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First group of Russian planes leave Syria

16 March 2016

By Quwa Staff

The first group of Russian combat aircraft have left Syria. According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, a batch of Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bombers left Hmeymin Airbase near Latakia (Bashar al-Assad’s stronghold). They were joined by an Ilyushin IL-76 carrying a number of Russian troops.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, made the announcement of withdrawing from Syria at the beginning of this week. In the statement, Putin said that the Russian military had achieved its objectives in Syria.

Putin cited how Russia’s air support of Syrian government forces enabled them to “profoundly reverse the situation”, especially through flipping the armed opposition’s momentum into their containment. He added that the “effective work of our military created the conditions for the start of the peace process.”

The move was considered surprising, but analysts are generally reluctant to accept Putin’s declaration as conclusive. Although his announcement followed the recall of several fighter-bombers, it is not known if this will be followed by a deadline for complete withdrawal.

Notes & Analysis

The general theme in Russia’s intention to withdraw from Syria is the perception that it has succeeded in achieving its aims in the country. There is no doubt that Russian air support has played a role in containing the rebel advance, but it is unclear if one could consider the Kremlin’s objectives in Syria to be “complete.”

It was only several days ago that a Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) MiG-21 was shot down by a rebel man-portable air defence system (MANPADS). While such rebel measures have not impacted the Russians, the SyAAF has had mixed success in contending with them. Not only is air support a vital operational need for al-Assad, but it is apparent that his forces are not in a position to provide it in an effective manner, at least not on their own.

Although a handful of Russian Su-34s have left, the balance of Russia’s expeditionary forces, especially its close air support units, still remain in Syria. In fact, the Russian Deputy Defence Minister, Nikolai Pankov, said, “it is too early to speak of a victory over terrorism … the air force is tasked with continuing attacks against terrorist targets.”

Given that Russia’s fixed installations in Syria, e.g. Hmeymin Airbase, will remain, it is possible that the partial withdrawal is also a cost-controlling measure, especially with the ceasefire in place. Should the situation in Syria warrant it, Russia could readily deploy fresh aerial assets to the country.

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  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 16, 2016 6:03 am 0Likes

    Russia was never there to protect the Syrian gov out of love for its ally or anything. It only ventured in to show to west that “it exists” and can challenge west still, besides showcasing its weapon systems. That target has been achieved. Any more staying in Syria will add unbearable costs to Russia besides risking further sanctions.

    There is all likelihood that war will return to Syria. Russia has only prolonged the timing, nothing else.

  • by Ashi Sidhu
    Posted March 16, 2016 7:50 am 0Likes

    Russia showed that US cannot destroy countries at their will
    Russia has turned the tables in favor of Assad

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 16, 2016 5:22 pm 0Likes

    Which is why Russia does not have the money to keep finances together for their stay in Syria. they will leave.

    That show of power is a steroid injection, nothing more. What would have made a difference is to stabilise syria and then help with reforms but ofcourse, russia was never there for that. Hence objective achieved.

  • by @bla bla
    Posted March 16, 2016 9:00 pm 0Likes

    I don’t really understand what kind of a person is Putin who talks about being the sole savior of orthodox christian against Zionist and the threat that NATO was imposing to Russia from Ukraine . After all of this mess and billions of dollar loss to the economy and sanction that will remain on Russia for decades and oil prices will not go above 100 dollar per barrel . Why did he started the war in Syria first time ? where are those false promises Russia will not leave without defeating ISIS . Seems Russia stuck a deal with America .Maybe in return Russia will get something . America imperialism wins again and Russia is the looser . Shame on Putin

  • by Ashi Sidhu
    Posted March 16, 2016 9:45 pm 0Likes

    True Russia is struggling with finances but without this intervention US armed rebels would have runover Assad forces then we would have situation like Afghanistan Libya etc and the whole list of countries US has stumped

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 17, 2016 10:17 am 0Likes

    Russia should have stayed. This will backfire. But perhaps russia knows that staying in syria is not a months affair but possibly of years and decades. They should have stayed but will pull out completely.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 17, 2016 10:33 am 0Likes

    He is only interested in showing the west they exist. Nothing more.

  • by @bla bla
    Posted March 17, 2016 11:46 am 0Likes

    But at the stake of its economy poor economic condition and Western sanctions embargo on its export and low fuel prices 🙁 . Putin acted like psychopath. Its a shame for conservative Christians. Putin Russia has compromised against Zionist plans

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