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Category archive for: Russia

Putin’s Syria plans have forced Obama to face a terrible dilemma

Written by Simon J Smith.

Russia’s nascent Syria campaign has certainly gotten off to a rocky start: international scepticism of its aims, provocative forays into Turkish airspace, missiles apparently crashing in Iran.

But with the Pentagon abandoning a key programme to train the Syrian rebels it accuses Moscow of attacking, it’s clear that the game is changing fast on both sides. In a few short days, Moscow has already forced the US’s hand – and it could yet profoundly change the two countries’ relationship.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Obama administration initially tried to “reset” relations with Russia, and for a brief period, NATO resumed dialogue with Russia through the NATO-Russia Council. Russia even contributed to a 2011 NATO exercise, Bold Monarch. Continue reading Putin’s Syria plans have forced Obama to face a terrible dilemma

Russian cooperation with Iran and Iraq has broader consequences than saving Assad

Written by Nader Habibi and Harith Hasan Al-Qarawee.

The sudden launch of Russia’s military operations in Syria late last month caught the United States and regional players by surprise.

It began with an announcement that defined the primary objective of the mission as a confrontation with the Islamic State (ISIS) in cooperation with the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.

The strategy involves three components. First, Russia is expanding its military facilities in Syria. Second, Russia remains committed to the survival of Assad’s regime and its fight against ISIS in Syria. Third, Russia announced an intelligence sharing and flight corridor agreement with Iran and Iraq. Continue reading Russian cooperation with Iran and Iraq has broader consequences than saving Assad

Putin as Patron in Syria

Written by Kimberly Marten.

Russian President Vladimir Putin loves surprises, so perhaps we should take his unexpected military foray into Syria as par for the course. But there is little chance that Putin’s Syria adventure will actually serve Russian national interests.

The Russian economy is in poor shape, given the collapse of global oil prices and the added aggravation of continuing Western sanctions. Putin’s military refurbishment plans had already been scaled back as a result, and ordinary Russians have started to suffer from reduced employment and rising prices. The state budget will now be stretched further by the Syrian intervention. And although Russia is Syria’s main source for weapons, Syrian purchases are a small fraction of Russia’s global arms market, according to data collected by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, so Putin is probably not just trying to protect those sales. Continue reading Putin as Patron in Syria

Just how dangerous are the skies over Syria?

Written by David J Galbreath.

Washington greeted reports of the Russian air force’s first wave of airstrikes on September 30 with fierce rhetoric. Moscow, said defence secretary Ash Carter, was “pouring gasoline on the fire” in Syria.

The strikes reportedly hit rebels fighting pro-government forces in various towns including Hama, Homs and Jisr al-Shughour in the west of the country, a long way from areas further east where Islamic State holds sway. Kremlin spokesmen claimed that their airstrikes attacked 12 IS targets – but this has been disputed by people on the ground in Syria who posted video of the explosions on social media.

Russia’s decision to join the bombing party in Syria follows a summer of fruitless and inconsequential diplomacy and raises important questions about who is bombing who and what these campaigns aim to achieve. Continue reading Just how dangerous are the skies over Syria?

Why Putin ended up gambling on airstrikes in Syria – and what might come next

Written by Scott Lucas.

For those watching closely, the signal for Russia’s first airstrikes came in a statement early on September 30 by Kremlin spokesman Sergei Ivanov, just after the upper house of the parliament authorised military operations:

To observe international law, one of two conditions has to be met – either a UN Security Council resolution or a request by a country, on the territory of which an airstrike is delivered, about military assistance.

In this respect, I want to inform you that the president of the Syrian Arab Republic has addressed the leadership of our country with a request of military assistance.

Within hours, witnesses were reporting that Russian jet fighters were bombing parts of Hama and Homs Provinces in western Syria. Activists said scores of people – almost all civilians – had been killed, disseminating videos and photographs of slain or injured children. Continue reading Why Putin ended up gambling on airstrikes in Syria – and what might come next

What’s behind Russia’s military build-up in Syria?

Written by Alexander Titov.

Evidence is emerging of a significant intensification of Russia’s military support for the Assad government. While the exact scale and purpose of Russia’s latest deployments remain obscure, the available evidence suggests that the Russians are preparing an airbase near the city of Latakia for possible airstrikes in support of the Syrian army, complete with several hundred Russian troops protecting it.

This is in addition to a Russian navy refuelling facility already in operation in the port of Tartus, and substantial supplies of weapons and military advisers for the Syrian regime which the Soviet Union and Russia have been supplying Syria for decades.

Such is the concern in the West at Vladimir Putin’s motives for this military build-up in Russia’s war-torn client state that the reports prompted the US to put pressure on the Greekand Bulgarian governments to close their airspace to Russian planes bound for Syria. Continue reading What’s behind Russia’s military build-up in Syria?

Russia’s ‘New Way of War’? Asymmetric warfare and the Ukraine Crisis

By Bettina Renz

As I argued in my previous blog entry, ‘Russia Resurgent?’, conclusions about Russia’s conventional military capabilities drawn from operations in Crimea and the subsequent armed conflict in East Ukraine should not be exaggerated. In terms of manpower, training and equipment Russia is likely to trail far behind NATO and advanced Western militaries for a long time to come. However, Russian military performance particularly in Crimea has also raised concerns in the West about its growing abilities to wage asymmetric warfare. A NATO Defence Committee Report entitled “Towards the Next Defence and Security Review: Part Two – NATO” and published in July 2014 concluded that Russia had developed ‘new and less conventional military techniques’ and asserted that its use of ‘these asymmetric tactics (sometimes described as unconventional, ambiguous or non-linear warfare)…represents the most immediate threat to its NATO neighbours and other NATO Member States’. In the same report, former Chief of Staff of the British Armed Forces, Lord Richards, cautioned that whilst NATO had significant military capabilities ‘there was every chance it could be defeated by asymmetric tactics’. The report recommended that NATO, in response to this challenge ‘create an Alliance doctrine for “ambiguous warfare” and make the case for investment in an Alliance asymmetric or “ambiguous warfare” capability’.

Continue reading Russia’s ‘New Way of War’? Asymmetric warfare and the Ukraine Crisis

Russia resurgent? Russian military performance in Crimea and its implications on Western defence requirements

By Bettina Renz

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and subsequent developments in East Ukraine prompted much speculation in the West about Russia’s ‘new military prowess’. Many analysts and decision makers, including in NATO, concluded that modernisation efforts over the past few years had transformed the Russian military into a force that now posed a real threat to European and transatlantic security. Serious discussions are already underway about what this might mean for Europe’s and NATO’s future defence capabilities and requirements. There seems to be much agreement that Russia’s new-found military strength needs to be met with more military spending in the West. Sweden has announced an increase in its defence budget in response to the Ukraine crisis. This will include the expansion of its fighter jet fleet from 60 to 70 aircraft as well as the procurement of two new submarines. A UK Parliamentary Defence Committee report concluded that events in Crimea and Ukraine were a ‘game changer for UK defence policy [that] provoked a fundamental re-assessment of both the prioritisation of threats in the National Security Strategy and military capabilities required by the UK’. Is this a realistic assessment? What can the conflict in Ukraine really tell us about Russian conventional warfighting capabilities?

Continue reading Russia resurgent? Russian military performance in Crimea and its implications on Western defence requirements