: Stratfor: Why Russia would withdraw from Syria

13:04 Mar. 15, 2016

Stratfor: Why Russia would withdraw from Syria

Smoke rises after Russian forces' air-strike over residential areas in Tamur village of Aleppo, Syria on February 18, 2016. (Getty Images)

Reasons behind Russia's rapid withdrawal from Syria

Moscow has once again shaken up Syria — this time, by leaving it. Russian President Vladimir Putin, boasting that his military had fulfilled its mission to combat international terrorism, ordered his Defense Ministry to begin the withdrawal of Russian ground forces from the war-torn country starting March 15.

Read also Reaction to Russian Withdrawal in Syria: 'Putin needs to stand with the people not the dictator'

But such an unexpected move raises a larger question over Russian strategy.

Russia intervened in Syria for several reasons. Its stated goal was to fight the Islamic State and other militant groups to which many Russian nationals (and other former Soviet nationals) belong. 

Read also AP: Chemical weapons have been used at least 161 times in Syria's war

Although Russia ended up concentrating the bulk of its attention on rebels fighting the Syrian regime rather than on Islamic State fighters, there is no denying that Russia has indeed contributed to the serious damage inflicted on Islamist militants over the past months.

Read also NYT: One-third of children in Syria were born during war, Unicef report finds

Haunted by past failures of intervention, Russia also wanted to demonstrate to the world — particularly to the United States — that it could successfully assert itself militarily and politically beyond its borderlands. The Kremlin wanted to have its voice heard. 

Putin made the announcement, then, to change the perception of Russia's behavior in Syria. But to what end? Is Moscow positioning itself to arrange a larger bargain — not only in Syria but with the West elsewhere? Full text


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