Russia in Syria

The Russians have had a naval base in Tartus, Syria, at the invitation of Pres. Assad, since the 1970’s.  But it was not a significant factor in the Syrian civil war until 2012 when Pres. Obama declared a “red-line” on the use of chemical and biological weapons by the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war.  However, like much of Obama’s foreign policy this was a bluff.  He obviously never intended to do anything about it and readily accepted an offer by Pres. Putin to mediate between his ally Pres. Assad and the US.  According to the agreement arrived at, all Syrian chemical and biological weapons were destroyed, although after a time they continued using them.  Not only was Obama tricked, but Putin used this as an excuse to up the ante and come in militarily on the side of Assad.  He was not only ensuring that his base will remain, but also expanding Russian influence into the Mediterranean area.

Subsequently the Russians built an air base at nearby Khmeimim and began in 2015 operating air strikes against Assad’s opponents, both the Islamists and the US-supported democratic opposition.  Although the US tried to persuade Putin not to hit their allies, this had no effect.  Both the Russians and the Assad regime lump all their opponents together as “terrorists.”   As a result of Russian support the Assad regime began to strike back at its opponents and retake territory.  Perhaps the most significant success has been in Aleppo, the second largest city in Syria, that was mainly in the hands of the insurrection and as such posed a major threat to the Assad regime, because it dominates the road between Damascus and his Alawite home base around Latakia.

The US has been desperately trying to obtain a ceasefire in Aleppo, partly to save its own allies and partly for humanitarian reasons.  A large number of civilians are trapped in Aleppo and cannot get out and they are subject to continual bombing by the Syrian and Russian air forces using bunker busting and barrel bombs.  The plight of the civilian population trapped in eastern Aleppo, maybe a quarter of a million people, is dire.  Yet no amount of pressure by the Obama Administration has been able to persuade the Russians and the Syrians to even pause to allow a ceasefire.  Not only that they attacked and destroyed a food convoy and they deliberately target hospitals (a war crime). US Secty. of State Kerry has expressed frustration and has broken off talks with the Russians.  In response the Russians have installed an S300 anti-missile system in Syria.  The long-range consequences of this Syrian-Russian (and Iranian) military alliance are  incalculable.

Why should Putin agree to a ceasefire, when he knows that Obama is not a serious opponent, that he will not use force and that he is a lame duck?  Neither he nor Assad care how many Syrian civilians are killed in Aleppo, they only want to ensure its recapture.and they are well on their way to doing that.  This will be a victory for them and they are about to achieve that.  It is a failure of the Obama foreign policy of trying to show that the US is reasonable and will not use its military might to enforce its foreign policy objectives, as outlined in his Cairo speech to the Muslim world in 2009.  In other words “talk softly and carry a small stick”  or to use a single word “appeasement.”  When dealing with ruthless and strong enemies like Putin and Assad such a policy cannot work and has been shown not to work.  The election of Hillary Clinton, who was Obama’s Secty. of State before Kerry, will only ensure the continuation of this failed the great detriment of US interests


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