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    Official US Army Journal Concedes Russian Victory in Syria

    © Sputnik / Alexei Druzhinin
    Military & Intelligence
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    A new article in Military Review, official journal of the US Army Combined Arms Center (USACAC) military educational institution, has concluded that Russia has won "at least a partial victory" in Syria, and done so "with impressive efficiency, flexibility, and coordination between military and political action."

    The article, published in the journal's March-April issue, is titled "What Kind of Victory for Russia in Syria?" and outlines why the Russian-led coalition in Syria, in the authors' estimation, is "closing in on its own military and political objectives."

    In a frank appraisal of Moscow's concerns ahead of its intervention, which began in September 2015, including the threat of Islamist militants taking over Syria and then moving on to threaten Russia in the Caucasus, the authors explain that a "successful intervention" would offer Moscow "victory on three fronts: preventing US-backed regime change in Syria, breaking out of political isolation and forcing Washington to deal with Russia as an equal, and demonstrating at home that Russia is a great power on the main stage of international politics."

    The authors admit that the Russian military fairly quickly to overcome the difficult strategic situation facing Damascus, while "working under severe resource constraints" and having to "change the calculus and policy" of countries including the US, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, convincing or coercing the latter into changing their approach. This included pushing Washington into tacit acceptance of the Russian intervention, as well as Syrian President Bashar Assad's "de facto victory over the radicals as well as the US-backed opposition." In this regard, the article noted that although Russia's success" was not unqualified, "it appears that if the campaign in Syria is not a victory for Russia, it is certainly a defeat for those who opposed the Russian-led coalition."

    Praising Russia's "lean," "flexible," "small footprint" approach, the journal pointed out that Russia successfully dealt with issues including lack of experience in combat operations abroad since the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, Russia's rather limited long-range supply and support capabilities (compared to those of the US, presumably), and the complexity of coordinating with its Syrian, Iranian, militia and other allies in a crowded battlefield environment.

    The journal stressed that notwithstanding early doubts about Russia's prospects, "especially given recent Western experiences in expeditionary operations in the Middle East," Moscow generally prevailed.

    On the technical front, the journal pointed to Russian air power's high sortie rate, and praised the air contingent based out of Hmeymim for a mechanical failure and combat loss rate "magnitudes less than previous Russian or Soviet air operations."

    Diplomatically too, the journal noted that Russia successfully "broke" US diplomatic leadership and the monopoly of the Geneva peace process, integrating the Astana platform, as well as meetings of opposition groups aimed at arriving at a consolidated position from the opposition. With Russia's help, Damascus's hand has been strengthened to the point where the Syrian government can pressure the opposition into negotiations on its own terms.

    In the long term, the authors noted, Russia also gained a political victory, including a long-term military presence in Hmeymim and Tartus, which it is assumed will assist Moscow in its "larger bid for becoming a power broker in the Middle East."

    The biggest failure, in the authors' assessment, has been in achieving full-fledged Russian-US cooperation in fighting terrorism in Syria, as well as using anti-terror cooperation in Syria to help smooth over Russian-Western tensions over Ukraine.

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    analysis, military operation, Russia, Syria
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