Sunday, April 15, 2018

Moscow Protected Asad Regime with ‘Russian Human Shield,’ Popkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 15 – Moscow significantly reduced the effectiveness of Western airstrikes in Syria by employing Russian forces there “play the role of ‘a living shield’” for the Asad regime, Roman Popkov says, confident that the West would not risk killing Russians and thus inserting Russian personnel at potential target points.

                International law, the opposition commentator says, typically defines a human shield as “the conscious use by one side of a conflict of the civilian population for defense against attack.”  But in the Syrian case, the human shield is made up of Russian military personnel  (

            The presence of Russian forces in Syria has always forced the US to be extremely careful in its targeting so that no Russians will be killed. That was the case in April 2017 and it is the case now.  “The American command cannot but inform in advance Russian colleagues” about its plans, otherwise the risk of the loss of Russian personnel would be “extremely great.”

                This also means that the Americans are forced to “limit the extent of the operation,” Popkov continues; and Syrian officials are well aware that there are places where the Americans won’t attack – Russian bases – or where Russians as human shields can be organized – almost anywhere else. 

            This new Russian tactic, however, doesn’t solve Moscow’s problems in Syria. It can’t ensure Asad’s recovery of control over much of the territory of his country. It can’t prevent Iranian atrocities, for which it will eventually be blamed.  And it can’t end the civil war even in areas Damascus nominally “controls.” But human shields can help the Asad regime survive.

            Nonetheless, this tactic is inevitably a short-term one, Popkov suggests. “Russia is on the side of a rapidly bankrupted regime in Syria, one hated by a large part of the nation, and controlled with the help of terror and a scorched earth policy. On its side, together with Russia, is fundamentalist Iran which dreams of pushing neighboring Israel into the sea.”

            Standing against the Asad regime, Popkov continues, are Israel and the coalition of Western countries. Israeli, American, English and French rockets will continue to come down dangerously close to Russian soldiers,” something that means the ability to avoid disaster will at some point be compromised.

            “That Russia continues to stay in Syria to struggle against terrorism and not to save a dictatorial regime,” Pokov concludes, “is now something that perhaps only the president of Venezuela believes.”

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