Putin’s Long-Term Strategy in Syria (‘Foreign Affairs’)

Putin’s “mission accomplished” statement got the world’s attention, writes Dartmouth’s Steven Simon in a Foreign Affairs opinion piece about Russia’s partial withdrawal from Syria.

“For those asking, à la Metternich, what Putin meant, one answer might be that he had become impatient with Assad’s public defiance of Russia’s emphasis on negotiations and, given Putin’s tendency to act out of pique regardless of Russian interests, ordered a partial withdrawal to teach Assad a lesson,” writes Simon, a visiting lecturer in government and a visiting fellow at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding.

“Alternatively, and more plausibly, the withdrawal was not intended to put pressure on Assad, as some have speculated (and wished),” Simon writes. “Russia’s diplomatic goal is a negotiated settlement that leaves Assad in place. The withdrawal of Russian airplanes—and just how many aircraft, vehicles, and personnel are included and how fast they will be removed we still do not know—will not strike terror in the heart of a now vulnerable, cowering regime. Assad’s forces are in fairly good shape, his lines are defensible, and the opposition’s supply lines are tenuous or have been disrupted. For Assad and Putin, the partial withdrawal is a win-win arrangement.”

Read the full opinion piece, published 3/15/16 by Foreign Affairs.