The commander in chief of the Russian Airborne Forces, General Vladimir Shamanov, has confirmed rumors that the Airborne Forces have adopted a plan to evacuate Russian citizens from Syria.  While this does most definitely not mean that Russia believes that the Assad regime will fall, this does show that this is an outcome for which the Kremlin is making all necessary contingency plans.

General Shamanov

For a while already a number of Russian Navy ships, including at least two large landing ships, have been involved in various types of maneuvers in the Mediterranean and this had lead to speculation that these ships could be involved in a possible evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria.  This is a reasonable hypothesis, in particular for the port city of Tartus.  The Naval Infantry contingent upon these ships is certainly sufficient to act as a protection force during such an evacuation.  What the Airborne Forces could provide, however, is the means to evacuate Russian citizens from other Syrian cities including Damascus.

Furthermore, Russia now has the means to send in a peacekeeping force on very short notice should the creation of such a force be decided by the UNSC.

Finally, while I personally absolutely do not believe that such an option is being considered by the Kremlin, the combination of Navy and Airborne Forces does provide Russia with the means to engage in an operation similar to what the French did in Rwanda in 1994 with their Opération Turquoise: get militarily involved and prop up a collapsing regime under the guise of an evacuation operation.

I really do not think that we should read too much into all this other than the fact that all the signs are showing that Russia is preparing for pretty much any possible contingency in Syria, what the Americans call “hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and settle for anything in the middle”.

The Saker

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