Russia's military interference in Syria proves beneficial

China Military
Huang Panyue

BEIJING, Jan. 18 (ChinaMil) -- Russian military sent troops to Syria on September 30, 2015, without any omen.

During this operation, the Russian military made quick deployments, made precise judgment about the situation, applied flexible tactics to control the situation and achieved its goal efficiently, demonstrating exceptional strategic deployment capability and the art of commanding war.

To raise international standing and expand strategic space

Russia's military interference in the Syrian crisis was partly due to anti-terrorism and security needs and partly because of geopolitics and the necessity to adjust the relation among major powers.

It demonstrated Russia's capability of preserving the international system. Within the first month of its military presence in Syria, the Russian military dispatched aircraft for more than 1600 times, destroyed over 2000 IS targets, cut off its oil transmission line and helped the Syrian government forces regain the control of tens of towns and villages.

Russia achieved far more than what was achieved during the yearlong US-led air strike, which once again demonstrated Russia's capability of influencing world order and marked its return to the center of the global stage as a strong power.

It restored Russia's influence in the Middle East. The Middle East has always been a bond and stage of contention between Russia and European powers.

Taking the opportunity of this military interference, Russia consolidated the crescent known as the "arc of Shiah" that linked Syria, Iraq and Iran, expanded its clout in the geopolitical map of the region and counterbalanced the US.

One week after its air strike on Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Iran all expressed welcome to Russia's interference.

It cracked down on terrorist forces. Terrorist threats represented by Islamic extremism have always been a thorn in the side for Russia, and more than 2000 terrorist attacks have been recorded in Russia since its efforts for transformation began.

As the situation in Syria worsened, the expansion of IS, if unchecked, will directly threaten Russia's national security and territorial integrity.

Therefore, Russia sent troops to Syria resolutely, cracked down upon terrorist forces on a foreign battlefield, and kept threats from its gate to the largest extent.

Russian military's actions taught a lesson to the world: to defend the position as a big power and have discourse power in the world, one must act proactively at critical junctures, participate in international affairs in proper military ways and demonstrate its military strength.

To protect national interests and mitigate political and economic pressure

The Ukraine crisis subjected Russia to tremendous economic and security challenges, and finding a sally port in the Middle East was a strategic choice made by Russia to step out of the crisis and protect its national interests to the largest extent.

Diplomatic crisis was defused. After Crimea joined the Russian Federation, the US and Europe have kept escalating the criticism, economic sanction, political isolation and military threat against Russia. Russia was kicked out of the G8 bloc, and the US called off its high-level mutual visits and military exchanges with Russia too.

Against such a background, Russia needed a new hotspot to force western countries like the US to make a compromise in order to make a strategic sortie. By sending troops to Syria, Russia created a new arena strategically and had new chips in hand to game with the west.

Political environment improved. As the western world's economic sanction against Russia began to take effect, international oil price kept falling, rouble depreciated significantly and capital fled ever faster. These threw the Russian economy, which was pillared by the export of bulk commodities like crude oil, into the most serious recession since 2009.

In 2015, Russia's economy declined by 3.8%, its GDP was almost halved from the peak and the exchange rate of rouble went down by 130%. The Russian military's outstanding performance in Syria temporarily diverted the Russians' attention away from the economic winter and Putin's support rate hit the record high of 90%.

Security barrier was fortified. Located in the juncture of Asia, Africa and Europe, Syria is key to Russia in the Middle East and east Mediterranean and critical for keeping the Turkish Straits clear in wartime.

By sending troops to Syria, Russia not only secured the tumbledown Baššār regime and stalled the change of administration plotted by western forces, but also protected its traditional allies in the Middle East.

More importantly, it fortified the Tartous naval base along the Mediterranean Sea and cleared the marine lifeline for the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russia-Syria economic cooperation committee, said "our people are suppressing a war in Syria that's targeted at Russia. Whoever doesn't understand this is either a fool or an enemy."

To examine the results of military reform and test new equipment and combat approaches

Russia has taken bold steps of military reform in recent years. This military operation in Syria examined its joint combat commanding system and new equipment and combat approaches.

Efficient war preparations were made. Russia launched the plan for the military interference in Syria in early August 2015, under which part of Assad International Airport was locked up for renovation to get ready for military equipment to enter Syria.

From the end of August to late September 2015, Russia completed a series of air strike deployments both by air and sea.

Just as western media were reporting on the arrival of large quantities of Russian troops and equipment at the Syrian coast, Russia announced that it would hold a large-scale live-fire exercise on the sea area of Syria in late September, and notified the US and the aviation bureaus of relevant countries.

Russian troops were gathered in a low profile, and under the cover of the radar signals of a large Tu-154 passenger plane, six Su-34 new fighter-bombers used for precise air-to-ground strike came to the base. By then Russia completed all military deployments before the strike.

New weapons and equipment were tested. Russia mobilized almost all its cutting-edge weapons in the Syrian war, not only hitting the terrorists hard, but also checking the performance of its weapons and equipment and deterring its rivals.

During the air strike against Syria, Russian aircraft carried out flight missions for more than 10,000 times, involving Tu-160, Su-34, Su-35S and Mi-35 armed helicopters, and new ammunitions like X-101 cruise missile was also used.

Russia also used Unnamed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) on a large scale for all-weather reconnaissance for the first time and launched multiple low-earth-orbit reconnaissance satellites.

The Syrian crisis provided a rare opportunity for the Russian military to test and evaluate its weapon and equipment performance and its combat capability under the new formation and system.

The data, information and experience it gathered from the war was of important values for it to make targeted technical and tactical improvements.

The Russian military's actions told us that war is a direct way of checking the results of military development and a strong impetus for military reform.

The battlefield is the most realistic test field for weapons, and tempering the troops and trying new weapons on the international anti-terror battlefield is an effective way of obtaining maximal benefits at minimal cost.

The article is written by Senior Colonel Shi Huaming, deputy director of the militia and reserve forces bureau of the national defense mobilization department under China's Central Military Commission(CMC).



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