An Antonov transport plane at the Russian Khmeimim base in Syria’s Latakia province.
[…] It is way too early right now to give a categorical evaluation of the timing and consequences of the Russian withdrawal from Syria. Let us also keep in mind that there is a lot we don’t know. What we do know is that Sergei Lavrov has had an absolutely crazy schedule over the past month or so and that Russian diplomats have been holding intense negotiations with all the regional powers. I am confident that the Russians planned their withdrawal at least as carefully as the planned their intervention and that they have left as many open options as possible. By the way, the big advantage of a unilateral decision is that, unlike one taken as part of an agreement with other parties, it can be unilaterally rescinded too. It took the Russian just days to launch their initial operation even though they had to execute it all in difficult conditions and under the cloak of secrecy. How long would it take them to move back into Syria if needed?
When all is said and done, I simply trust Vladimir Putin. No, no just because I am a Putin fanboy (which, of course, I am!), but because of his record of being right and taking difficult, even risky, decisions which eventually yielded Russia yet another unforeseen success.
Like any good chess player, Putin knows that one of the key factors in any war is time and so far Putin has timed his every move superbly. Yes, there were times in the past when I got really worried about what looked to me as either too much waiting or as dangerous risk-taking, but every single time my fears ended up being unfounded. And yes, I can easily muster up a long list of potentially catastrophic scenarios for Syria, but I think that this would only make sense if Putin had, like Obama, a long and impressive list of failures, disasters, miscalculations and embarrassing defeats on his record. But he does not. In fact, what I see is an amazing list of successes achieved against very difficult odds. And they key to Putin’s success might well be that he is a hardcore realist.
Russia is still weak. Yes, she is stronger than in the past and she is rising up very fast, but she still is weak, especially in comparison to the still immense AngloZionist Empire whose resources simply dwarf Russia’s in most categories. However, this comparative weakness also forces the Kremlin to be very careful. When an empire is rich and powerful being arrogant and over-estimating your own capabilities is not nearly as bad as when a much weaker country does it. Just look at the USA under Obama: they went from one humiliating and costly defeat to another – yet they are still here and still powerful, almost as powerful as they used to be 10 years ago. While in the long run the kind of hubris and gross incompetence we nowadays observe in US decision-makers will result in the inevitable collapse of the Empire, in the medium to short term there is no truly painful price to pay for failure. Just one example: just think of the US military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are absolute and total failures, abject disasters of incalculable magnitude. They will go down in history as amongst the worst foreign policy failures ever. And yet, walking around in downtown New York or San Fransisco you would never think that you are visiting a country which just lost two major and long wars.
Russia does not have such a “luxury of power”, she has to make every bit count and she has to plan each move with utmost precision. Just like a tightrope walker with no safety harness, Putin knows that a single misstep can have catastrophic consequences.
To withdraw the bulk of the Russian military task force in Syria right now is a gutsy and potentially risky move for sure, but I am confident that it is also the right one. But only time will tell if my confidence is warranted or not.