Russia is in the process of establishing its third military base in Syria, according to reports that Moscow is moving in, as Washington is moving out.
The combat helicopter and air defense base will be located in the heart of Kurdish territory in north-eastern Syria, and it comes after the US pulled back troops from the border ahead of Turkey’s planned military offense last month.
|Russia has also started conducting helicopter patrols in the region, as part of a deal with Turkey that meets Ankara’s demands to push Kurdish fighters further south of the border. While Russian military leaders have said this base will ensure “uninterrupted flights, safety of helicopters and protection and defense of the territory,” the location is significant, given the conflict between Turkey and the US-backed Kurds.|
Russian media has also reported that Moscow is considering deploying its defense and missile defense systems in the region to “intercept potential American strikes.”
Russia’s agreement with Turkey has resulted in the two countries conducting joint patrols in north-eastern Syria, in exchange for a hold on Turkey’s military offensive.
At the end of the day, Russia has said its ultimate goal is to help the Syrian government regain control of its entire country. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the goal of the US is to keep ISIS from re-emerging in Syria.
“Today, we’re watching the space once occupied by ISIS, by this fraudulent caliphate, like a hawk. That’s why we’re maintaining our residual presence in southern Syria, and our capacity to conduct air operations. We have repositioned several of our troops in northeast Syria, and in the broader region as well to ensure that ISIS will never get a second wind, and to prevent ISIS from capturing the oil fields,” Pompeo said.
However, President Trump said on Tuesday that Washington’s reason for keeping troops in Syria is for the oil—and only the oil.
“We want to worry about our things. We’re keeping the oil, we have the oil, the oil is secure, and we left troops behind only for the oil,” Trump said.
While Russia has publicly referred to Washington’s plan to protect the oil fields and seize the oil as illegal, and “international state banditry,” Moscow has yet to threaten direct military action.
But with Washington’s continued attempt to control the region, even as it pulls back troops and Russia and Syria move in, it could be the build-up to the next military major military conflict in the war-torn region.