Russia in Syria Monitor, July 25-Aug. 1, 2017

Details of Russia’s military campaign in Syria:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an agreement with Syria which will give the Russian military access to the Hmeimim airbase on the Mediterranean for another half a century. (The Moscow Times, 07.27.17)
  • A full-fledged countersubversion line was set up along the perimeter of the Russian naval base in Tartus in Syria. Russian State Duma defense committee chair Vladimir Shamanov has earlier said full modernization of the Russian naval base in Tartus can take five to seven years. (TASS, 08.01.17)
  • One of Russia’s Navy Day parades took place at the Russian naval base in Tartus, Syria for the first time. (TASS, 07.31.17)

Response to Russia’s military campaign in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Risk of accidental or intentional confrontation between Western and Russian forces in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • Steven Pifer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes: “Promote contacts between Secretary of Defense Mattis and the Russian defense minister and a NATO-Russia military-to-military channel to discuss steps to avoid accident or miscalculation when NATO and Russian military units operate in close proximity in/near Europe.” (Brookings Institution/European Leadership Network, 07.26.17)
  • Steven Pifer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes: “Continue discussions on Syria but with limited expectations. At this point, U.S. and Russian goals in that strife-torn country differ too greatly to enable major cooperation.” (Brookings Institution/European Leadership Network, 07.26.17)


  • Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University, writes: “The latest Kremlin actions may herald the beginning of a new series of sanctions and counter-sanctions by both sides. Russia and America may still be able to work together in Syria, but that may be one of the few remaining areas of cooperation. If so, the U.S-Russian relationship could continue to deteriorate before it starts to improve—and with the current Washington dysphoria, that could take a long time.” (The National Interest, 07.28.17)
  • George Beebe, director of the Center for the National Interest’s intelligence program, writes: “Given the charged domestic climates in Washington and Moscow, an escalatory cycle leading to U.S.-Russian confrontation is looming, but it is not inevitable. … Misinterpreting Russian signals is our most immediate danger as we consider next steps. Putin’s willingness to leave space for negotiation can be misread as weakness.” (The National Interest, 07.31.17)
  • Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, writes: “Russia’s conflict is with (most of) Washington, not with the rest of the United States. That conflict, in a nutshell, is about the world order and America’s—and Russia’s—place and role in it. That conflict will ultimately be resolved not in a U.S.-Russian confrontation, but by what happens internally in both countries and by what others—above all China, but also others: Europe, India et al.—will be able to achieve.” (Foreign Policy, 07.31.17)

Other important news:

  • Thirteen agreements on joining the cessation of hostilities have been signed with populated localities in Syria in the past 24 hours, the Russian Defense Ministry said Aug. 1. The number of armed units that have agreed to cease fire still stands at 228. (Interfax, 08.01.17)
  • The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and his Iranian counterpart discussed the establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria at their Aug. 1 meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said. (TASS, 08.01.17)
  • Russia and the United States are continuing cooperation on the Syrian issue, Russia's permanent representative to NATO, Alexander Grushko, said. (Interfax, 07.31.17)
  • Russia says the United States and its Western allies rushed to judgment and blamed the Syrian government for using sarin nerve gas in an attack on an opposition-held town in Syria without ever visiting the site and ignoring two witnesses presented by Damascus. (AP, 07.26.17)
  • Russia's state-funded international media network RT says one of its correspondents, Khaled Alkhateb, has been killed in shelling by Islamic State forces in Syria. (RFE/RL, 07.30.17)
  • The Russian Federal Security Service says it has detained seven people from Central Asia on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks in St. Petersburg. (RFE/RL, 07.28.17)
  • Two supporters of the Islamic State terrorist organization, which is banned in Russia, have been detained in the Moscow region, the press service of the Russian Federal Security Service's Vladimir region branch said July 31. (Interfax, 07.31.17)
  • The secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolay Patrushev, has described the Islamic State as the biggest threat to Russia’s national security. (TASS, 07.28.17)