Wednesday, August 4News For London

Russia’s war on ISIS: What do we know so far?



Vladimir Putin Russian President. Credit: Maria Joner. 

Russia declared war on the Islamic extremist group Isis in September and has since been very active in the campaign. And with President Putin recently saying he will not rule out using nuclear weapons, military actions have reached an all time high.

Isis or Islamic State have become one of the largest terrorist threats to the western world in recent times. The group have attempted and in some cases been successful in carrying out terrorist attacks, with the most recent being the Paris attacks of November this year.

The threat from the group has led many world leaders to take military action in Syria, resulting in a global migrant crisis. The USA, UK and Russia have all led air raids in the country and intend to take further action with military force in the future.

Russia has become one of the most active western countries in the campaign, with Putin promising to deploy 150,000 soldiers to aid the cause.

Putin’s ‘war’ began by completing air raids in the country even with controversy surrounding the use of Turkish airspace. This controversy in fact, led to the Turkish airforce shooting down a Russian plane on 24th November.

Russia retaliated to the event by adding limitations and banning in some areas of import or export with Turkey. The visa schemes were also revoked between the two countries according to a report on the Presidential website.

Main actions by Russia so far:

  • Air raids by 65 Russian aircraft
  • 150,000 troops to be deployed
  • Long range missiles launched from Caspian sea warships

The results of the campaigns appear to have been successful, as according to the Russian News Agency Russian cruise missiles have succeeded in killing 600 Isis militants.

Recent developments

New developments have emerged regarding the Russian plane crash that occurred on 31st October. Russian Security Officials first thought that the plane was brought down in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula by an Isis bomb.

Now, Egyptian authorities have claimed that there is no evidence to support this according to the Independent. With the initial reported even claiming that they had “so far not found anything indicating any illegal intervention or terrorist action”.

A terror group affiliated with Isis supposedly claimed the attack as their own but with no supporting evidence the truth is unclear.

The attack led Putin to step up his war on the extremist group with a heightened number of air raids on strongholds in Syria.

Putin was recently quoted as saying that Russia will hopefully “not have to use nuclear warheads against Isis”. The statement, as the International Business Times suggests has been seen as a tool for the west to recognise the country as a “superpower”.

Alexander Artemyev, international editor of Russian news website РБК explains that  “I don’t think that this option was ever seriously considered by the Russian authorities. We have to take into account two facts: first, Russian involvement in Syria for Kremlin is not only a move to protect its ally President Assad but also a part of the strategic game with the West. Second, the scope of the Russian involvement is much overestimated as it’s widely televised and promoted by the Russian state propaganda. For instance the Western coalition has made much more strikes against ISIS target during the 1.5 years of the campaign.”

Artemyev then goes on to state that “the “nuclear” option is just a rhetorical trick that boosts the macho image of President Putin personally and the Russian authorities in general.”

The use of nuclear warheads would indeed be detrimental to the Isis cause but use of such weapons is a majorly influential decision that would need to gain permissions from other western countries.

The President’s statement regarding nuclear weapons has not been the first instance of controversy offered. Russian citizens often find themselves in disagreement with the actions their country is taking in the campaign.

Veronika Chernaya, a Russian student in Paris states that “Everyone here in France asks me about Putin’s policy in Syria. I think it is impossible to have an unequivocal opinion. Now Putin wants to support the Assad regime, a dictator. And it is only strengthening the spirit of ISIS, because now they can justify anything by saying they are protecting the region from imperialism. If Putin helped Syrian rebels against Assad and against ISIS, it would have been another matter. But that’s impossible.”

With Putin now promising to put troops on the ground in Syria, Russia’s war against Isis is far from over and is set to continue for a few years yet.