MESOP TODAYS ANALYSIS “There Is No Russian Withdrawal from Syria” (Dmitry Gorenburg & Michael Kofman, War on the Rocks)

“This maneuver is more about political perceptions than military reality. It constitutes a political reframing of Russia’s intervention in order to normalize Moscow’s military presence in Syria, and make it permanent, while convincing Russians at home that the campaign is over. Putin’s statement is yet another successful effort to achieve a domestic and international publicity coup. The ‘withdrawal’ announcement is not about how Russia leaves, but about how it stays in Syria. Those who have doubts should watch the actual video of Putin ordering Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to initiate the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria.

He orders that Russia’s existing bases in Tartus and Hmeymim continue to operate at present levels. In addition, Russia’s defense minister is to ensure that they are fully defended from land, sea, and air. The worrisome S-400 long range air defense, along with shorter range systems, will remain in place, a point emphasized in later statement by Vladimir Putin. Russia’s main military bases will continue operations: with naval cover, a ground contingent for force protection, and an unknown number of troops still on the ground to advise Syrian forces.”