Why Russia In Syria? It’s Simple

War in Syria Department

It looks like Putin’s army went to Syria to practice war algorithms. Not for Assad, not for Syria but to experiment with new doctrines.

Russia’s Application of Military Power in Syria | Jamestown
From: The Fourth Revolutionary War, March 1, 2016, by Akira Kalashnikov

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 13 Issue: 41: http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=45149&tx_ttnews[backPid]=27&cHash=487baadbeb2b576e9fdd3b4f44401564#.VtYWjitRK8A

(Click to enlarge)

March 1, 2016 05:03 PM, By: Roger McDermott

Moscow’s use of military power in Syria differs from its pursuit of warfare in Georgia in August 2008, or more recently in Ukraine. This appears to be confirmed by a comparison of the force sizes deployed in Georgia and Syria, as well as the use versus avoidance of ground forces in the two conflicts. Commentaries by Russian military specialists and theorists present a nuanced picture, rooted in the state’s long-known interest in asymmetric warfare, or integrating various forces drawn together across the power ministries and its efforts to combine high-technology-centered combat with more traditional themes (Vedomosti, February 23).

Russia’s sledgehammer approach to military conflict has been relegated to the past. Although Russian operational-strategic, joint military exercises or “snap inspections” of its Armed Forces focus on regional or large-scale conflict, the caveat is that the levels of force applied are comparatively small and asymmetric—an observation consistent with the use of armed force in Donbas (See: Russia’s Zapad 2013 Military Exercise: Lessons for Baltic Regional Security, The Jamestown Foundation, December 28, 2015; Brothers Disunited: Russia’s Use of Military Power in Ukraine, FMSO, April 2015). Consequently, Russia’s military operations in Syria—encompassing several types – are, in essence, about applying asymmetric warfare approaches: testing and rehearsing the use of limited military power to rebalance vis-à-vis a stronger opponent (see EDM, February 23). (…)

(…) One commentary in Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye characterizes Russia’s joint actions in Syria along with the SAA and supporting militias as alternative or asymmetric war. This is based on an imbalance of forces resulting from SAA degradation and its inherent weaknesses, especially in combat training. But the author extends this asymmetry to include the VKS campaign. The VKS used its best pilots to perform the tasks of army and tactical aviation—mainly drawing on older aircraft and dated unguided munitions with minimum loads. Precision strikes using precision-guided munitions (PGM) are in the minority. Thus, Russia exploits a mix of old and modern aircraft together with the near-complete domination of Syrian airspace to aid the SAA in asymmetric operations. What is striking is how limited Russia’s military intervention has proved. Among criticism of the air operations was the absence of sufficient support for the Su-24M bomber downed by the Turkish Air Force, as well as the lack of sniper pairs to target and degrade enemy forces in an urban environment. The author asks why the Turkish or Saudi Arabian militaries might believe they possess sufficient capabilities to achieve their aims by mounting an intervention (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, February 19).

It is unsurprising in this context, that Russia’s greatest military theorist, Army-General (retired) Makhmut Gareev, should offer his perspectives on modern warfare, calling for closing the gap between theory and practice. Gareev returns to a familiar theme, arguing that war is the best way to train an army. Framing his arguments with reference to the Great Patriotic War, in his normal style, Gareev reasserts the notion that Russia’s security is best achieved through the unity of the army and society. He offers opinions on government campaigns to promote patriotism in the nation’s youth before turning to outline threats to Russia. Gareev notes in passing that the United States seems to portray Russia as its main enemy. He briefly considers high-technology developments in modern warfare, admitting they play an important role, including automated command and control, UAVs, as well as weapons based on “new physical principles.” Additionally, he says his Academy of Military Sciences has a role to play in exploring these. But in his view, the tank is not redundant in modern war (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, February 24).

Gareev represents the traditionalists within the Russian military, but heads an institution that also contributes to an understanding of modern and future warfare, even assisting with innovation. He advocates creating a ministry for the defense industry and says modern threats require countering using “political, diplomatic, economic, information, technological, psychological and other spheres,” demanding a cross-agency approach under General Staff leadership (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, February 24). Although such contradictions offer little clarity for the future, it is apparent that Russia’s actual use of military power Ukraine and Syria is not about using overwhelming force.

(Click to enlarge) General Gareev, Makhmut Akhmetovich (Гареев Махмут Ахметович), 25 July 2013, http://www.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/18946

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2 Responses to Why Russia In Syria? It’s Simple

  1. mukul chand says:

    Great Post. They have showcased their Military prowess as well as notching up other successes.


  2. Thanks, but the answer in my title was a little kinky, purposefully. Russia’s going on step by step on a very thin line. Any deviation to the left or to the right and Russia aka Putin will find herself/himself in a trap, up to the neck. So the answer to the question “Why Russian army in Syria?” isn’t so simple, alas…


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