December 11, 2017 – FRN –
As you know, getting into a fight is the easiest thing – it is much harder to get out of it in time.
It is safe to say that Russia, with the help of its military contingent in Syria, achieved all of its tasks and at the same time managed to stop in time, preserving the good attitude of both the Syrians and their neighbours to Russia. When the threat of the destruction of Syria by Islamists no longer exists, its citizens themselves are given the opportunity to build a post-war society and solve long-standing problems.
So, on December 6, the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, General Gerasimov, at an annual briefing for foreign military attachés, made an official announcement:
In Syria, all the bandit formations of the Islamic state (prohibited in Russia) are destroyed, the country’s territory is completely freed from terrorists.
But an hour before the news was learned by the attachés, Russian Defense Minister, General of the Army Shoigu, reported to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Today the advancing divisions of Brig. Gen. Sukhel and the 5th Volunteer Assault Corps have defeated the remaining illegal armed forces in the province of Deir ez Zor and, having liberated the settlements of Salihia, El-Khite, El-Katya and Musaleh, joined forces with government troops advancing from the south “.
A total of more than 1,000 settlements have been liberated.
“Naturally, there can still be separate centers of resistance, but in general, the combat work at this stage and in this territory is over. I conclude with a complete, I repeat, victory and defeat of terrorists, ” Gerasimov stressed.
On December 11, the presidential “Bort # 1” took a course from Moscow to Syria and landed at the Russian air base in Khmeimim. President Putin flew in to specifically inform Russian soldiers and officers that their honorable and difficult mission ended in complete victory and now they have a long-awaited journey home.
On the territory of the Russian airbase, the head of the Russian state was greeted by the President of the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar Assad, Russian Defense Minister General Shoigu, as well as the commander of the Russian forces in Syria, Sergei Surovikin.
The President of Russia addressed the military with a salutatory speech:
“The Defense Minister, the Chief of the General Staff, and I order to begin the withdrawal of the Russian group of forces to the points of their permanent deployment.”
“Syria is preserved as a sovereign and independent state, conditions have been created for a political settlement under the auspices of the United Nations, refugees are returning to their homes.”
In an informal atmosphere, Putin talked with military personnel about their mission in Syria. At the meeting from the Syrian side, President Bashar Assad was present, as well as the famous Syrian commander of the elite 5th assault corps “Tigers”, Brigadier General Suhel.
The Russian leader told the Syrian colleague that Moscow hoped, in cooperation with Turkey and Iran, to “establish a peaceful life and political process” in Syria. It is also important to prepare the Congress of National Dialogue and launch a process toward peaceful settlement. Assad, in turn, thanked the Russian Armed Forces for their invaluable help in the fight against the militants.
The Russian army showed a high level of training and combat coherence, the ability to perform exemplary combat missions at a significant distance from the motherland. The turning point in the four-year war was actually achieved through the efforts of one regiment of Russian military security services. The losses amounted to four people. Today, there is hardly a force on the planet capable of surpassing the results of Russian pilots.
Nevertheless, until the situation in the country is finally stabilized, a smaller Russian military contingent remains to observe the situation from the air base of Khmeimim and Tartus. In addition, the Russian Center for Reconciliation will remain in Syria.
Details on the future stay of the military security services and other troops in Syria, neither the president nor the defense minister, touched upon. Apparently, in Khmeimim from the current group of 60 aircraft, about a third will remain. For multifunctional Su-34 fighter-bombers and Su-35 fighters, most likely there will be no more tasks to support ground forces, and these planes will return to Russia. But the S-400 air defense complexes will have to remain on alert duty.
Judging by the reaction of Western media, the decision to withdraw troops was unexpected for all in the world, except for Russia’s partners in the coalition.
“I have not yet seen these reports and it is still difficult for me to assess what impact this will have on the negotiations, what changes this will bring in the dynamics of the talks. We need to see what kind of intentions Russia has,” said White House spokesman Josh Ernest.
After visiting Khmeimim, Putin went on to a real political marathon. From Syria, “Bort # 1” delivered the Russian president to Egypt. In Cairo, Putin negotiated with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, during which he informed the Egyptian side about the situation in Syria.
According to Putin, Egypt can play an important role in the peace process in Syria. The Egyptian side in turn asked to restore direct air routes between Egypt and Russia, interrupted due to the terrorist attack on an airliner in 2015 over the Sinai Peninsula, which claimed the lives of hundreds of Russian citizens returning from Egypt.
From Cairo, Putin went straight to Ankara for talks with Erdogan. Putin informed Erdogan about the withdrawal of the Russian military contingent from Syria, but there was no talk of problematic issues, such as the continued presence of Turkish troops entering the border regions of Syria.
It is known that the main topic of the talks between Putin and Erdogan was the escalating situation around the new hot spot in the Middle East – Jerusalem.
Let’s summarize. 1) Leaving Syria, Moscow demonstrated that it is not going to get involved in a long-term conflict like “the Afghan scenario”, as professed by critics.
2) Russian troops are leaving at a good time: the Syrians are grateful, their government troops are trained and armed with Russian weapons. The negotiation process is developing successfully as with the “moderate opposition” in Syria itself, and in Geneva, where the next round of negotiations with all influential forces party to the conflict begins shortly.
3) Russia retained military bases in the Middle East – an important geopolitical factor. The army brilliantly demonstrated all of its tactical and technical capabilities, in a short time, destroying the infrastructure of the militants. Any further offensive of the Syrian army will now be supported by the Syrian Air Force with the available forces and means.
Inessa Sinchougova is an Editor and Journalist at Fort Russ News, as well as a research fellow and translator of the Belgrade based think-tank, the Center for Syncretic Studies. She was educated at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand), in the field of Political Science and was previously employed in Marketing and Communications Strategy for a Multi-National Corporation. She runs a popular YouTube channel for translations of key Russian Foreign Policy figures and appears regularly on other alternative media channels. If you like her work, you can support her Patreon here.