10:32 19 July
10:27 19 July

Russian military support to Syria: A second Afghanistan?

Moscow – APA. Increasing Russian military support to the Assad regime in Syria and statements that Russia will continue to provide military aid to this country is in the spotlight of world media.

A number of questions arise: Why is Russia providing military support to Syria? And why does it want to station a military contingent in this country? Or is Moscow actually capable of doing this? What would possibly be awaiting Russia in case it succeeds in making this plan a reality? A second Afghanistan? 


The answer of the first question is clear to many. The West and the Arab world are incapable of fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist organization, which poses a major threat to the region as well as Russia, or are just unwilling to fight. Claims that what ISIL is doing correspond to the West’s interests in the region are becoming more and more strong. We are talking about the attempts to overthrow the Assad government. Iran, one of the most powerful states in the region, is unable to combat ISIL either. This is why Russia has recently increased its support to the Assad government. Moscow sees Syria as the fist line of defense against the black-flagged ISIL threat. This line can be called the Russia-Mediterranean line as well. Russia seems determined to do whatever it takes so that the ISIL threat may die out in Syrian territory itself and that no ISIL revolution may arise in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The immediate crackdown on the latest events that took place in Tajikistan and the Kremlin’s adequate reaction to this suggest that Moscow always maintains this threat under its control. A single spark would be enough for an ISIL revolution to start in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – the two Central Asian countries that have “softer” frontiers with Afghanistan. Moscow is extremely careful of this spark making its way from Afghanistan into that region.


As for the second question, there are two different opinions. According to official statements, Russian military-transport planes only carry humanitarian cargo to the military air base in Latakia, Syria. The Russian Defense Ministry has said that this cargo contains food and necessary items for the people suffering from the conflict.


Different sources claim that Syria is being provided with not only humanitarian aid, but also military-technical assistance, military experts and special forces which will fight by the side of the government forces. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said information about Russia’s military support to Syria is not news, noting the Russian troops exist in Syria since the period of the Soviet Union. This statement confirms Russia’s ongoing military-technical assistance to Syria as well as increases the likelihood that Russian military is fighting and will fight against ISIL. Moscow, of course, denies this, but at the same time alludes to the fact that under certain circumstances it may send troops to Syria. To the question about the participation of Russian troops in military Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “If there will be any appeal by President Bashar al-Assad within the framework of bilateral relations and bilateral dialogue, of course, this issue will be considered then.”


The response to the question “What Moscow expects in case that it will deploy troops to Syria?” is not only limited to the likelihood that the West will toughen economic and financial sanctions on this country. Indeed, the West criticizes this activity of Moscow, threatening it with sanctions and isolation. The US and the European Union accuse Russia of its willful intervention in the situation in Syria. However, the Kremlin has strong argument for it. Thus, Russia will deploy troops to Syria upon the permission and support of Syria's legitimate government. Though the West doesn’t consider the Assad government legal, there is no owner of legitimate government in Syria except him. Only Bashar al-Assad can consent to a foreign country’s deploying troops in his country to assist in the conduct of military operations. In this respect, Russia’s argument is very strong. Therefore, the West has no ground to accuse Russia of tyranny. On the contrary, Russia can blame the Western countries with this argument.


The second key issue is that the West is deliberately pushing Russia into the Syrian swamp. Syria could bring an end to modern Russia, as Afghanistan brought an end to the Soviet Union. Today, Russia sees ISIL as a real threat to its national security. ISIL activities have been prohibited by law in the territory of the Russian Federation. The name of the organization was included in the list of terrorist organizations. Russia has only taken these steps against the ISIL so far. In its turn, ISIL is threatening Moscow with terrorist attacks and stating that these attacks will be carried out by the militants from the North Caucasus. However, Russian entry into an open war with ISIL in Syria raises the question of which acts will this terrorist organization commit within the borders of Russia. No one is insuring Russia against terrorist acts within its territories if it will deploy troops to Syria to fight against ISIL. The other issue is Syrian people’s attitude toward Russian troops. No one can guarantee that the Syrians will friendly welcome the Russians, because they gained the painful experience of Afghanistan. As the ideologies of Taliban fighting against the Russians in Afghanistan and ISIL are the same, Moscow is most likely to face the second Afghanistan.


Farid Akbarov, APA Analytical Center

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