10:55 19.03.2016(updated 10:54 19.03.2016) Get short URL
Russian Jets Withdraw From Syria (61)
Putin's unexpected decision to partially withdraw Russian forces engaged in the anti-Daesh operation in Syria has been largely hailed as a smart move that would help to resolve the five-year-long conflict, as well as bolster Moscow's international standing.The Russians "are getting out of the conflict with minimal losses," independent military analyst Alexander Golts told the Guardian. "I think it's a pretty brilliant tactical move."
Putin made the announcement on Monday and in less than a week the withdrawal of Russian troops has been mostly completed. Three Sukhoi Su-34 combat aircraft, which made their combat debut in Syria, and a Tu-154 transport plane left the Arab Republic the day following the announcement. All 12 Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack aircraft and several Il-76 transport planes returned home on March 16.
This should not come as a surprise since Moscow's military engagement in Syria was always meant to be limited in scope and time. Nevertheless, Russia is ready to redeploy its forces to the war-shattered country in hours, should its assistance be required.
The pullout comes at a time when five years of bitter fighting gave way to a nationwide ceasefire, which does not include Daesh, al-Nusra Front and other groups designated as terrorists by the UN. The truce, which was brokered by Russia and the US, has proved to be durable, giving impetus to the peace talks in Geneva.
"The timing of the Russian 'withdrawal' was strategically perfect," geopolitical analyst and former World Bank economist Peter Koenig observed. Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs Fyodor Lukyanov echoed the sentiment, saying that Vladimir Putin "used the first and the best opportunity to begin to withdraw."
The Russian president expressed hope that the pullout will send a "positive signal" to all major stakeholders and will help to build up trust among those participating in the talks. Yet, Koenig warned, the US and its allies are unlikely to take the fragile peace process seriously.
"They want, as they wanted from day one of the US / NATO instigated 2011 'civil war,' a 'regime change' – meaning Assad must go. This has not changed in the minds of the hawks of Washington, including Obama, who are under strong pressure from Israel," the analyst suggested.
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