One of Vladimir Putin’s unknown assets lies in his ability to deploy the same offensive strategy on theaters as Western decision -makers continue to deal with too much differentiated. The reluctance is still strong to admit that the American retreat of 2013, after the chemical bombing of Damascus, convinced the Russian president that the annexation of Crimea, a few months later, would basically arouse little reactions.
Today, even though the parallel is striking between the victorious siege of Marioupol and that of Aleppo in 2016, few operational lessons were learned from the trivialization in Ukraine of arms and techniques tested during the War of Syria. It is however in the Middle East or on the African continent that the Kremlin could resume the initiative if it cannot break the Ukrainian resistance.
- The risks in the Middle East
The unconditional support of Moscow to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, with direct intervention of the Russian army from 2015, allowed the Kremlin to consolidate its grip in the maritime base of Tartous and to obtain privileges of ‘extraterritoriality for its new lattaquié air base.
Classic reasoning would therefore lead to anticipating possible Russian attacks from such military locations, both located on the Mediterranean coast. It is nevertheless in a much less conventional way that Russia can exercise from Syria a blackmail of a formidable efficiency on Israel as well as on Turkey.
The southern NATO pillar that constitutes this last country is indeed at the mercy of a resumption of hostilities at its most exposed border with Syria, around the pocket of Idlib, last reduced by the Anti-Assad opposition. Three million people, mainly inappropriate, live there under the flood of a Salafist group, from the Syrian branch of Al-Qaida, which eliminated the more moderate factions and severely controls civil society. Russian propaganda would thus have no trouble justifying a possible offensive by the “fight against terrorism”, while the assault on this enclave would inevitably lead to massive waves of refugees to Turkish territory. At a time when President Erdogan advocates on the contrary the repatriation of a party at least than three million Syrians refugees on his soil, the threat of a reverse flow is taken very seriously in Ankara.
The dominant position of Russia in Syria is also one of the explanations of the low profile of Israel against Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin, failing to curb Iranian interventionism in Syria, indeed tolerates the raids regularly carried out by Israel against the positions of the militias linked to Tehran in this country. The Hebrew state is thus working to prevent rooting at the foot of the Syrian Golan, annexed by Israel, a hostile establishment which would dangerously complete the Hezbollah device in Lebanon. It would suffice that Moscow changes its posture for the northern border of Israel to become vulnerable again. The levers of Russian power in Syria therefore offer him a significant taking of Israel as on Turkey.
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