Russia’s Withdrawal from Syria Isn’t All That Unexpected

By Bradley Peniston

March 14, 2016

Not quite six months after it began, Russia’s military buildup in Syria may be drawing to a close.

I consider the mission set for the Defence Ministry and the armed forces on the whole has been accomplished,” President Vladimir Putin told government ministers on Monday, the BBC reported. “I am therefore ordering the Defence Ministry to begin the withdrawal of the main part of our military force from the Syrian Arab Republic from tomorrow.”

Still, Putin said, operations at Russia's Hmeimim airbase and its Mediterranean port at Tartus will continue, the BBC reported. It was not immediately clear just what would change.

Of course, that’s been the case ever since Moscow sent troops, jets, radars, and more to Syria in September. Putin declared that his forces were there to help the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State and its fellow radical militants, but observers noted that many Russian airstrikes seemed aimed at political opponents of Syrian strongman Bashar Assad.

Along the way, Defense One has worked to make sense of it all and to peer into the possible future. Here are some crucial contributions from our staff and contributors:

By Bradley Peniston // Bradley Peniston is deputy editor of Defense One. A national security journalist for two decades, he helped launch, served as managing editor of Defense News, and was editor of Armed Forces Journal. His books include No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf, now part of the Chief of Naval Operations' Professional Reading Program.

March 14, 2016