away.
Hmeimim air base can handle Antonov An-124 Ruslan and Ilyushin Il-76 transport aircraft. It can accommodate more than 50 military aircraft including various types of Sukhoi Su. The air base is also home to artillery, gunships, helicopters, tanks and vehicles. At the end of January 2016, Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets started to be deployed, ready for take-off in 60 seconds, their radars can cover a range of 400 km. The Sixth Directorate of the Russian GRU operates a signals intelligence station nearby. All of these installations show clearly that the Russian Federation is also not ready or willing to give up its interests in the region, located in close vicinity to its south-west flank.
Hopefully, 2017 will be the beginning of a “multi-polar world”, as advocated by Vladimir Putin. With Russia’s increasing global importance, this could finally happen in the near future. 2016 has been a year of success for Russia in Syria, while the western agenda has mostly failed. Many countries around the world are tired of being bullied by western imperialists. They are looking forward to heightened influence of peace maker Vladimir Putin and his Syrian, Iranian, Turkish allies, as the New Year 2017 has begun.
Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Moscow. Her blog: