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The Russian 'victory' in Syria dissected

the visit of Russian Chief of Staff Gerasimov and his meeting with Bashar at Khmeim Air Base in June 2017 (credit: MOD Russia)

(B2) The analysis made by Michel Goya, on his blog The Way of the Sword on the Russian intervention in Syria is worth the detour. It gives key elements on an intervention, badly perceived at the start and twists the blow to certain predictions. Must read.

What did we not hear said, in fact, at the beginning of this intervention? In bulk: the Russians could not hold the effort over the length; it cost them too much; they risked getting bogged down... Today, we have to recognize that this intervention " is a success as Mr. Goya writes. The Assad regime, in very bad shape in 2015, appears today if not saved, at least as an actor, again, essential.

A military success

The Russian Expeditionary Force has largely contributed to the containment of the rebel forces » from the capture of Aleppo at the end of 2015, to the recent clearing of the Deir ez-Zor airport, in the desert east besieged by the Islamic State, passing by « the almost definitive conquest of the main axis of the M5 motorway, the center of gravity of the conflict, during the year 2016 ". " With limited means, Russia has [...] obtained important strategic results, and in any case far superior to those of the Western powers, the United States in the first place but also France whose we cannot even measure the strategic effects that it may well have obtained in Syria »

The four conditions for Russian "victory"

What explains this success, for Michel Goya, is that the Russian system was: 1st engaged " massively » ; 2nd " by surprise », and has 3° from the start been « equipped "," concentrate on a few goals. It was not preceded “by a declaratory phase, nor gradually diversified and reinforced like that of the American coalition. Finally, 4°, he had a “ clear objective ". Russia had a certainly clearer political vision and more coherent action with operational and tactical risk-taking that the United States or France have not dared ».

A strategy adapted to the field

The Russians have understood the specificity of the Syrian situation well. In the region, the main international supporters (USA, Russia, Turkey, etc.) had " no intention of directly confronting each other ". L' " flash occupation of the ground by one mechanically prevents the other, placed before the fait accompli, from entering it. " From the moment the Russians openly planted the flag in Syria and occupied space, especially in the air, things suddenly became more complicated for the others. »

The spearhead air brigade

The key element of the intervention was the Russian air brigade " always combining planes and helicopters ". These means " have varied over time » the forces on the ground being relatively limited: the « volume of a battalion of the 810th marine infantry brigade reinforced with a small company of nine T-90 tanks, an artillery battery equipped with about fifteen howitzers and multiple rocket launchers, and equipped with about forty infantry fighting vehicles, BRT-82A it seems ».

The opportunity to experiment with new materials

The intervention in Syria was an opportunity for the Russian armed forces " to learn and experiment with materials and methods, and to test original concepts ". Three are detailed by the author: the SVP-24 (Special Computing Subsystem), a system using the Russian GLONASS satellite navigation system for airstrikes; the use of "ultra-light motorized infantry" and the development of the "escort vehicle."

The cost of the operation: reasonable

Finally, these results were, in fact, obtained with resources “ quite limited notes Michel Goya: 4 to 5000 men and 50 to 70 aircraft (1). And the cost was all in all reasonable: around 3 million euros per day. That is to say a quarter or a fifth of the American effort in the region or three times more than the French commitment in the Levant but for a much higher result (2)...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Lire: Red Storm Operational Lessons from Two Years of Russian Engagement in Syria LComplete analysis (15 pages) by Michel Goya on the Russian intervention in Syria is available in kindle version on Amazon (2,99 euros). You can make any donation on his blog: and receive in pdf version. (NB: B2 is in no way an intermediary or partner in this operation. But it is a "good deed").

(1) NB: this could demonstrate, contrary to those who plead in favor of a massive commitment, that a small number of troops, well determined, well armed, can make the difference.

(2) The French operation "Chammal" mobilizes 1200 men and about 15 aircraft, one million euros/day.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).