Staunton, January 5 – Vladimir Putin’s military action in Syria never gave him the popular boost that the Crimean Anschluss did, but the losses Russians have taken since he declared victory there are infuriating ever more Russians who are raising questions about Russian policy and those who make it.
Almost a month ago, the Kremlin leader visited Syria and declared victory over ISIS, an exaggerated claim that attracted even more attention than it might otherwise by the back and forth between Moscow and Washington when US President Donald Trump demurred and said he had been the victor in this case (babr24.com/msk/?IDE=168375).
But Russian losses since that time and especially the successful attack on a Russian base there on New Year’s eve have called Putin’s claim into question in the minds of many. As Vlad Krasov of the Babr news service put it: “Putin Left Early: the Russian Base in Syria has been destroyed” (babr24.com/msk/?IDE=169186).
Since Putin’s declaration, there have been other Russian losses, both of lives and equipment, in Syria. These have been detailed by the Spekr Press agency (spektr.press/poteri-posle-vojny-chto-izvestno-ob-obstrele-rossijskoj-aviabazy-v-sirii-kratkaya-svodka/) and widely reported by Russian media, despite a Kremlin call for good news only before the election.
And these reports are having an impact on the population. One writer points out, for example, that the total price of the planes Russia lost in the December 31 attacks is equal to the total annual budget of Kalmykia, a Buddhist republic in the North Caucasus (lenta.ru/news/2018/01/04/nechaev/).
When Russians – or indeed anyone else – begins to focus on the costs of a military operation rather than its achievements, that alone is a good indication that support for the policy of using force is slipping away, something that can’t be good news to the Kremlin and its master.