Vladimir Putin ordered pullout of Russian troops from Syria. Why such a decision?
Russia had entered Syria to ensure that Bashar-Al-Assad remain in power and the West do not put a puppet in power? It would have been logical to let the troops stay in Syria till Assad ensures stability in the volatile country

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    Some Russian troops will stay on two permanent bases in Syria. Also, do not take Putin's word for granted, the pullout may take a very long time, or not happen at all if Assad still needs active military support. politics.stackexchange.com/questions/26186/…
    – Evargalo
    Dec 12, 2017 at 9:16
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    Also, it's not the first declared "pullout", if I recall correctly.
    – mustaccio
    Dec 12, 2017 at 15:37
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    @mustaccio The first pullout was to increase the odd of success of a negotiation were the USA were asked to provide a list of moderate rebels. The russians claimed they failed to do so. So they send back their troops in order to get a military victory.
    – xrorox
    Dec 12, 2017 at 17:31
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    Has anyone else noted the pun of Putin doing a Pullout? Dec 12, 2017 at 23:39
  • @xrorox : "send back" in this comment of yours contradicts "I don't think they did withdrawn troops." in your own comment here: politics.stackexchange.com/a/26216/15897 , written 15 hours ago...
    – Evargalo
    Dec 13, 2017 at 8:50

3 Answers 3


Surely, that has to do with the previous announcement of such withdrawal made as early as 2016. See, for example, this question. Also, such possibilty was actively discussed in Russian media, and by Russian officials in a couple of previous months (for example, here, here and here).

But, just as in 2016, Russia is definitely not going to withdraw all the troops from Syria. At the very least, the military bases in Tartus and Hmeymim are leased for another 49 years.

The Kremlin's official site cites Putin's speech on that matter (the translation is mine):

Here [in Syria] we've established and will make use on the permanent basis of the two basing points: Tartus and Hmeymim. And if the terrorists will ever raise their heads again, we shall strike such a blow they haven't even seen before.

So this announcement should only result in decreasing in the number of Russian troops in Syria, which seems quite natural after the successful campaign of 2017. On 12/12/17 only the following units are ordered to leave Syria: 23 jets, 2 Ka-52 helicopters, a special forces squad, a mine clearing squad, military hospital and military police (see here).

  • As an addendum, Daesh lost almost all his territory if not all. And the Syrian regime should win the war. So the russians troops are no longer needed, and Putin can avoid some war propaganga from geopolitical rivals and claim a military victory right before an election year. After all, you can't wage war withouth killing civilians or enduring losses. The americans have proved it again and again.
    – xrorox
    Dec 12, 2017 at 17:38
  • @xrorox Well, in fact Daesh is still there having intensive clashes against an-Nusra (which is quite nice from almost any point of view). But, anyway, the current rumours are that the number of Russian troops and units will be reduced by half. So it's expected to be a very significant reduction, but not a true withdrawal by any means.
    – Matt
    Dec 12, 2017 at 18:55
  • True, but you could not expect a true withdrawal. The russians don't have many bases in the region and they still need to shield Damas. If they leave and the US take down Assad one way or the other, they will have fought for nothing.
    – xrorox
    Dec 13, 2017 at 9:23
  • @xrorox Moreover, there are persistent rumours that Russia is going to establish another military bases in nearby countries, so overall Russian presence in the region will even grow.
    – Matt
    Dec 13, 2017 at 10:12
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    @xrorox Iran is particularly against any permanent foreign military presence, so it's highly unlikely Russia will ever have a base in Iran.
    – Matt
    Dec 13, 2017 at 12:09

While it is impossible to answer what Putin may be thinking, the obvious reason would be the imminent presidential elections of 2018. While a few years ago the majority of Russians supported intervention, deteriorating economy and increasing death tolls turned the public opinion around. E.g. a poll a few months ago showed that half of the population supported withdrawal (with 30% supporting ongoing conflict).

Edit: As pointed out in the other answer, ordering to withdraw does not equal actually withdrawing. Every [presidential] election cycle in Russia there are a bunch of loud presidential orders and instructions regarding whatever the hottest topic in society is, be it reigning in banks, freezing utility bills or raising pensions. After elections are over, those orders are rarely followed.

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    @Bregalad In the last election, he got 64%. Also, you seem to think that in a non-democracy, the opinion of the people is irrelevant. But this isn't the case. Even an adamant dictator needs support from the population, and people getting increasingly unhappy with the government can pose a problem. If Putin can eliminate that source of problems without major costs, he will.
    – Thern
    Dec 12, 2017 at 9:51
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    @ShantanuHebbar : plot twist: the Russian people happen to be around 150 million individuals who do not necessary all agree on every subject, especially in politics.
    – Evargalo
    Dec 13, 2017 at 8:45
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    @ShantanuHebbar - actually Russia experienced tremendous economic growth under Putin, as for the negative development since 2014, I'd say most Russians realize that's not really Putin's fault, but punishment for Russia upholding its sovereignty and defending its national interests. They also probably realize that if Russia kneeled to the US the damages will be even greater than those from sanctions, 95% of the Russians don't want another Yeltsin or Gorbachev, they rather do with less than bow down to their country's arch nemesis. Which is also why "pro western" parties do very bad in Russia.
    – dtech
    Dec 13, 2017 at 9:02
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    @dtech The growth was a) sustained purely by inflated oil (and gas) prices, not any intelligent policies and b) pretty pathetic compared to the growth of actually rapidly developing countries. And the damage from sanctions by Russian government upon Russian population is by orders of magnitude greater than damage from Western sanctions upon Russian government. But this is not the place for such discussions.
    – Alice
    Dec 13, 2017 at 9:12
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    @Alice do you realize that oil and gas combined have never exceeded 15% of the GDP?
    – dtech
    Dec 13, 2017 at 9:23

Putin has still an airbase in Syria and is able to submit ground soldiers within hours. Because the enemies of Assad are weakend, it is not necessary to have a large number of soldiers in foreign countries. The goal was to ensure that Assad remains in his position, not to gain total control. Thus it is cheaper to take a part back.

  • There is also a naval base in Tartous. Do you have any source to sustain that defeating IS was Russia's primary goal in Syria ? Putin made a lot of claims about fighting against terrorism, but under "terrorism" he included all the enemies of Bachar El-Assad (IS, Al-Nusra, Free Syrian Army, Kurds...), repetedly refusing to make any distingo between them. Most of these enemies, if weakened (which is not even the case for Kurds), are far from destroyed.
    – Evargalo
    Dec 12, 2017 at 16:02
  • This is true :) But there is also no real difference despite the Kurds. Most of Assads soldiers/enemies were just mercenaries. If the opposition was paying better they swapped forth and back. There is no real reason to distinguish them if you want to save the only hope for stability in the region.
    – user16984
    Dec 12, 2017 at 16:03
  • Your last comment has an even more surprising statement. Any source about your mercenaries switching side ? There may have been some militia changing side at some point, but the soldiers who defected from SAA to join the rebels in 2012-3 could not come back to Assad or they would be executed as traitors, I haven't heard of any Hezbullah member defecting to fight against Assad, nor about FSA paying any mercenaries. IS fighters switching sides seems no less unlikely.
    – Evargalo
    Dec 12, 2017 at 16:22
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… was always and will always be the same :/ Why else they would kill each other? After IS got access to money they hired whatever they could get. Like in every modern conflict :)
    – user16984
    Dec 12, 2017 at 16:24
  • And btw, your statement that "the enemies of Assad are defeated" still seems an inappropriate answer. While Assad's regime is much more steady than in years 2011-15, he barely controls 60% of the country and has to fight on three fronts. syria.liveuamap.com
    – Evargalo
    Dec 12, 2017 at 16:27

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