Russian President Vladimir Putin has made an interesting decision regarding Russia’s military contingent in Syria. During his surprise visit to Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria, he held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He is scheduled to meet Egyptian and Turkish counterparts too.
Incidentally, in September 2015, Russia launched first air strikes in Syria in favor of the Syrian President. This time around Putin told Russian servicemen,”In just over two years, Russia’s armed forces and the Syrian army have defeated the most battle-hardened group of international terrorists. The conditions for a political solution under the auspices of the United Nations have been created. The Motherland awaits you.” There is no denying the fact that this decision has surprised US and other countries who had been fighting Assad in Syria. Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon has remarked,” Russian comments about removal of their forces do not often correspond with actual troop reductions, and do not affect US priorities in Syria.”
The contribution of Russian service personnel cannot be ignored in Syria and yet, partial withdrawal won’t be contributing that much. But the decision to call back certainly highlights whether Putin wants to give a ‘feel good’ moment to Russians before the elections next year or not. In no way, it can be said that Putin faces stiff opposition but the decision has sparked new debate in the Middle East. Truly, the ‘mission accomplished’ emotion of Putin rekindles further speculations in the Middle East.