Thursday, September 17, 2015

Russian Deployment to Syria: Putin's Middle East Game Changer

By: Hugo Spaulding, Christopher Kozak, Christopher Harmer, Daniel Urchick, Jessica Lewis McFate, Jennifer Cafarella, Harleen Gambhir, Kimberly Kagan

Satellite  imagery  provided  by All Source Analysis  confirms  the  recent  arrival  of  Russian  main battle  tanks,  armored  personnel  carriers, helicopters, and  other  military  equipment  at  an  airbase in  Syria's  coastal  Latakia  province,  indicating  that  Russia  has  deployed  troops  inside  Syria. Concurrent military  exercises  inside  Russia  with the  stated mission of  training  for long-range deployments  of  airborne  troops  suggest  that  Russia  may  intend  to  deploy additional  forces, possibly further  inside  Syria. AllSourceAnalysis imagery of Taganrog Central airbase just east of the Ukrainian border from September 12 shows airborne troops rolling parachutes along a runway along with vehicles and tents more likely configured for sustained operations than for exercises or snap inspections. Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking ways to support the Assad regime, to thwart a possible buffer zone established by the United States and Turkey, and to embarrass the United States by positioning Russia as the leader of a new international anti-ISIS coalition. Russian mobilization may protect the Assad regime from rapid collapse, but it may also cause greater radicalization among the Syrian opposition. The Russian deployment to Syria is game-changing. It will alter the nature of international negotiations, compromise and weaken the cohesion and efforts of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, strengthen the Assad regime, and initiate direct Russo-Iranian military operations (suggesting the creation of a de facto Russo-Iranian military coalition, at least in Syria) for the first time. The U.S. and its partners must fundamentally reassess their approach to the Syrian conflict in light of this critical inflection.

Read the report here.