Small Wars Journal

Institute for the Study of War: The Russian Military's Lessons Learned in Syria

Wed, 02/03/2021 - 9:20pm

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The Russian military identifies its deployment to Syria as the prototypical example of future war—an expeditionary deployment to support a coalition-based hybrid war. The Russian General Staff cites Syria as highlighting the need for Russia to develop a new military capability—deploying flexible expeditionary forces to carry out “limited actions” abroad. The Russian Armed Forces are applying lessons learned from their experience in Syria to shape their development into a flexible and effective expeditionary force.


The United States must avoid projecting its own modernization priorities—or those of other competitors such as China—onto Russia. The Russian military is making discrete choices to concentrate on certain learning opportunities from Syria while rejecting or deemphasizing others. These choices are optimized to support a Russian concept of operations that is distinct from both pre-Syria Russian modernization efforts and the United States’ own modernization efforts.


The Russian military is using lessons learned managing an ad hoc coalition and proxy forces in Syria to inform preparations to coordinate formal coalitions in future wars. The Kremlin seeks to set conditions to ensure its next “limited action” based on Syria, as described by Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov, can leverage non-Russian forces. The Kremlin’s preparations in this regard include practicing coalition operations in exercises and expanding Russia’s international military ties—magnifying the Kremlin’s power projection capabilities.  

Categories: Russia - Syrian Civil War



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