Putin in Syria

A Battle Too Far

MOSCOW, RUSSIA. OCTOBER 21, 2015. Syria s President Bashar al-Assad (L) and Russia s President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting at Moscow s Kremlin. Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS PUBLICATIONxINxGERxAUTxONLY TS01039D Moscow Russia October 21 2015 Syria S President Bashar Al Assad l and Russia S President Vladimir Putin Shake Hands during a Meeting AT Moscow S KREMLIN Alexei Druzhinin Russian Presidential Press and Information Office TASS PUBLICATIONxINxGERxAUTxONLY TS01039D
Could Bashar al-Assad be the man to bring about Vladimir Putin's downfall?
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Russia is keen to maintain its influence in the Middle East, but risks a humiliating defeat if its airstrikes in Syria fail.

  • Facts


    • Russia has launched attacks on Syria’s rebel groups in support of its ally President Bashar al-Assad.
    • The majority of Russians reject military intervention in Syria.
    • Russia has a military base on the Syrian coast, its only outpost in the region.
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History does not repeat itself. Vladimir Putin can only hope that this famous statement by Karl Marx, which has been recently quoted by Angela Merkel, is true, because his actions in Syria pose a huge risk for Russia.

What is interesting in the situation is a striking, though likely also coincidental, parallel: Both the Russian head of state and the German chancellor have started policy pivots simultaneously, which could ultimately undermine their authority. Both have, for the first time since they have been in office, made decisions that were not in harmony with the majority in public opinion polls – Mrs. Merkel’s regarding the refugees, and Mr. Putin’s on Syria.

Mr. Putin could bank on the support of the Russian people when it came to Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. But the majority of Russians reject military intervention in Syria.

Once bitten, twice shy. The Soviet Union was humiliated by having to pull out of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Its invasion left tens of thousands of Russian soldiers traumatized and was the beginning of the end of the USSR.

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