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Has Putin Ordered a Withdrawal or an Expansion of Russia’s Military in Syria?

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

President, Russian Federation

«… a significant part of the Russian military contingent stationed in Syrian Arab Republic is returning home to Russia. I order the Minister of Defense, the chief of General Staff to proceed with the withdrawal of the Russian group of forces to the places of their permanent deployment."

Two days later Putin requested Parliament’s approval for a significant expansion of Russian military in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin in a surprise visit to a Russian military base in Syria, stood before troops Monday, December 11 and ordered the military command to “proceed with the withdrawal” of Russian forces from Syria. Two days later, he asked the Duma to take contradictory action. Putin’s visit to the Russian military base Khmeimim followed Russia’s announcement of “victory” over the Islamic State in Syria.

Two days after his order, Putin requested from the nation’s Parliament approval for a significant expansion of Russia’s military presence in Syria, namely in the Naval base in Tartus.

The agreement between the governments of Russia and Syria would allow the Russian Naval presence to continue for 49 years, “automatically renewed” every 25 years. It allows eleven Russian Navy vessels, including nuclear –powered vessels to be based at Tartus.

“Russia will continue to maintain a significant military presence in Syria, despite the announcement,” said Matti Suomenaro, an analyst for the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, DC, referring to Putin’s withdrawal announcement. “Russia regularly uses these partial withdrawals to rotate out redundant capabilities while bringing in units better suited for the next phase of Russian operations in Syria. The announcement nonetheless also serves to help bolster Putin’s image domestically in Russia ahead of the upcoming Presidential elections scheduled for March 2018.”

Some of the Russian media reported on Putin’s order with a sense of pride, highlighting an ongoing Kremlin narrative that Russia was invited to Syria by the Assad regime purportedly to fight terrorists.

“I feel somewhat ashamed [for the Americans] to even comment. We know who won. The world knows who brought the victory. And when somebody wants to cling to someone else's glory – that is also obvious,” Valentina Matvienko, Putin’s close ally and the Speaker of Russia’s Council of Federation – the upper House of the Parliament said on Wednesday, December 13, 2017 commenting on the U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of the defeat of Islamic State.

Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Speaker of the Council of Federation of the Russian Federation Valentina Matvienko, Moscow, 9Mar2017
Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Speaker of the Council of Federation of the Russian Federation Valentina Matvienko, Moscow, 9Mar2017

Matvienko also revealed what she said was “a state secret.”

“Putin personally took command over Russian military operation in Syria. This is his personal victory and his great personal achievement,” she said, adding that “even rivals had to admit Putin’s Middle East visit as triumphant.”

Among the recent claims reviewed: – that the United States and the coalition have indiscriminately targeted civilians, blocked humanitarian aid to a key refugee camp, protected terrorists from Russian troops, and, in a violation of international law , refused to leave despite the fact that there are no terrorists anymore in Syria because IS’s destroyed by Russia, these and others were ​debunked.

Regarding the Naval base, Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of the Parliament [State Duma] announced less than an hour after Putin’s request that the President’s proposal will be approved “before the end of 2017.”

The chairman of the Parliament’s Committee of Foreign Affairs Leonid Slutsky announced his Committee’s unconditional support of the proposed legislation and recommended its approval.