In his first extensive public comments since ordering the Russian pullout from Syria earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin declared the intervention a success which had set the stage for a negotiated settlement which would end the ongoing civil war. Despite this, he was already talking about the way in which Russia would return its still withdrawing military forces to Syria in the future if it doesn’t work.
US officials had similarly been saying Russia had achieved its goals in its involvement in Syria, which centered on protecting the territory around its Tartus Naval Base and preventing a precipitous collapse of the Assad government. Officials didn’t seem to anticipate the Russian pullout, however.
Putin insisted that Russia had invested relatively little into the conflict,saying it cost less than $500 million over the course of six months, and the money came out of their wargames budget. That’s likely a significant underestimation given the number of airstrikes and cruise missiles Russia used, along with a Su-24 destroyed in a Turkish attack.
He also sought to allay Syrian concerns that the rebels would quickly regain the advantage in the war, insisting Russia could bring back most of its forces in a matter of hours if they had to, and would continue to commit its S-400 air defense system to protecting Syrian airspace.
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