“I consider the objectives that have been set for the Defense Ministry to be generally accomplished.” The words of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on Monday declared victory in Syria and announced his troops would withdraw.
The unexpected decision coincided with the start of Syria peace talks in Geneva.
Cagey as ever, it’s hard to read Putin’s motives. Was the military game getting too messy? Did he want to paint President Barack Obama as “weak?” Is he looking to bolster support on the homefront?
Or, was it all just to show the international community that Russia is, and will remain, a global player?
The only part of this that is known is that Putin has once again stunned his friends and foes.
Putin Got Exactly What He Wanted in Syria
Evelyn N. Farkas – Defense One
The Kremlin’s objective was always to achieve a negotiated settlement through the Geneva Talks that allows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power for some time and for Russia to retain its key influence over his government. It was not to fight terrorism in Syria.
Putin’s Kremlin set out to achieve its objective at the lowest cost.
For years Russia tried to get its way mainly through diplomacy but that didn’t work. So last September, Russia decided to try the same strategy in Syria that worked in Ukraine. Russia’s tactical military moves there tipped in their favor the negotiating dynamic that boiled down to the Minsk Agreements. Just as in Ukraine, the Kremlin is seeking to turn military advances into diplomatic leverage, having demonstrated it will intervene militarily to save its ally and gain territory for Syria.
Did Putin Trump Obama in Syria?
Marwan Bishara – Al Jazeera
Putin’s decisions are not random, uncanny or eccentric. In fact, he demonstrated thus far that he’s a calculating and savvy tactician and might even prove to be a successful strategist….
Contrary to the warnings of the Obama administration, Putin continued to support the Assad dictatorship at a great cost to Syria and the Syrian people. His gamble in Syria did not backfire and the country did not turn into a Russian quagmire….
But the timing of the Russian decision to coincide with the opening of Syrian talks in Geneva this week underlines its political importance. Putin’s message to Assad may be read as follows:
You can no longer bank on sustained Russian effort to defeat your enemies; you must instead negotiate in good faith a way out of the deadly civil war.
Putin’s Syria Surprise
The Editorial Board – The New York Times
Leave it to President Vladimir Putin of Russia to abruptly declare victory in Syria and decide to bring the “main part” of his troops home. The implications are unclear. The announcement could turn out to be a constructive move toward a more lasting peace settlement. It could also be a practical necessity, reflecting a desire not to get bogged down in the Syrian morass indefinitely. As the United States has found, it is easier to get into wars than to get out of them.
Mr. Putin’s announcement coincided with the resumption in Geneva of United Nations-brokered peace talks, so the timing could be significant. In addition to ordering stepped-up diplomatic efforts, Mr. Putin may have been telling Mr. Assad that the time had come to drop his resistance to a peace settlement.
Russia May Be Leaving Syria but Putin Will Have Assad’s Back for a Long, Long Time
James Jay Carafano – Fox News
Even as he backs out of Syria, Putin looks stronger in the region. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to appear as a lost babe in the woods of a Middle East meltdown
And, it’s important to note, Putin’s not talking about a total withdrawal. Russia will retain a military footprint in Syria. And that residual force can be useful for destabilizing as well as stabilizing purposes.
While the drawdown has begun, the fact of the matter is that Putin will have Assad’s back for a long, long time. And that will leave the rest of the Arab world mired in a mess.