Mission accomplished
March 14, 2016 11:46 PM   Subscribe

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria, describing Russia's objectives as "generally accomplished". posted by Joe in Australia (22 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Still leaving the bombers and helicopters in Syria, though. Seems like mere words.
posted by My Dad at 11:53 PM on March 14, 2016

posted by Drinky Die at 12:02 AM on March 15, 2016

Clearly looking ahead to President Trump's green light on Ukraine
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:42 AM on March 15, 2016

From what little I can understand of the situation, the Russian air force (and their cooperation with Damascus) is the major component of the recent containment of ISIS. I'd hazard that this announcement really means something like "our recent talks with the Iranians mean that they'll be sending more troops, so we can now withdraw the 155mm 'advisors'".

It may be that I'm over-estimating Russia's commitment to Damascus, and the real message is more like "we will continue to have a naval base on the Med for the forseeable - let the Balkanisation begin."

None of this will make America happy.
posted by pompomtom at 2:45 AM on March 15, 2016

Perhaps he expects the EU to implode sooner rather than later, returning its easternmost territories to Russia's sphere of influence, and thus to need the troops in the Baltic states?
posted by acb at 3:12 AM on March 15, 2016

Or Russia has ensured that the only substantial or effective anti-Assad force left is ISIS, which means the UN will have little choice when it comes to picking sides.
posted by kewb at 3:39 AM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Wait, you can just leave a place before you get bogged down in a decade(s)-long quagmire?? Who knew??
posted by lullaby at 5:40 AM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Or maybe the war has not proven as popular with the Russian population as he had hoped and there just isn't any way for him to move forward without using Russian troops on the ground, so he's just bailing out at the first opportunity.
posted by daniel_charms at 5:50 AM on March 15, 2016

Or Russia's oil based economy is collapsing due to the glut of oil on the market and bombing stuff is expensive.

Hell they couldn't even take Aleppo.

..There have been growing signs of differences between Russia and the Syrian government over the Geneva talks, which Moscow has pressed hard for, along with Washington. And for Mr. Assad, the prospect of Russia’s leaving him to fend for himself is sure to focus his mind on following its lead — advice that Russian officials have publicly offered him in recent days.

From Kevin Drum
posted by Max Power at 6:03 AM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Well played, Putin. Russia got to be a catalyst for the peace talks, avoided getting bogged down, swaggered across the world stage and spat in America's eye and now gets to go home with relatively light losses.
posted by dazed_one at 6:39 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hell they couldn't even take Aleppo.

There isn't much left of it. But they have treated it like they treated Grozny, except without the long, grinding entanglement on the ground.

I wouldn't normally be one to say "CNN has great coverage!" but Clarissa Ward and Salma Abdelaziz's undercover Syrian coverage is pretty staggering:

The truth about Syria: Undercover behind rebel lines

Word of warning - there is some pretty graphic footage, in particular civilians maimed horribly in Russian airstrikes, including children.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:36 AM on March 15, 2016

Perhaps Obama's tactic of drawing Baltic and Russian border states into NATO and the EU is paying off in that Putin can't afford to spread his troops across Syria any more in order to reinforce his positions against his own border.

Or maybe he feels he's solidified Assad's position enough that he feels it's inevitable that Assad return to power and he need not spend any more treasure moving that mission forward.
posted by spicynuts at 7:52 AM on March 15, 2016

The Russians are flat broke, and already waging one unsuccessful war in Ukraine, which resulted in NATO showing up in force in the Baltic, requiring a very expensive counter-posture - for a while Putin looked like he was doing his damndest to go Full Shrub and entangle his military in two unrelated and intractable wars that will never, ever end. Unlike the USA, Russia cannot afford to keep it up for decades. Time to declare victory and go home...
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:00 AM on March 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

To those who think Putin has attained some kind of victory, know that he has not.
There were already peace talks before Russia intervened. Now, the Russians are keeping their word given in those talks.

Previously, Russia would lie about participating in the cease fire. This retreat indicates that they cannot afford to continue that deceptive strategy. If 'winning' is a state of withdrawal and acquiescence, then 'losing' could only be the outright collapse of the Russian Federation.

For the record, it is technically possible to chemically engineer crude oil at $20 per barrel.
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 8:13 AM on March 15, 2016

Putin is carrying out the Aiken Formula: declare victory and go home. (Not what Aiken actually said, but who can give up such a pithy and universally applicable formulation?)
posted by languagehat at 8:45 AM on March 15, 2016

Putin is carrying out the Aiken Formula: declare victory and go home.

With the added twist that Russia appears to be continuing air strikes within Syria, and apparently plans to do so into the foreseeable future. Bases will stay staffed, just with fewer people. Time will tell if that trend continues, but at present this feels very apace with both the Ukraine and Crimean conflicts -- except, in reverse: instead of sending in troops without openly declaring a conflict, here the intervention was open but Russia seems poised to continue the conflict while also taking credit for having 'withdrawn' after 'victory.' Having 'withdrawn,' no one can ask them to 'withdraw' as a condition of the peace talks -- they might be asked to stop taking certain actions, but 'winning' now means there's no 'losing' situation in the negotiations.
posted by cjelli at 9:00 AM on March 15, 2016

Perhaps Obama's tactic of drawing Baltic and Russian border states into NATO and the EU

You... may want to brush up on your history a bit there.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:28 AM on March 15, 2016

it is technically possible to chemically engineer crude oil at $20 per barrel.

Wait--you can't just drop that in here without any explanation, documentation, links, etc. What exactly do you mean and how will it be produced @ $20/barrel?

I found this page that has some discussion of the concept and links to several pages with more information. The consensus there is that no one is currently doing it at $20/barrel but if (say) fuel prices would stay at $4-$5/gallon for a guaranteed fairly long period of time that is about where you might see wide-scale gasification come into play.

As far as how, the Fischer-Tropsch Process has been known since the 1920s or so and was used by Germany during WWII to produce fuel for their war effort. Apparently some better and more efficient processes are known now. There is some discussion and links to more information on the first page I link above.

Still, I don't see anyone saying they could do it for $20/barrel. If so, this would be a fast-growing industry and drilling for oil would fast be going by the wayside. And that would be happening even under current conditions where the price of oil is pretty low--it would have been happening in spades over the past decade or so of relatively high oil prices.

As it is, avoiding conditions where widespread synthesis of oil/gas (or some similar replacement) become economically feasible is certainly one of the reasons we keep seeing the Saudis and other major oil-producing nations taking pretty dramatic steps to intervene whenever the price of crude oil seems in danger of getting and staying too high.
posted by flug at 11:49 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

[One comment deleted. MisplaceDisgrace, please don't pursue this here.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:34 PM on March 15, 2016

> From what little I can understand of the situation, the Russian air force ... is the major component of the recent containment of ISIS

This is not at all the impression I've gotten. The Russians were almost exclusively bombing non-ISIS groups; Al Nusra, FSA and others. This is presumably because these non-ISIS groups actually constituted a more serious threat to the Assad government, which it is/was Russia's goal to support. ISIS is mostly in the east of the country while these other groups are more in the west and therefore closer physically to Damascus. The cease-fire may allow Assad to fortify control over recently-recaptured areas with more strategic importance than ISIS-land.
posted by beerbajay at 5:55 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Russians were almost exclusively bombing non-ISIS groups

A couple of months ago, certainly. The recent assaults on Palmyra wouldn't be happening without Russian support. Also it looks like the YPG are co-ordinating with the Russians, and they seem to be taking the most ground from ISIS recently.

(Happy to be corrected - it's not exactly the most transparent situation...)
posted by pompomtom at 10:20 PM on March 15, 2016

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