Staunton, October 23 – It is already “impossible” for the Kremlin to hide from the Russian people the dozens or “more likely hundreds” of combat losses Russian forces have suffered in Syria because “many are dying in one place and at one time” for the authorities to be able to hide them, Rosbalt commentator Anatoly Nesmiyan says.
Government media have gone through all the stages of denial they usually employ, he says. First, they have called those who suggest the losses are large liars, then they insist that these are only rare cases, then they declare the soldiers “knew what they were getting into” and finally that “this is in the interests of Russia” (rosbalt.ru/posts/2017/10/23/1655275.html).
“Nevertheless, losses are really growing, and only a policy of silence and complete denial by the powers that be can try to conceal them,” Nesmiyan says. According to him, there are three reasons why Russian combat losses in Syria have gone up in recent weeks, and all of them are disturbing.
First of all, the Syrian army is disintegrating, and Russian units are having to play a larger role. Second, Moscow wants results and wants them sooner rather than later, forcing Russian commanders to become more aggressive and to take more losses. And third, Russia’s reliance on mercenaries means commanders are more willing to sacrifice such forces than their own men.
Everywhere there are reports about losses, although their number is unspecified and it is impossible now to say just how many, but there are certainly dozens of combat deaths and even more wounded. “The question of what this is in aid of is inevitable,” all the more so because of the internal inconsistencies in Russian government propaganda about this.
Moscow describes what it is doing as a counter-terrorist operation, but when one fights terrorists, one encounters groups of perhaps up to a hundred. When there are “tens of thousands,” that means something else is going on, needs to be acknowledged and new and different strategies adopted.
All this is creating a problem for the Russian regime, Nesmiyan concludes, because the Russian people can increasingly see they are taking losses for a cause whose real purpose they can also see they aren’t being told.