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Author(s)Matthew Bodner
SourceCurrent Digest of the Russian Press, The ,  No.1,  Vol.69, January  01, 2017, page(s):18
  • Syria
Place of PublicationMinneapolis, USA
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Author: Matthew Bodner

(By Matthew Bodner. The Moscow Times, Jan. 12, 2017, p. 4. Complete text:) Few leaders can boast of success in war-torn Syria, and even fewer can boast of success twice. With an order to scale-down Russian forces in Syria - part of a ceasefire brokered by Turkey on Dec. 30 [see Current Digest, Vol. 68, No. 51 - 52, pp. 18 - 20] - Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have done just that. It was, in many ways, a repeat of Putin’s "mission accomplished" declaration in March [see Current Digest, Vol. 68, No. 11, pp. 3 - 6]: Russia isn’t withdrawing; it is merely changing posture.

Not long after Putin’s March declaration, Russian fighter jets stationed at a Syrian regime-controlled air base in Latakia indeed returned home. But Moscow retained a sizable air wing in Syria, and in some cases the Kremlin merely replaced airplanes with helicopters. It remains unclear how many planes Russia has in Syria, but its combat abilities there were largely unchanged after March.

The latest withdrawal of forces follows a similar pattern: Moscow has recalled its headline-grabbing naval battlegroup - led by the aging Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier - to its home port in Northern Russia. Despite Russian claims to the contrary, the aircraft carrier group appears not to have contributed much to Moscow’s mission in Syria.

"The Kuznetsov is not fit for projecting power. It’s not fit for carrying out naval action on foreign shores. It’s not fit for local war," military analyst Aleksandr Golts says. The ship’s involvement "can only be aimed at a fairly uninformed Russian citizen" watching the ship on TV.

As a result, the battlegroup’s departure changes little.

The Dec. 30 ceasefire is more promising than previous ones [see Current Digest, Vol. 68, No. 8, pp. 3 - 6 and No. 37, pp. 3 - 6], although it still ...

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