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Oops — Did Russia Just Reveal 20,000 Personnel in Syria?

Oops — Did Russia Just Reveal 20,000 Personnel in Syria?
February 15
07:42 2017

Tender for medals gives clue to total number of Russians involved in Syrian conflict since September 2015


Russia’s Defense Ministry appears to have accidentally revealed that more than 20,000 personnel have been involved in operations inside Syria since Moscow’s intervention in September 2015.

The Ministry announced a 45.3 million ruble ($792,000) tender on Tuesday for medals, insignia, and letterhead cards. Among the awards are 20,000 medals for “Participant of the Military Operation in Syria” and 50 medals “For the Liberation of Palmyra” and “For the Clearance of Palmyra”.

The tender also includes medals “For Military Valor” and “For Distinction in Military Service”; the insignia “For the Long March” with the image of a ship and submarine, and commemorative badges for “Participants and Guests of the Military Parade on Red Square”.

The “Participant of the Military Operation in Syria” recognition began in November 2015, less than two months after Russia began intensive bombing of opposition areas to prop up the Assad regime.

The tender does not offer a breakdown between those who have completed service in Syria and those who are still deployed.

However, in September 2016, Russian authorities offered another inadvertent clue to the size of the current deployment in the country. Voting figures for Duma elections showed 4,751 Russian citizens casting their votes in Syria, four times more than those who voted in the Duma elections of 2011.

Of the votes, 4,378 were at Russia’s Hmeimim military base and 193 at the Russian embassy in Damascus.

See Syria Feature: Russia Accidentally Reveals Its Troop Numbers

TOP PHOTO: Russian troops in northern Hama Province, November 2015

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About Author

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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23 Comments

  1. Barbar
    Barbar February 15, 11:34

    No, but it may indicate how many it plans to have there in the near future.
    .
    Perhaps not coincidentally, Rooskie newspapers are currently opining that the government must prepare to double down on the military option in Syria as the ‘ceasefire’ visibly crumbles:
    http://www.ng.ru/politics/2017-02-14/2_6929_siria.html

    Reply to this comment
    • caligola
      caligola February 15, 12:52

      If this conflict prolongs too much russians will eventually pull out rather than double in. Wars cost.

      Reply to this comment
      • Barbar
        Barbar February 15, 13:12

        1. How long is too much for Russia, would you estimate?
        .
        2. I think they see the conflict progressing in the right direction for a favourable outcome to their side, so are encouraged to persist on the same path even if it requires greater intensity to reach the home stretch.
        .
        3. Their inputs in men/materiel are pretty modest for reinforcing a strategic position at a M.E. crossroads, having diplomatically smashed the exceptionalist Yanki snout in the process … which is per se priceless in propaganda terms.

        Reply to this comment
        • caligola
          caligola February 15, 15:56

          1)very hard question to answer but the russians will not endure years in levelling whole towns and civilian infrastructures if they will be bogged down into a conflict with no clear end. Just look at previous foreign interventions US/USSR. Vietnam, Afghanistan, iraq etc etc. At a certain point you need to value pros and cons. And Syria aint easy as chechnya.

          2) goes in pair with 1). And its not clearly going totally as wished. Remind you of Palmyra. Latakia is still a mess. Taking idlib will be a biblical task. For now what they achieved is to keep Assad in place and the regime. Undoubtly that is a good achievement. But for their goals to be achieved (oil pipelines and their so called security reasons) they need the whole country pacified. And we are light years from that, especially if the south wakes up.

          3)Diplomatically smashed the US. No. I would rather say they smashed Obama’s foreign policy. On Syria he was a totall amateur. Its foreign policy was from the start a disorganized mess at times comical. One of the lowest points ever reached by an american admin. The famous red line fiasco showed him as weak and unwilling and that gave the green light to Putin to take over. So not really much to gloat about. The same Iran played him out on a daily basis. Problem is that to invert that foreign policy now is too late for the US. Not for Putin but due to bad US decisions taken in 2011. If the US had taken the correct measures Iran and Russia would have not played the same role of today.

          Reply to this comment
          • Barbar
            Barbar February 15, 17:01

            I appreciate your considered reply.
            .
            1A. It can be expected that the Rooskie approach will develop with time, e.g. greater use of PGM’s as opposed to mostly dumb gravity bombs from altitude, thus avoiding the impression of ‘levelling whole towns’. They already have the technology and in Syria have found the perfect excuse to ramp up production in line with Putin’s program to modernise the Armed Forces.
            .
            1B. During the Chechen Wars Russia was in considerably worse shape, having just been mercilessly raeped by the Yanki bankers controlling the drunken Белая обезьяна [White Ape], a.k.a. Yeltsin. Military financing, readiness and hence morale was at an historic nadir, from which it has since recovered fairly dramatically. Even while not having covered itself with much glory, the Russian Armed Forces forcibly learned [in School of Hard Knocks] a lot from the conflict which stands them in good stead in Syria, such as how to successfully cultivate a Kadyrovite faction to largely remove themselves from the line of fire.
            .
            2. In Assad-loyalist lore, Bashar famously refused a Yanki-sponsored natural gas pipeline deal from Qatar or wherever to Turkey/EU, as he selflessly didn’t want to jeopardise the Russian interest in exporting the same commodity, and was thus, amongst other motives, targeted for régime-change. Whether that is true or [as I tend to think] not, it indicates the Rooskies might be perfectly content to have the country less than completely pacified for the foreseeable future, or at least until the price of oil&gas picks up considerably.
            .
            3. If Yankistan had taken correct [i.e. lawful] measures it would never have been involved in scheming to régime-change Syria in the first place. However, as we all know, parasitic neo-colonial Empires are not established and expanded by lawful means so it happily put its tit in the wringer and of course deserves much greater negative consequences than it has thus far suffered …

            Reply to this comment
            • caligola
              caligola February 15, 18:27

              “…..thus avoiding the impression of ‘levelling whole towns’.” Impression? :)

              Reply to this comment
              • Barbar
                Barbar February 15, 19:58

                Let’s call it a deep impression [in the NATO agit-prop] then …

        • Kevin
          Kevin February 15, 16:02

          “having diplomatically smashed the exceptionalist Yanki snout in the process … which is per se priceless in propaganda terms.”

          Yeah it was pretty priceless to see leaders across Europe and North America openly call the Russians war criminals. All while alienating the sunni countries in the middle east. A great diplomatic victory indeed.

          Reply to this comment
          • caligola
            caligola February 15, 16:11

            @kevin: for these people who clearly suffered 50 yrs of frustration due to a superior western model smashing completely theirs for good at the end of the 80s i can understand that a “victory” in the syrian civil war levelling everything to rubble is a “smashing” diplomatic win indeed :)

            Reply to this comment
          • Barbar
            Barbar February 15, 17:41

            Accusations of warcrimes coming from the experts of NATO must be taken as a backhanded commendation that one now competes on their august niveau.

            Reply to this comment
            • Kevin
              Kevin February 16, 04:14

              Only in your own mind. The Russians didn’t seem too amused.

              Reply to this comment
              • Barbar
                Barbar February 16, 08:49

                Water off a duck’s back, mate.

          • Andre De Angelis
            Andre De Angelis February 15, 20:16

            All while alienating the sunni countries in the middle east.

            Really? Relations with Egypt have never been better. Relations with Saudi Arabia look pretty positive too.

            Reply to this comment
  2. Amir in Tel Aviv
    Amir in Tel Aviv February 15, 21:02

    Only 20,000? … That’s remarkable to achieve what Russia did with just 20,000.
    How many American troops were needed to destroy Iraq?

    Reply to this comment
    • Don Cox
      Don Cox February 16, 12:18

      The Russians have not removed a Baathist dictator from power as the Americans did in Iraq. On the contrary, they have supplemented his forces.

      If the US had fought on the side of Saddam against the Kurds and the Shiites of southern Iraq, they could have managed with fewer troops.

      Reply to this comment
      • caligola
        caligola February 16, 14:16

        There is no possible analogy between the US intervention in Iraq and the russian in Syria. Its two separate cases.

        Reply to this comment
        • Don Cox
          Don Cox February 16, 14:38

          Exactly. The Americans were fighting against a dictator, while the Russians are fighting for a dictator. Opposite situations.
          .
          There have I think been occasions when the Americans sent in troops to support a dictator.

          Reply to this comment
          • Leeroyjenkins
            Leeroyjenkins February 16, 17:19

            Yep don vietnam..the russians should pay attention to how that worked out
            If rich country with a modern militarybcouldnt manage it then a semi third world nation like russia prob should pack up

            Reply to this comment
  3. Bs As
    Bs As February 16, 14:39

    Hebephrenic news fron turkey:

    Turkish top soldier says al-Bab operation over: Report

    “The northern Syrian town of al-Bab has been liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Turkish daily Sabah reported Feb. 16, following months of battles between Turkey and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxy on one side and ISIL on the other.

    “Good news! The al-Bab operation is over,” a report in Sabah released on Feb. 16 quoted Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar as telling a small group of reporters in Doha, where he went as part of a wider visit to the region together with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.”

    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/Default.aspx?pageID=238&nID=109819&NewsCatID=352

    Reply to this comment

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