A New Russian Strategy: "Why Putin is in Syria"

  • September 17, 2016
  • Lieutenant Colonel Andreas S. Hau

This paper examines the reasoning behind Vladimir Putin’s intervention in the Syrian civil war within the historical context of Russian strategic needs and objectives in Europe and the Middle East. There are three main reasons for Russia’s intervention in Syria. The first reason is to protect Russia’s long-standing Syrian ally and Russia’s Mediterranean naval base located there. A second reason -- both evolving and opportunistic -- is to intensify the Syrian civil war in order to increase refugee migration to Europe and thereby destabilize the European Union (EU) and NATO. The final driver for Putin’s Syrian intervention is his desire to become a major stakeholder in the Syrian peace process. Three recommendations for overcoming Putin’s strategy are also presented. These include fully funding the United Nations request for Syrian refugees, increasing the participation rate of Gulf States in the mitigation of the refugee crisis, and finally pursuing diplomatic efforts to reach a peace deal inside Syria.