PUTIN CLARIFIES THE WITHDRAWAL
Alexander Mercouris – Via Facebook
We now have confirmation:
1. The number of sorties has fallen so that the number of aircraft previously deployed was not needed;
2. The Syrian military will continue to get support including from the air group still left in Syria;
3. The option of sending back the part of the strike force which was withdrawn if the need arises has not been ruled out.
All well and good. However all this should have been said when the original withdrawal announcement was made. The way it was made to look it really did seem Putin was abandoning Syria. Those who were justifiably alarmed - including the Syrian troops locked in a life and death struggle for their country - would be fully justified if today they felt angry.
I can't help seeing in many of today's comments an exercise in damage limitation.
Putin has a brilliant feel for the sentiments of his own military and the text and tone of the partial withdrawal announcement was aimed squarely at them and their families.
That is right and proper. However his media people should never forget that every comment of the Russian President is heard by multiple audiences and is subject to misrepresentation. On a question of war and peace he needs to be both clear and thorough.
Speech by Putin
Meeting with Russian Armed Forces
Putin: Russia may deploy forces back to Syria ‘in mere hours’ if necessary
17 March, 2016
While Russia is withdrawing most of its forces from Syria, they could be deployed there again in a matter of hours if such a need arises, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated. He added that the Russian bases in Syria are well-protected.