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24.10.2017

Stratfor: Syria is an ideal testing ground for the Russian army

Russia's intervention in the Syrian civil war, which continues from 2015 to the present, is partly due to Moscow's desire to maintain its positions, which it traditionally occupied in this country. In addition, Russia sought to increase its influence and strengthen its leverage in the Middle East - especially in negotiations involving the United States. But there is one aspect of Russia's participation in the Syrian campaign, which is often overlooked: the Syrian war has become an ideal "training ground" for training Russian troops, testing military equipment and testing combat capability.

The Syrian civil war is different from other conflicts in which Russia participated after the end of the Cold War. Unlike wars in Chechnya, Georgia and in Donbas in the east of Ukraine, the zone of the Syrian conflict is neither inside Russia nor on its neighboring territory. Therefore, Russia's interference in Syria depended on its ability to transfer troops and equipment over considerable distances. In the absence of land routes for Russia to transport its troops to Syria, and then - for their logistical support during a long period of hostilities - had to use its transport aircraft and sea transport. Despite significant obstacles, Moscow has proved its ability to provide logistic support to its troops during combat operations far from its borders.

Previous conflicts in which Russia took part after the end of the Cold War occurred mainly in regions with relatively familiar cultural, linguistic and sociological characteristics. As for the Syrian conflict, the situation there is completely different. For Russia, this was an invasion of an apparently unfamiliar country, which required the Russian military to use first of all such capabilities as the ability to communicate with people, merge with the bulk of people, and interact with the Syrian government forces to the extent that before they did not have to do this. This interaction was not ideal and coordinated - there were a lot of reports, rumors and testimonies pointing to the presence of friction between Russian troops and their local partners. However, in general, the Russians managed to achieve that the Syrian military recognized them as extremely important military advisers and partners. Indeed, after the death on the battlefield of Lieutenant General Valery Asapov last month, the Russian military said that Asapov was not only a military adviser to the Syrian government forces, but also acted as a commander of the Syrian army as commander of the Fifth Volunteer Assault Corps of the Syrian Arab Army. logistics and command, the Syrian conflict became a serious test for Russian combat aviation. The air war in Syria is particularly complex, it assumes a constant air cover for ground forces and air operations for ground targets in a crowded airspace where many air forces simultaneously operate, including the Air Force of a coalition led by the United States. In addition to participating in operations in the face of increased complexity, the Russian military aircraft during the campaign in Syria also faced other problems. The blows of Russian aviation caused numerous civilian casualties, and there were also instances of "fire on their own". And as a result of enemy strikes and for technical reasons, Russian aircraft lost several planes. But, in spite of these problems, Russian military security services acquired valuable combat experience during the Syrian conflict.

In addition, Syria has become a major testing ground for new Russian weapons and training tactical actions. Russia entered into a conflict in Syria after a large-scale modernization of its army, and in Syria more than 160 new types of weapons were tested. The Russian army has used new cruise missiles of sea and air based. During the Syrian conflict, new types of air defense systems were deployed, and tactical reconnaissance UAVs were deployed, and new generation electronic warfare systems were widely used. In the course of the campaign - more than ever before in the history of the Russian army - precision guided ammunition was widely used. Moscow also directly and openly declares the benefits of this conflict for revealing the flaws in military equipment for the purpose of further improvement.

The testing of new weapons in Syria is beneficial for Russia and from a commercial point of view: it allows Moscow to draw attention to its military equipment with a focus on foreign arms markets. A number of samples of Russian weapons that showed themselves well in the Syrian conflict (especially the Su-34 and Su-35 aircraft, as well as the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system) were recently acquired by a number of countries, primarily by the Middle Eastern states. We are talking about countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey - which saw these systems in action during the conflict in Syria.

It should be noted that the Syrian conflict cost Russia not cheap. Moscow suffered significant losses killed and wounded, including among high-ranking officers. During the Syrian conflict, many Russian citizens also died, who fought there under a contract in PMCs, often without receiving special recognition from the public. Russia's widespread use of expensive high-precision guided munitions and cruise missiles, as well as the loss of numerous aircraft, UAVs and vehicles, leads to an increase in the country's public debt in the face of budgetary constraints. In this regard, it can be noted that Moscow does not intend to participate in the Syrian war for a long time and is trying to create conditions that would allow it to withdraw from the conflict.

Even with these costs in mind, Russia's intervention in Syria is still bringing a net benefit to the country. Moscow provided its influence and presence in Syria and expanded its zone of influence in the Middle East, where it is increasingly seen as a key stakeholder in the region. And the Syrian battlefields have become a test range for Russia to test the combat readiness of their troops, test their military equipment and develop tactical actions, as Moscow is still looking for ways to strengthen the fighting capacity of its forces.

A source: ИноСМИ

Author: Stratfor, the US

Tags: Russia, Army, War in the Middle East, Syria, Analytics