uOne of Vladimir Putin’s lesser-known assets is his ability to deploy the same offensive strategy in theater that Western policymakers continue to treat in a too differentiated manner. The U.S. retreat after the chemical bombing of Damascus in 2013 convinced the Russian president that annexation of Crimea a few months later would actually elicit little reaction, but it remains reluctant to admit it.
Today, while the victorious siege of Mariupol is very similar to the siege of Aleppo in 2016, we draw little operational experience from the trivialization of weapons and technology that Ukraine tested during the war in Syria. However, if the Kremlin cannot break Ukrainian resistance, it could regain the initiative on the Middle East or the African continent.
- Risks in the Middle East
Moscow’s unconditional support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and the Russian military’s direct intervention starting in 2015, has allowed the Kremlin to consolidate its control of the Tartus sea base and give The new air base gets extraterritorial.
Thus, classical reasoning would lead to the expectation that Russia might launch attacks from such military installations located on the Mediterranean coast. However, in a less traditional way, Russia can extort blackmail from Syria with terrible potency against Israel and Turkey.
The southern pillar of NATO that constitutes the latter country is indeed subject to the resumption of hostilities on its most exposed border with Syria, near Idlib, the last bastion against Assad. Three million people, most of them displaced, live under the rule of a Salafist group from al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing that has wiped out more moderate factions and tightly controlled civil society. Thus, Russian propaganda can effortlessly justify a possible attack by “fighting terrorism,” and an attack on the enclave would inevitably lead to a flood of refugees into Turkish territory. Instead, Ankara took the threat of return very seriously when President Erdogan advocated the repatriation of at least some of the more than 3 million Syrian refugees on his territory.
Russia’s dominance in Syria is also one of the reasons why Israel has kept a low profile on Moscow since its invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin, which has failed to curb Iranian interventionism in Syria, has effectively tolerated regular Israeli attacks on the positions of Tehran-linked militias in the country. So the Jewish state is trying to prevent hostile forces from taking root at the foot of the Syrian Golan, annexed by Israel, which would dangerously complete Lebanon’s Hezbollah system. Any change in Moscow’s posture would be enough to make Israel’s northern border vulnerable again. Thus, Russia’s leverage of power in Syria makes its control over neither Israel nor Turkey insignificant.
You still have 42.41% of articles to read. The following content is for subscribers only.