Having worked in Moscow when #Russia intervened in #Syria in 2015 & engaged RUS officials/experts on #Syria for yrs, I see 5 parallels in approach to #Ukraine vs #Syria
1. Sequential war
3. “Human shield” claims
4. Foreign fighters
5. CW claims
1. Sequential war: RUS recently termed 1st phase of #UkraineWar done, announcing focus on Donbas. In #Syria war, Russia had declared new phase in 2017, establishing de-escalation zones (DEZs) in Western parts, which freed up regime resources to take more territory toward the East.
Once that was done, regime/Russia turned back & we saw sequential take-over of DEZs (E Ghouta, Homs, Deraa) in 2018 under guise of CT. Not at all to say that sequencing in Ukraine will be the same. Return of larger-scale fighting toward W Ukraine will depend on…,
a) Russia’s successes in #Ukraine‘s South/East in coming weeks, b) Russia’s (mil.) resources (UA totally different ball game than Syria!), c) where we are at with Russia-Ukraine talks in a few weeks. But it’s to caution against assumption that this is over yet.
2. Encirclements/corridors: Many have called #Mariupol the “2nd Aleppo”. Indeed, in #Syria, we saw Russian encirclements/bombardments/humanitarian corridors, time & again. Civilians failing to leave were labeled “terrorists” = legitimate targets. Expect to see more of this in UA.
3. Related, #Russia MoD claims 7,000 Azov fighters in Mariupol using civilians as “human shields” (
eng.mil.ru/en/special_ope) When Russia/Syrian army “mopped up” DEZs in 2018, armed opposition was accused of same tactic. “Human shield” claim = mainstay of RUS discourse on #Syria.
4. Foreign fighters: In #Syria, Russia justified intervention claiming internationalization of conflict – for. fighters “flocking in” to join opposition. In #Ukraine, Russia claims that 1000s of foreign mercenaries & terrorists have joined AFU & are to be “ruthlessly destroyed”.
Meanwhile, we see shift re: #Russia’s own use of foreign fighters. While it originally announced readiness of 16k #Syrian /ME fighters to come to Ukraine, @CENTCOM saw few actual movements. On Frid, Russia MoD indicated that DNR/LNR preference is “to defend their land themselves”.
What’s going on? No useful military role for foreign fighters at this point in the war? Logistical constraints in moving them? Concern about resulting vacuum in Syria and ltd. bandwidth to deal with any instability there? Combination of above? Curious to hear @RALee85 & others.
5. Chemical weapons claims: In #Syria, Russia warned of false flag CW attacks by armed groups for years. Never actively used CW itself, but enabled Syrian gov. in doing so, plus shielded it from facing attribution/accountability
& UN Security Council.
In #Ukraine, #Russia false flag claims have spanned whole CBRNe spectrum, getting many worried. Would Russia use CW? My view: there’s no “red line” left, should Russia judge it militarily expedient to use CW, which is not a given. But “false flag” propaganda is useful regardless: a) serves Russian domestic narrative re: WMD threat emanating from #Ukraine that necessitates preventative “special mil op.” b) creates terror & fear in #Ukraine, c) is picked up by conspiracy theorists in #West, sowing doubts here and there in W societies. All at little cost!
Parallels between #Syria & #Ukraine are highly imperfect. The 2 wars are different for #Russia in objectives, stakes, mil nature, West’s reaction, reaction of own population. Still, useful to understand aspects of #Russia war in #Syria for analysis of what could come in #Ukraine.