Russian withdrawal leaves Assad under pressure

Putin support for Syrian president is firm but not unlimited, analysts said, adding that the mission was to prop up Assad during negotiations last year

Russian withdrawal leaves Assad under pressure

World Bulletin / News Desk

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to withdraw partially from Syria was a surprise for many but according to Washington experts it suggests that Bashar al-Assad has not been granted a “blank check” from Moscow.

“[It] suggests that the Russian commitment to support the Syrian government, while firm, is not unlimited,” says James F. Collins, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia and now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Collins, who was ambassador to Russia from 1997 to 2001, tells Anadolu Agency that Assad will now “understand that he doesn’t have a blank check from Moscow”.

The veteran diplomat suggested the Russian move will “reduce the combat and bombing for certain,” but at the same time it might also lead the regime and the opposition “to be more serious about negotiating some kind of settlement”.

On Tuesday several Russian bombers and jets reportedly left Syria following Putin’s announcement.

The Russian president has said that he will withdraw about half of his forces from Syria while those at Hmeimim airbase and Tartus port will remain. Russia’s S-400 fourth generation advanced air defense missiles stationed in eastern Mediterranean Sea will also stay in place.

Jeffry Mankoff, a senior expert on Russia at the Washington-based Center for Strategic International Studies also agrees that Putin wanted to demonstrate to the Assad regime that it would not supply unlimited help.

According to Mankoff, Moscow believes that Assad is “too obstinate” and makes “too many demands”, taking Russian support for granted.

However, he notes, the Russian intervention was about “pursuing its own interest more than it is about keeping Assad in power”.

The Russians never believed that Assad would be able to retake control of the war-torn country, Mankoff adds. “They have always viewed their military intervention as designed to achieve a political settlement that will be acceptable to their interests.”

According to Mankoff, Tuesday’s move is not a total pullout but it will increase the pressure on Assad in peace talks in Geneva.

Russia has been pioneering recent series of talks led by UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura while their jets were striking opposition groups in western parts of the country to help Assad forces grab more territory.

Daniel Serwer, a Middle East expert and conflict management professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, also suggested that Moscow wants to push Assad to make some concessions at the negotiations in Geneva.

“I suppose Putin is signaling to Bashar al-Assad that the Russian check is not a blank one and that Bashar needs to give something at the negotiating table in order to reach a political agreement,” Serwer tells Anadolu Agency.

He also suggested that the Russians have also been concerned about “not to get bogged down in Syria,” noting that Moscow intends to keep both its port and the air base.

The Kremlin’s announcement was greeted with some sort of astonishment in Washington but President Putin said that the intervention had achieved its goal and the mission was complete.



Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Mart 2016, 10:48