Warning: Russia Escalates in Eastern Syria
Russian forces also escalated against a US patrol in Hasakah to reinforce Russia’s information operation. A Russian armored vehicle deliberately crashed into an US patrol in Malikiyah, Hasakah Province, on August 25. Russian state media widely broadcast the incident and claimed that US forces refused to deconflict, causing the incident. Russian military forums distributed videos showing the encounter, which show a Russian helicopter flying threateningly close to US vehicles and US forces withdrawing from the area. The Russian-language Telegram channel WarJournal initially released a video of the clash taken by someone in a nearby crowd of Hasakah residents. Russian nationalist website Rusvesna.su published a higher-definition video on August 26 taken by the Russian driver and included the Russian state media’s narrative. The video spread quickly on social media. The US Department of Defense acknowledged that US forces retreated in order to deescalate, allowing Kremlin-run media to spin this encounter as a Russian victory. US media covered the incident extensively, noting that four US soldiers may have sustained concussions and questioning the importance of their mission in eastern Syria. This media reaction advanced Russia’s effort to undermine US popular support for the mission in Syria, which was likely one of the intended effects of Russia’s escalation.
Jennifer Cafarella and Matti Suomenaro, “Russia and Iran Prepare Offensive Targeting US and Partner Forces in Eastern Syria,” Institute for the Study of War, June 25, 2018, http://www.iswresearch.org/2018/06/russia-and-iran-prepare-offensive.html