Putin’s long-term strategy in Syria

Steven Simon writes: Over the past six months, Russian aircrews flew over 10,000 missions, averaging between 60 and 74 sorties per day, a relatively high operational tempo. They did this fairly cheaply, unlike Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. military operation against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), in which attack aircraft need to traverse comparatively long distances from their bases to targets. The Russians have been able to stage strike aircraft literally minutes from their targets. Their cost per sortie has therefore been quite low. According to Jane’s, the estimated daily cost of Russian operations has been in the $4 million range, which is small potatoes in the context of a defense budget of $50 billion. In contrast, the average cost of a single air strike conducted under Inherent Resolve is $2.4 million.

Having dusted off and renovated its old installations at Tartus—and with personnel remaining in place—Russia can redeploy its aircraft on very little notice. Indeed, the Russians will probably do what the United States does in the Persian Gulf, rotating aircraft in and out of bases in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in a manner that amounts to a permanent presence, but is technically temporary. Their removal back to Russian bases does not therefore represent some kind of closure owing to a presumed difficulty of reestablishing a presence in Syria in the future. It merely represents a tactical pause. [Continue reading…]

AFP reports: The US military said Wednesday it has seen no significant reduction in Russia’s combat power in Syria despite President Putin’s surprise announcement this week of a partial withdrawal of his country’s forces.

Colonel Steve Warren, a US military spokesman in the region, said Russian intentions remain unclear.

“We have not seen a significant reduction, frankly, in their combat power. Particularly the ground combat power remain static, the air combat power has been slightly reduced, but that’s it,” he said. [Continue reading…]

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