Throughout Russia’s bombing campaign, beginning September 30, Western media and political leaders have been highly critical of the Kremlin’s strategy for eliminating Daesh, also known as ISIL/Islamic State.
"An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work," US President Barack Obama said on October 2, according to Reuters.
Now, with Russian airstrikes having an undeniable effect on the terrorist group, American officials are reluctantly admitting that Moscow is achieving its goals in the Syrian conflict.
"The Russian’s didn’t go blindly into this," one US intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters, adding that they "are getting some benefit out of the cost."
As evidence, officials point out that Russia has suffered minimal casualties, despite carrying out 5,240 sorties since the beginning of the campaign. They note that the estimated cost to the Kremlin is a relatively modest $1-2 billion per year, falling well within Russia’s $54 billion annual defense budget.
"All the available data shows us that the current level of military effort is completely insignificant for the Russian economy and Russian budget," Vasily Kashin, an analyst with the Center for Analyses of Strategies and Technologies, told Reuters.
"It can be carried on at the same level year after year after year."
As Jason Ditz points out in AntiWar, the confessions of Western skeptics prove how effective Russia’s airstrikes have been.
"This is an incredible admission for US officials, even if given anonymously," Ditz writes, "as Russia’s only been engaged in the war for three months."
Over the weekend, Russian combat aircraft carried out 164 sorties, destroying 556 terrorist targets. Moscow has also begun assisting Syrian opposition forces against Daesh.
"With the support of the Russian aviation group, the Syrian Democratic Forces’ units…are conducting an offensive on the Daesh capital, the city of Raqqa," Lt.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, told reporters on Monday.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon released a report showing that Washington is astonished by Moscow’s naval capabilities.
"Russia has begun, and over the next decade will make large strides in fielding a 21st century navy capable of a dependable national defense [and] an impressive but limited presence in more distant global areas of interests…" reads the report.
Authored by George Fedoroff of the US Office of Naval Intelligence, the study is based largely on the successful launching of cruise missiles from Russian warships stationed in the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean.