March, 2016 Russia

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

Russia has deployed its most advanced tactical missile system, the Iskander-M, in Syria in the last few days, DEBKAfile reports exclusively from its military and intelligence sources. The Russian Iskander is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and has never been made available to any foreign army for operational use.


By M.K. Bhadrakumar
In an abrupt turnaround, Moscow has put out feelers to Turkey signalling interest in calming tensions in the bilateral relations and opening a new page. The Russian civil aviation authorities have lifted the ban on flights to Antalya on the Mediterranean, which is known as the Turkish Riviera and a popular destination for Russian tourists.

 Aurel Braun
The new visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Moscow is not a game-changer – it’s just a game that reveals President Barack Obama's real strategy to manage rather than resolve conflicts in an election year.

 

By Maxim Trudolyubov
The troika gathered at a polished table surrounded by the insignia of the Russian state and made their pronouncements reluctantly, as if caught in the middle of an absorbing card game. All three looked baffled at themselves during the entire 10-minute news segment devoted to Moscow’s surprise move to withdraw the bulk of Russian forces from Syria.

 

Olga Pylova
Debates: A number of Russian and foreign experts describe how the West currently views the situation in Ukraine two years after Crimea’s incorporation into Russia.On the eve of the second anniversary of Crimea’s incorporation into Russia, several symbolic events took place, including a visit by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Kiev and the decision by the EU to prolong sanctions on Russia. Both events hint at the changing tenor of the conversation over Ukraine.

 

Are recent Russian maneuvers signs of increasing hostilities or just part of a long-term plan? It’s no secret that the relationship between Russia and Turkey is dismal, with the countries clashing over their respective roles in the Syrian civil war. Russia backs the Syrian regime. Turkey backs the regime’s opponents.

Natalie Nougayrède, theguardian
While European leaders believe they are edging towards a solution to the refugee crisis after securing a deal with Turkey, another power watches closely from afar: Russia.

As the departure of Russian forces from Syria announced March 14 continues, evidence of construction at Russia's main air base in the country demonstrates Moscow’s intention to maintain a military presence there. Imagery dated March 17 acquired by Stratfor of the Bassel al Assad air base in Latakia province and the naval base at Tartus highlights the ongoing Russian drawdown of its forces in Syria that Moscow contends will be largely completed by March 20.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2015 [AP]

 

Marwan Bishara
Have you noticed how President Vladimir Putin does not prepare the political grounds or give any advance notice before he acts? Or how he seems not to give a damn about international public opinion?

Nikolay Pakhomov
When the Russian bombing campaign started in Syria last fall, one could assume that Moscow's actions would begin to reveal more about the country’s foreign policy. This assumption is proving to be correct now, after President Putin announced the withdrawal of Russia's main forces. Moscow’s actions in Syria over the last half year have clarified both the guidelines of Russian foreign policy and how they help in dealing with very complicated problems of the Middle East.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews
Turkey and Russia have been locked in an angry dispute over Syria ever since the Turkish Air Force downed a Russian fighter jet in November 2015. That move by Turkey backfired by pushing Moscow into supporting Syrian Kurdish fighters who Ankara considers to be terrorists.

 

 By Benjamin Schaller
This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute

In many public debates around the globe, the narrative of ‘”Arctic War” has become the predominant narrative of the future of Arctic security:


Geopolitical Weekly, By Reva Bhalla
Last October, when Russia had just begun its military intervention in Syria, U.S. President Barack Obama spurned the idea that Russia could challenge U.S. leadership in the Middle East. In a 60 Minutes interview, he said, "Mr. Putin is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally.

Jonathan Steele, theguardian
Vladimir Putin’s dramatic decision to cut his military intervention in Syria has flatfooted everyone from the White House to Bashar al-Assad, and yielded predictably cynical reaction. “It’s a pretty brilliant tactical move,” says the independent military analyst Alexander Golts. Putin has “reaped a positive return” from his intervention, according to the former US assistant secretary of state PJ Crowley. But there is a more nuanced view.

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MICHAEL KOFMAN

Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, hybrid warfare has become conversational short form in the West for describing Moscow’s sneaky ways of fighting war. If there’s one thing you’ve learned over the past two years about Russia, it’s that it uses hybrid warfare, a dangerous Kremlin innovation the West must learn to grapple with.


DEBKAfile Special Report 

A deep rift with Tehran over the continuation of the Syrian war and an irreconcilable spat with Syrian ruler Bashar Assad over his future prompted Russian President Vladimir's shock order Monday, March 14, for the "main part" of Russian military forces to quit Syria the next morning. This is reported by DEBKAfile's military and intelligence sources.

By Paul J. Saunders
A bit of success in the war-torn country does not beget success in other areas.
Many of those who seek a more functional U.S.-Russia relationship—in both Washington and Moscow—have hoped that cooperation in stabilizing Syria and combating the so-called Islamic State could provide an important new opportunity to stabilize U.S.-Russia ties as well. Unfortunately, this is likely to be considerably more difficult than some may expect. And even the optimists recognize that rebuilding U.S.-Russia relations will be quite challenging.


Author Ben Caspit
A fascinating and volatile drama has been unfolding in recent weeks around the intrigue that begins in Jerusalem and winds through Moscow, Damascus, Beirut, Ankara, Tehran and Canberra. Israel, Russia, Turkey, Australia and Iran are the key players, while Syria and Lebanon have supporting roles. To the players in the field, the game is reminiscent of a regional chessboard with a lot more than two contestants.

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis 
Turkey and Saudi Arabia have taken separate steps to break free from Washington's dictates on the Syrian issue and show their resistance to Russia's highhanded intervention in Syria. They are moving on separate tracks to signal their defiance and frustration with the exclusive pact between Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin which ostracizes Riyadh and Ankara on the Syrian question.

By Michael A. Reynolds
Kurdish ambitions fit into Russia's plans for the Middle East.
If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan thought last November that by downing a Russian Su-24 bomber near the Turkish-Syrian border he could contain Vladimir Putin’s Middle Eastern ambitions, he is certainly regretting that now. An incensed Vladimir Putin vowed that Turkey would come to rue its actions. He warned that Russia would not settle its accounts with Turkey with mere economic sanctions, adding, “We know what we need to do.”

Vectorised image of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,, courtesy FLAGELLVM DEI/wikimedia

By Şener Aktürk for Center for Security Studies (CSS)
This article recently appeared in Russian Analytical Digest No. 179, which is a seriespublished by the Center for Security Studies (CSS).

According to Şener Aktürk, Turkey’s downing of a Russian Su-24 aircraft on November 24, 2015 wasn’t the cause for the “spectacular crisis” in Russian–Turkish relations that followed. Instead, the incident should be interpreted as a symptom of a broader geopolitical reversal that has been underway since 2008.

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Central Asia Caucasus Analyst, Avinoam Idan
The importance of Turkey’s downing of a Russian aircraft and the current Russian-Turkish confrontation is not only connected to the crisis in Syria; it could become a trigger for escalation between Russia and NATO. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union and NATO’s expansion eastward toward the Russian border, Russia has seen NATO as a major security threat to itself and its geostrategic space. Turkey is an important member of NATO, and 2016 is an election year in Washington. This serves as a window of opportunity for President Putin, who can take advantage of tensions with Turkey to undermine NATO’s standing.