Russia may be more forceful in Syria – analyst

Russia has so far severely limited its actions in Syria, but this situation is not likely to be sustainable, Joost Hiltermann wrote for The Interpreter, an outlet linked to Australia’s Lowy Institute foreign policy think-tank.

“Moscow is in the driver’s seat in Syria but reluctant to put the car in gear. It sees a U.S. retreat on the world stage but is either averse to or incapable of assuming the mantle of ultimate arbiter,” Hiltermann said.

“Yet Russia may have no choice but to step in more forcefully, at least if it wishes to preserve its gains: the survival of the Assad regime and the prospect of a pacified Syria stabilised by reconstruction funds provided by Western nations that may have to settle for such an outcome, lest conflict endure and refugees continue to stream toward Europe.”

The danger of Russia choosing not to escalate is that the possibility that other foreign powers will be emboldened, leading to an escalation of the scale of proxy war, he said.

“As long as Moscow eschews a more proactive approach, each side will resort to military means to clarify what its adversary is willing to bear, and thus establish the rules of the game. But a risky game this is, involving precision weapons and stealth technology, split-second decisions, and the human propensity for errors of interpretation and judgment.”