Staunton, October 1 – On the first anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s decision to introduce Russian forces into the Syrian civil war on the side of Baghdad dictator Bashar al-Assad, commentators in Russia and Ukraine are pointing to ways in which this conflict recalls Moscow’s earlier interventions in Chechnya and before that in Afghanistan.
Their conclusions should be disturbing to all people of good will around the world given the brutality of Soviet and Russian actions in those wars, but they should also serve as a warning to Russia and Russians given that such military adventures did not end well for their authors or their authors’ country, however many victories Kremlin propagandists may claim.
Independent Russian military analyst Pavel Felgengauer notes that in Aleppo, “the Russians are using the Chechen tactic of the period of the second Chechen war” when they destroyed civilian areas in cities in order to defeat their military opponent in the field (politolog.net/analytics/kreml-ispolzuet-taktiku-chechenskoj-vojny-voennyj-ekspert/).
Whether this constitutes “’a war crime,’” the analyst says, is up to an international tribunal; but of course, if it is found to be such in one case, it could easily be extended to others.
Russian military commanders believe that if they can take Aleppo, “this will be a decisive victory” in the Syrian civil war, one that will give Asad a victory and make Baghdad into what was true in Chechnya after the second Chechen war, a pro-Russian vassal that will help project Moscow’s power in the region.
But, Felgengauer argues, Moscow is wrong. Taking Aleppo by such massive and indiscriminate use of force may be possible, but that will not lead to the end of the civil war in Syria. That conflict will “in any case” continue; and even more people will die there as a result of the actions of Assad and his Russian allies.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian journalist Vladislav Kudrik compares what Putin is doing in Syria with what his Soviet predecessors did in Afghanistan, a conflict that undermined the USSR, led to a Soviet withdrawal, but didn’t solve the problem of that Central Asian country (apostrophe.ua/article/world/middle-east/2016-10-01/afganskiy-sindrom-putina-chto-pokazal-god-siriyskoy-avantyuryi/7543