By Zaki Shaikh
LONDON (AA) - Much like in the U.S., the public in Russia is also growing weary of ongoing conflicts and the prolonged involvement of their armed forces abroad.
Russia launched its operations in Syria on Sept. 30, 2015.
According to a recent survey conducted by Levada Centre, a Russian polling NGO, about 48% of the respondents, said that they do not follow news about Syria and had a vague idea about happenings there.
Another 39% said that they knew nothing about events in Syria. These figures imply that as years pass by, the public opinion is increasingly not only turning indifferent, but questions are also being raised at spending resources to defend a foreign country. There are also questions, whether Russia was serving its strategic interests while fighting in far-off territories like Syria.
Therefore, over sometime Russian media and country’s strategic experts have gone overboard highlighting major gains Russia accrued during its involvement in the conflicts.
The Chief Editor of Russia’s National Defence magazine Igor Korotchenko mentioned that because of acquisition of Hmeimim Air Base and Tartus naval facility in Syria, Russian forces have added new capabilities to its war machinery. Further it allowed Russia to expand its reach far and wide to monitor the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, Southern Europe, North Africa and the entire Middle East. Hmeimim and Tartus are the key bases of Russian forces in the region.
In his interview to Russian newspaper Kultura, Korotchenko said that Russia was expecting Iran and Turkey to help restore the territorial integrity of Syria.
“We expect Turkey to fulfill commitments to help disarming of the remaining militants in Idlib province,” he said. He alleged that recent raids on the Russian air base in Hmeimum were carried out by elements from the areas controlled by Turkey. Therefore, it is in the interests of Russia and Turkey to fulfill obligations for the sake of return of peace in Syria.
According to figures released by the Russian Defence Ministry, the Russian Air Force flew made more than 40,000 sorties, including over 20,000 at night. While 70-80 sorties were made on average every day, the maximum number of 134 sorties were conducted on Nov .20, 2015, bombing 122,000 militant positions and inflicting losses to 87,000 combatants.
Russia is telling its war-weary public opinion that its Special Operations Forces (SOF) were the biggest beneficiary of conflict. The SOF was specially designed to launch an under-cover sabotage and anti-terrorism operations on foreign soils. Apparently, almost all staff of SOF and Special Purpose Military Units operating under Military Intelligence were deployed in Syria to enable them to gain real practical experience. The engagement of these troops in the Russian Armed Forces has increased dramatically, and they are likely to accumulate further fast-track exposure, according to Ruslan Pukhov, an analyst at the Russian Defence Ministry’s Centre for Strategic and Tactical Analysis.
The Russian government claims that operations in Syria have allowed their forces to gain experience. Nearly 68,500 Russian troops were engaged in Syria, including 460 generals, 27,000 officers, more than 40,000 soldiers, and sergeants. The level of involvement is reflected by the fact that 87% of operational and tactical aviation crews, 91% of army aviation, 97% of military transport aviation, and 60% of strategic and long-range aviation have all passed through the Syrian experience.
Pukhov pointed out that Russia’s state-of-art armaments like Mi-28N and Ka-52 combat helicopters, as well as Su-35S, Su-30SM multipurpose fighter planes and Su-34 bombers were tested in Syria. They are being modified based on ground results.
He said that future batches of these armaments will be developed, with revised technical specifications based on ground results. Syrian experience helped Russia improve smart bombs of 1500, 1000, and 500 kilogram calibre.
Such ammunition could be used from a distance of 40-50 kilometers (25-30 miles) with high accuracy, without the carrier aircraft, entering the enemy’s air defense zone. Russian arms exporters are telling countries interested to buy such “reliable” armaments which they tested in actual ground operations.