Aleppo. War and diplomacy. P-IX

Previous parts of the book:

Highly recommended to read them all first, before reading this part!


Again, a few basic rules:

ALAFF is going to post the whole translation by parts. In this post you will have ninth part — «The liberation of Aleppo and the intensification of military-political efforts to establish an all-Syrian regime for the cessation of hostilities«. Text may be supported by links and photos to enrich the submitted material. Some photos are originally from the book, some from other resources to illustrate material of the book. Feel free to follow the links, as well as click on the images for bigger size. The end of each post will contain footnotes and sources.

In some places there may be a personal ALAFF’ comment — it will be indicated as «ALAFF remark» and it will be highlighted in brown. Naturally, this comment(s) is a personal poin of view and it is not directly related to the book (i.e it is not presented in the book).

This is the penultimate part of the book.


Structure of the book:

  • Introduction — p.10
  • Aleppo, information war and attempts to contain Russia — p.19
  • UN initiatives to rescue militants in Aleppo — p.48
    • Humanitarian pauses and humanitarian convoys — p.51
    • The initiative of urgent medical evacuation from the Eastern Aleppo — p.68
    • «Egeland’s plan» or blackmail of groupings — p.77
    • Evacuation of «civil activists» — p.89
  • Initiative of S. de Mistura on the withdrawal Jabhat al-Nusra militants from the Eastern Aleppo — p.93
  • Russian-American negotiation on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria— p.99
  • A «narrow group» of interested states — a multipolarity or polycentric dualism? — p.163
  • Evacuation of militants from Eastern Aleppo — a unique operation of the Russian military — p.177
  • The liberation of Aleppo and the intensification of military-political efforts to establish an all-Syrian regime for the cessation of hostilities — p.187
  • «Lessons of Aleppo»: geopolitics of the Syrian crisis in the context of the transforming world order — p.213


The liberation of Aleppo and the intensification of military-political efforts to establish an all-Syrian regime for the cessation of hostilities.

Indeed, the problem of Aleppo, further dividing the opposing sides in the public space, in practical terms, served as a stimulus for activating the process of searching for optimal negotiation formats for finding solutions to this plot. As discussed above, its discussion took place during Russian-American contacts in the so-called «Lausanne format» (the latter more met the multipolarity criteria), and also at the bilateral level (Russia — the countries of the region).

Moscow’s very creative formula for solving the Aleppo issue suggested a combination of effective military actions with negotiation methods (direct contacts of Russian military with armed groups with Turkish participation).

In this regard, it is interesting to look at the reasons why the Lausanne format, which looked very promising and theoretically met the tendencies of the development of the modern system of international relations towards multipolarity, did not become an effective tool for solving the Aleppo problem.

There are several reasons. As it seems, one of the main things is that Iran and Saudi Arabia were not ready to work seriously in this format. The main antagonists of the region, competing in the same period not only in Syria, but also in Yemen and Iraq, were not able to search — especially in public — the formulas for the solution of the Syrian conflict.

Another reason is Qatar’s extremely tough, uncompromising position. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of that country, A. Al-Thani, publicly announced the Doha’s intention to continue arming Syrian militants — even if D. Trump turns off the support of anti-government forces [1]. The fact that the position of this state has not changed, was eloquently evidenced by the arrogant, sometimes defiant behavior of Qatari diplomats on international platforms. This was also confirmed by the consultations of the UN Secretary General Special Envoy for Syria S. de Mistura in Doha, which took place during the same period. S. de Mistura admitted in a conversation with Russian diplomats that from his visit to Doha he made a clear impression that Qatar remains on uncompromising positions on the Syrian «dossier».

In these conditions, in parallel with the Russian-American consultations and contacts in the «Lausanne group», the search for optimal formats for the settlement of the Syrian crisis and, in particular, the problem of Aleppo as one of its important aspects continued.

Thus, after the start of a phased restoration of relations between Russia and Turkey, constant contact was established between the military of the two states. For Russia, Aleppo was the most important problem that failed to be solved in cooperation with the United States. And most of the groups operating there [2] anyway were focused on Ankara, first of all, on Turkish special services. If some units had sponsors from among the Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc.), then without logistic support from Turkey they would be cut off from the main channel of supplying weapons and people, and would not be able to keep East Aleppo. No matter how Western and other sponsors helped them through «tamed» NGOs and foundations, this would not be enough to conduct military operations and exercise effective control over occupied territories.

Aleppo, of course, was strategically important and in many respects symbolic city for Turkey from a historical point of view. However, an even more topical priority for Ankara was preventing the creation of a unified zone on the border with Syria, which would be controlled by Kurds from the Democratic Union Party (PYD). In the existential plan it was even more important for Turkey to break the Kurdish «belt», to wedge into the Kurdish territories. Ankara’s strategic goals were to split the potential Kurdish belt linking the western (Afrin) and eastern (Qamishli) enclaves, creating a «buffer zone» of security (to a depth up to 50 km.) along the border from Azaz to Jarabulus, which could, after taking Al-Bab, to become a bridgehead for an offensive against the capital of the «caliphate» — Raqqa.

A very powerful factor was imposed on this, related to the restoration of Russian-Turkish relations and Russia’s firm position on condemning the attempted military coup in Turkey (July 15-16, 2016), which was announced right after the Turkish leadership officially apologized for the downed aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces on November 24, 2015. It is clear that after the support given to R.T. Erdogan from Moscow during the attempted coup d’etat (moreover, against the background of the vague position of the West), the Turkish president was disposed to take visible steps aimed at improving relations with Russia. The restoration of Russian-Turkish interaction was not some ephemeral process, expressed in vague declarations of intent. At least in the case of Syria, it was about specific steps designed to regulate and harmonize the actions of the two countries «on the ground». This was both regular telephone talks of the chiefs of staff, the signing in January 2017 of a memorandum on the prevention of dangerous incidents in the air, and regular contacts at various levels. In this case, from the strategic point of view for Ankara, it was important not so much to retain control over Aleppo, as to get an opportunity to conduct the operation «Euphrates Shield», which the Turks carried out jointly with the detachments of the Syrian Free Army controlled by them; its official goal was to fight against ISIS, but other tasks were also resolving, related to countering the attempts by the Kurds of the Democratic Union Party to create a «belt» on the Syrian-Turkish border, as well as actively developing the territories liberated from ISIS/Kurds.

However, it would not be entirely true to say that the assistance in resolving the situation in Aleppo through its transition under the control of the SAR government was some sort of «huge concession» from Ankara to Moscow. Let’s not forget that the grouping of militants who remained surrounded in Eastern Aleppo, as well as members of their families, were by no means in an enviable position. The rebels were in a tight ring of Syrian government forces, the «Tigers» group of H. Suheil, Lebanese «Hezbollah», Iraqi and Afghan Shiites, so the fall of the rebel stronghold in Aleppo was a matter of time. The work of Russian and Syrian aviation on the positions of militants also was the motivation for the decision to surrender. Thus, Ankara, while agreeing to evacuation under conditions where the forces of Damascus and its opponents were unequal, also benefited from the preservation of loyal forces and the possibility of their eventual use in the future to achieve certain goals «on the ground». So the Turks did not lose.

Thus, the problem of Aleppo was solved, no matter how paradoxical this may sound, by players who pursued completely different goals in Syria. Due to at that time objectively coincided interests «on the ground» and in the political field, both Moscow and Ankara considered it expedient to close this issue on the terms that suited both sides.

In general, the development of cooperation to solve the problem of the Eastern Aleppo in the triangle Russia-Turkey-Iran (let’s not forget about the role of Tehran in ensuring cooperation with the Shiite groups) laid the foundation for the subsequent major arrangements for establishing a ceasefire in Syria with guarantees from Moscow, Ankara and Tehran.

Tight Russian-Turkish contacts were continued — this time in the form of the mediation of the Turkish side during the talks in Ankara between the Russian military and large anti-government groups operating in the north and in the center of Syria, on the introduction of the regime of the cessation of hostilities (RCH). Let’s mention right now why the detachments controlling the south of the SAR were not involved in this process at first. Firstly, there were no serious military operations at that time in those provinces. Secondly, in order to pull up the appropriate groupings under the «umbrella» of the RCH, it was necessary to involve Jordan, and through it — the United States. The experience of interaction with Washington, testifying to the inability of the B. Obama administration to fulfill the obligations it assumed upon signing the Russian-American agreements of September 9, 2016, did not speak in favor of involving the United States in the process of elaborating the conditions for a new RCH — at least until the arrival of D. Trump administration. In this regard, the bet was initially made exactly on the units associated with Turkey.

Contacts with Iran as a key player able to work with the official Damascus, as well as influencing numerous pro-government detachments «on the ground», did not stop too. In advance to «pull up» Iran to implement future agreements on the introduction of a cessation of hostilities was extremely important for ensuring the stability of the armistice. In this regard, the Russian side, through diplomatic and military channels, actively pushed Tehran to realize the need to restore the ceasefire in Aleppo, and then throughout Syria. According to Moscow, this in no way would mean stopping the fight against terrorism. On the contrary, it would allow focusing on defeating jihadists, and would also create conditions for the transition to a political settlement of the Syrian crisis with the participation of a moderate armed opposition. Given the impressive success of the Syrian army with the support of pro-government forces «in the field» in October-December 2016, it was a very difficult task to convince Tehran that the restoration of the armistice in Syria is topical and necessary. All these issues were discussed, including during the Russian-Iranian-Syrian talks in Moscow with S.V. Lavrov, M.J. Zarif and W. Muallem on October 28, 2016.

Along with the talks in Ankara and Russia’s contacts with the region players, there was intensive diplomatic work on the already established axis Russia-Turkey-Iran through bilateral channels. An important fundamental meeting in this context was talks in Moscow on December 20, 2016 between S.V. Lavrov, M.J. Zarif and M. Cavusoglu. As a result, a joint statement was issued, which became the first such document, which fixed a number of principles on which mutual understanding was achieved between one of the «great powers» (in the Yalta-Potsdam categories) and two key regional players supporting the opposite sides in the conflict in the SAR.

Two important statements were written in the Joint Statement, among other things.

— The evacuation of civilians and militants from Eastern Aleppo was welcomed [3]. This was an unprecedented decision for Ankara, because in the classic sense it «lost» in Aleppo and had to, along with other members of the anti-Asad camp, «resolutely condemn the seizure» by the regime and its allies of «Syria’s second most important city». The consent of the Turks to welcome the «transfer» of Aleppo to the official Damascus was an unequivocal signal to the states that sought to overthrow B. Assad that the given «green light» for the evacuation of Aleppo militants is a deliberate decision by Turkey. And also — to the factions inside East Aleppo, sponsored by the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, that even if the curators continue their support, it will hardly be possible to use the logistics and other opportunities that the Turkish territory represents (at least in the same volume and for a certain period of time).

— Russia, Iran and Turkey have expressed their readiness to contribute to the elaboration of a future agreement between the Syrian government and the opposition, the negotiations about which were conducted in Ankara by Russian military with anti-government groups mediated by Turkey, and become the guarantors of this agreement. The joint statement is an important document also because it clearly illustrates the following: the solution of an important but still local Aleppo problem has become a kind of «trigger» for reaching larger agreements related to the establishment of a ceasefire regime in Syria since December 30, 2016.

The tripartite ministerial meeting in Moscow on December 20, 2016, of course, was not easy. An important task was to achieve from Iranians guarantees for the cooperation of Shiite detachments (the difficulties were indeed: for example, linking the exit from the city with the organization of the evacuation of residents from the Shiite enclaves of Fua and Kafraya). There were also many questions to the Turkish side — first of all, how long the Turkish military will remain on Syrian territory in the framework of the operation «Euphrates Shield». Disputes between the parties came out during the negotiation of the final statement.

Thus, the Turks tried to promote the idea that the control over the areas liberated from terrorists of Syria will be transferred to «local forces», raised the issue of the immediate withdrawal from the country’s territory of «foreign Shiite formations». In many respects, thanks to Russia’s mediation, it was possible to take off these inquiring demands, to vector the parties to the fact that the participants in the Syrian negotiations should determine the future structure of Syria and that the SAR government has the legal right to make independent decisions on the country’s defense (including involving foreign forces in this task). The main thing — it was recognized that Iran and Turkey are «part» of the solution of the Syrian crisis, and therefore should be involved in the search for its formula. As for the role of Russia, both M. Cavusoglu and M.J. Zarif recognized that Moscow — in contrast to Washington — keeps the word, its position is not subjected to conjunctural fluctuations.

Let’s consider the possible reasons that motivated the Turks to go to an agreement with Iran on Aleppo. The position of Ankara is of key importance here. It’s difficult to call the Turkish-Iranian relations easy. Their development is characterized by a traditional paradigm of restraining the intensity of competition in order to preserve interaction on issues of common interest [4]. And it is understandable that in Syria, Turkey and Iran acted as antagonists, supporting the opposite sides of the conflict. At the same time, Ankara looked at the interaction with Iran from longer-term strategic positions. Firstly, Turkey could not ignore the potential changes in the ranking of forces in the region after the signing in July 2015 of an agreement between the «six» international mediators and Iran on the Iranian nuclear program. A phased abolition of international sanctions, stipulated in the agreements, opened up additional opportunities for Tehran to return to the international arena as a full-fledged player. And — more importantly — strengthened Iran’s position in the region, helped to activate its role in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen — in countries where the pro-Iranian Shiite forces and formations acted. Ankara, of course, could not stay aside and observe the change in the regional balance in favor of Tehran. However, neither Turkey nor Iran allowed themselves to go to a head-on collision in Syria, because they demonstrated for a long time the ability to restrain their rivalry and avoid open conflicts, carefully creating cooperation spheres at the same time [5]. Moreover, the gradual reintegration of Iran into the world community created the risk of reaching agreements between the West and Tehran on Syria without taking into account the interests of Ankara. In this sense, Iran would in some way replace Turkey for the West,
relations with which just at this time passed the next test for strength. The reason is the indistinct position taken by Brussels and Washington at the beginning of the military coup attempt in Turkey, serious problems in the dialogue with the European Union on migration, which is why the Turkish-EU relations have periodically sparked, as well as a constant irritant in the form of the preacher F. Gulen residing in the US. Even more grim scenario for Ankara is the possibility of starting cooperation between Iran and the United States, Russia and China, again, bypassing Turkish interests. Moreover, the rapprochement between Iran and Russia, provoked by Syrian events, objectively created additional risks for Turkey in the region. Finally, R.T. Erdogan at this time continued to withdraw Turkey from international isolation, which resulted because of the failure of the foreign policy doctrine of «Neo-Ottomanism», put forward by him as an alternative to the former «European vector» of Turkish policy [6]. This required Ankara to revise relations with a number of countries, including Israel, Russia, Egypt and, of course, Iran. So Ankara’s decision to cooperate with Iran on Aleppo served Turkey’s interests, allowing to prevent, slow down or even turn in its favor some of the current trends in the region of the Middle East. A number of the advantages that were due to Ankara’s cooperation with Iran and Russia on Aleppo and on Syria on the whole, ensured Turkey with a very advantageous lot: rescuing the forces under its control in the surrounded East Aleppo while preventing the joining of Kurdish-controlled cantons in the north of Syria (which, incidentally, was in the interests of Tehran too, who was not attracted by the prospect of creating a unified Kurdish belt on the Syrian-Turkish border), a reserve for the development of economic relations with Iran in the period after the lifting of sanctions [7], the anchoring for Ankara a place in the format «Russia — the key countries of the region» (arising in the period of «timelessness» in Washington because of the arrival of the new US Administration) and, as a consequence, increasing the role of Turkey in the region.

On December 29, 2016, it was announced that agreements had been reached between Russia and armed groups under Turkish mediation, which proclaimed a ceasefire throughout Syria [8].

Following a two-month talks between Russia and the Syrian armed anti-government groups with Turkish mediation, a package of three agreements was signed in Ankara.


Excerpt from the UN Document S/2016/1133.

First — the Statement on the introduction of the regime of the cessation of hostilities (RCH) in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. It dealt with a truce that came into effect on December 30, 2016, and also contained the obligations of both warring parties (refrain from striking any kind of weapons, seizing territories, proportionally using force, etc.) [9]. Let’s pay attention to the fact that the statement was drawn up on behalf of the Russian Federation. The «package» also included a press release from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which welcomed the achievement of ceasefire agreements and stressed that Ankara and Moscow would act as guarantors of the ceasefire.


Excerpt from the UN Document S/2016/1133.

Second — an Agreement on a mechanism for recording violations of the regime of the cessation of hostilities, announced in Syria since December 30, 2016, and the regime for applying sanctions against violators. Russia and Turkey, as guarantors of the RCH, agreed to establish a Joint Commission (its representative offices are located in Moscow and Ankara), which manages the activities of control points to monitor the RCH and submits proposals on bringing perpetrators to justice. The points of control were created in close proximity to the actual line of contact of the parties [10]. The document was signed by the representatives of Russia and Turkey, and the certified copy was signed by the responsible persons of the Government of the SAR.

Excerpts from the UN Document S/2016/1133.

Finally, the third — the Agreement on the formation of delegations for the beginning of negotiations on a political settlement with a view to the comprehensive resolution of the Syrian crisis by peaceful means. This document is the only one which has the signatures of representatives of armed groups who previously participated in the negotiations in Ankara (a general power of attorney from the commanders of the detachments is attached to the paper, giving their representatives — Usama Ibrahim Maatermavi and Munzer Seras — the right to sign the Agreement on their behalf), as well as Russia and Turkey. The document stated that the leaders of the armed groups join the RCH and undertake to form a delegation to negotiate with the government in Astana on the political settlement of the Syrian crisis peacefully with the support of the guarantors — Russia and Turkey [11].

The announcement of the signing of the Agreements took place on December 29, 2016 during the working meeting of V.V. Putin with S.V. Lavrov and S.K. Shoigu. It was noted that the formations, with which the agreements were reached, control most part of central and northern Syria, which is not subject to the power of Damascus. The total number of these detachments is more than 69 thousand militants. Simultaneously, similar work was conducted with the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic [12]. An important, even key difference of the signed Agreements from what Russia had agreed with the United States in the past was that the opposition indicated the exact coordinates of the location and the settlements it controls. Organizations that do not cease hostilities will, according to the Agreements, pass to the category of terrorists, and exactly the same actions will be taken against them as against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra [13]. It was also noted that the Egyptians will be involved in the Astana process of organizing negotiations on the political settlement of the crisis, and at a subsequent stage — other region players (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, Jordan), as well as Americans, but only after the formation of the corresponding team by D. Trump.

Of course, there were difficulties connected with ensuring the implementation of the agreements reached. Thus, right after its announcement, Iran sent signals that there were allegedly not enough consultations with him in developing conditions for the introduction of a regime for the cessation of hostilities in Syria. The Turkish side also presented a surprise in the form of statements by groups and representatives of the so-called «civil society» on the situation in Wadi Barada, where there is a large water intake of drinking water Ain al-Fiji, providing water to Damascus. The oppositionists crashed down on the «regime» for allegedly carrying out «barbarous attacks» in Wadi Barada and threatened to withdraw from the agreement on the RCH [14].

The purpose of keeping the situation «on the ground» under control was complex and extended beyond the framework of the Russian-Turkish mechanism for monitoring the RCH. The truce created the basis for solving the problems that enable us to reach a comprehensive Syrian settlement: the introduction of measures to restore confidence, the opening of humanitarian access, the beginning of a direct dialogue between the warring parties on a range of issues (de-escalation of the situation «on the ground», the parameters of the new Constitution, the withdrawal of foreign formations, joint fight against terrorism), launching of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations, etc. The widening of the agenda of the «triangle» Russia-Iran-Turkey reflected the objective trends related to the demonstration of the effectiveness of the format, which included Moscow and the two most important regional players, so it resulted in the creation of the «Astana format» of the Syrian settlement.

The first international meeting on Syria in Astana was held on January 23-24, 2017, with the participation of the guarantor-countries of the RCH — Russia, Iran and Turkey, as well as the United States and the United Nations. During this meeting, for the first time it was possible to seat at the same negotiating table the representatives of those Syrian parties who fought «on the ground» with weapons in their hands (the government delegation was headed by the Permanent Representative of the SAR to the United Nations B. Jaafari, a militant group — the representative of the «Jaysh al-Islam» group M. Allush).

The result was a statement by Russia, Iran and Turkey, in which the «troika» pledged to work to consolidate the regime of the cessation of hostilities, build confidence, provide humanitarian access. The statement expressed the determination to jointly combat terrorism and to achieve the separation of ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and moderate groups. It was also recorded the readiness of armed groups to participate in the inter-Syrian negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations.

An important decision was related to the establishment of a tripartite mechanism — the Joint Group — to oversee the RCH, which included Russia, Iran, Turkey and the United Nations. It was also provided for the possibility of involving Syrian conflicting parties in case of need to solve specific problems «on the ground».

The «Astana platform» is based on the «triangle» — Russia, Turkey and Iran. This allows to provide the most prompt solution of specific problems in a compact format, which contributes to the awareness of each member of the «triangle» of a sense of responsibility for the implementation of certain agreements, does not allow the «friability» inherent in the International Syria Support Group and even, as it turned out, in the «Lausanne» format , whose number of participants is inversely proportional to their effectiveness. At the same time, in view of the multiplicity of forces fighting in Syria «on the ground», it is envisaged to attract other interested states to work on the «Astana platform». Thus, at the second International meeting on Syria in Astana (6-7 February 2017) Jordan took part as an observer. It was Amman that helped to bring the «Southern Front» groups to the observance of the regime of the cessation of hostilities, because the Jordanians, unlike the Turks, have influence on these groups. Depending on the situation, an opportunity is open to invite other countries — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Qatar, etc. — to Astana to assist in resolving specific issues on the agenda of the meetings. Despite the fact that the US ambassador to Kazakhstan, G. Krol quite passively participated in the consultations on the Astana site, the very fact of the presence of American representatives at events in the «Astana format» is very important. It is very likely that with the formulation of the political line of the administration of D. Trump in the Middle East in general, and in Syria in particular, the need for American participation in the Astana meetings will intensify. This is important to keep in mind. If in Astana it will be possible to agree on the coordination of the forces of the government of the SAR and the opposition to defeat the jihadists, and Russia and the US will finally be able to jointly carry out airstrikes against the radicals, a serious step will be taken towards implementing the initiative of V.V. Putin to create an international front to fight terrorism.

And, finally, the launching of the Astana format by Russia, Turkey and Iran has become a powerful stimulus for the United Nations to resume the political process of the Syrian settlement: another round of inter-Syrian negotiations has begun, which Russia has been struggling to achieve since April 2016. In many respects, fearing that Astana will pull over on itself a political issues and remain the only platform for the Syrian settlement, at which the UN will play an auxiliary role, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Syria, S. de Mistura, decided to restart the inter-Syrian dialogue in Geneva (it was launched on February 23, 2017).

It seems, the parallel work of the Astana and Geneva formats of the Syrian settlement, the healthy competition between the two sites, will allow to eventually identify the most demanded formulas for discussing certain aspects of the Syrian «dossier», show the optimal combination of parties concerned, necessary to resolve the conflict in the conditions of a transforming world order, having features of polycentricity.

[1] Maclean W., Finn T. Qatar Will continue to Arm Syria Rebels Even if Trump Ends U.S. Backing / W. Maclean, T. Finn // Reuters. 26 November 2016.

[2] This is more than 20 illegal armed formations: Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham, Ahrar Al-Sham, Faylaq al-Sham, Liwa al-Haq, Ajnad al-Sham, Turkistan Islamic Party, Jaysh al-Sunnah, Liwa al-Tawhid, Jaysh al-Islam, Jaysh al-Muhajirin Wal-Ansar, detachments of FSA, Jabhat al-Asala Wal-Tanmiya, Liwa Sultan Murad, Liwa al-Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih, Kataib Turkoman Syria, Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, Jund al-Aqsa, Jaysh al-Sham, Jund al-Islam, Jaysh al-Tahrir, Liwa Suqur al-Jabal, Al-Jabha al-Shamiyah.

[3] Joint Statement by the Foreign Ministers of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey on agreed steps to revitalize the political process to end the Syrian conflict, Moscow, 20 December 2016 //

[4] Svistunova I.A. Turkey and Iran in new geopolitical realities / I.A. Svistunova // Middle East and Modernity. 2016. No.50. P.151.

download the journal (in Russian).

[5] Tagiroglu M., Talebu B. Turkey and Iran: the Best of Frenemies / M. Tagiroglu, B. Talebu // Turkish Police Quarterly — 2015. Spring. P.122.

[6] Khanin V. Israel, Russia and Turkey: crossing vectors or a joint project? / V. Khanin // Middle East and Modernity. 2016. No.50. P.217.

download the journal (in Russian).

[7] In 2015, Iran was one of the ten largest trading partners of Turkey (8th place for import and 10th for exports).

[8] Meeting of Russian President V.V. Putin with Minister of Defense S.K. Shoigu and Minister of Foreign Affairs S.V. Lavrov. Moscow, December 29, 2016 //

eng —

[9] Statement on establishing the ceasefire regime in the Syrian Arab Republic. December 29, 2016. UN Document S/2016/1133.

enter S/2016/1133 in the ‘Symbol’ field here and press Enter.

[10] Agreement on the mechanism to record violations of the ceasefire regime declared in Syria that will take effect on 30 December 2016, and on the regime for applying sanctions to violators. December 29, 2016. UN Document S/2016/1133.

enter S/2016/1133 in the ‘Symbol’ field here and press Enter.

[11] Agreement on establishing delegations to launch negotiations on a political settlement aimed at a comprehensive resolution of the Syrian crisis by peaceful means. December 29, 2016. UN Document S/2016/1133.

enter S/2016/1133 in the ‘Symbol’ field here and press Enter.

[12] Meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. December 29, 2016 //

see footnote #8.

[13] Meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. December 29, 2016 //

see footnote #8.

[14] Free Syrian Army. General Comman and the Wadi Barada Valley Region. An Official Statement from the Revolutionary Military Factions in Wadi Barada Area. 2 January 2017; Official Statement of Wadi Barada Local Civil Society Entities. 31 December 2017.


Russian Ministry of Defense. Statement on Syria. March 20, 2018

March 20, 2018. Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation S.K. Shoigu taking a teleconference with the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation:

The video contains a translation of the part of the teleconference concerning Syria (the humanitarian situation; the provocations of militants with chemical weapons; the activity of the United States and the coalition).

The original (full) video is here.

English subtitles by ALAFF.

Russian Ministry of Defense. Statement on Syria. March 13, 2018.

March 13, 2018 — Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. The teleconference of the Defense Ministry under the leadership of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Valeriy Gerasimov:

Humanitarian situation. Preparation of a new staged video of «White helmets».
Response to US threats to strike at Damascus.

English subtitles by ALAFF.




Intelligence activity of the United States at the borders of Russia

The number of reconnaissance flights of NATO aircraft, primarily the United States, near the Russian borders in the past two or three years has grown significantly. Often, such activities lead to possibility of air incidents, escorting or even interception of targets. The recent «scandal» involving the interception of the US reconnaissance aircraft by the Russian SU-27 is just one example of many.

Here’s what Defence Minister of Russia Sergei Shoigu said on December 22, 2016, taking part in Expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board:

«NATO’s intelligence activity along Russian borders has intensified. In the last ten years, the number of surveillance flights near Russia has almost tripled and even increased eight times in southwestern Russia. For comparison, we recorded 107 flights in the 1990s, 298 in the 2000s, and 852 this year alone (i.e. in 2016 — ALAFF). This has forced us to increase the number of fighter flights by 61 percent in order to prevent violation of Russian air space in the Baltic, on the Black Sea and in the Arctic.

Maritime reconnaissance near Russian territorial waters has intensified by 50 percent. We carefully monitor this activity and resolutely stop any attempts to violate Russia’s sea borders. NATO has doubled military training activity that is primarily directed against Russia. For example, the British Armed Forces began using Russian produced tanks and Russian military uniforms for its designated enemy at the Salisbury Plain Training Area. The last time this method was used was by Nazi Germany during the Great Patriotic War«.

Well, here is a small report on US aerial reconnaissance at the borders of Russia:

  • January 1, 2018 — The US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168436 carried out a multi-hour reconnaissance flight near Sevastopol (Crimea). This very day, the US Air Force strategic UAV RQ-4A Global Hawk carried out a multi-hour reconnaissance flight in the Donbass. Taking into account the possibility of reconnaissance to a depth of up to 300 km, the RQ-4A Global Hawk drone could observe the entire territory of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as the border regions of Russia — Belgorod and Voronezh regions.
  • January 4, 2018 — The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 flew at the land border of the Kaliningrad region of Russia, being in the airspace of Poland and its coast.
  • January 5, 2018 — The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 made a regular long flight at the borders of the Kaliningrad region of Russia (near the coast of the Kaliningrad region in the Baltic Sea).
  • January 7, 2018 — The reconnaissance aircraft Boeing P-8A Poseidon (source) and the strategic UAV RQ-4 Global Hawk (source) of the US Navy were seen in the airspace over the Black Sea water area. They spent several hours flying independently along the coast of the Crimea.
  • January 9, 2018 — The US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168438 carried out a reconnaissance flights off the coast of the Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory of the Russian Federation.
  • January 15, 2018 — The US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168432 carried out a multi-hour reconnaissance flight off the coast of the Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory of Russia. Since the beginning of the year, it is already at least the sixth flight of American reconnaissance aircraft near the Russian borders on the Black Sea.
  • January 19, 2018 — The Ministry of Defense of Russia reported that in a week (~ January 12-19) twelve aircraft carried out aerial reconnaissance along the country’s borders. The air defense forces of Russia made six sorties for interception.
  • January 24, 2018 — The strategic UAV of the US Air Forces RQ-4B with the onboard number 10-2043 carried out a multi-hour reconnaissance flight along the line of demarcation in Donbass. Since the beginning of this year, at least six reconnaissance operations have been recorded at the line of demarcation in the Donbass, including 1, 7, 9, 15, 20 and 24 January.
  • January 25, 2018 — The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 carried out reconnaissance practically on all perimetre of the Kaliningrad region of Russia.
  • January 29, 2018 — The Su-27 fighter intercepted the United States Navy radio-electronic reconnaissance aircraft EP-3E Aries II over the Black Sea.
  • January 30, 2018 — The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 made another long flight near the borders of the Kaliningrad region of Russia (source).
  • January 31, 2018 — The US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168432 carried out a regular reconnaissance flight near the maritime borders of the Kaliningrad region of Russia (source).
  • February 2, 2018 — Two American reconnaissance planes headed toward the Russian border in the Baltic States. The operation involved the Boeing RC-135W US Air Force and patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon (source).
  • February 5, 2018 — Two US military aircraft (the US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 169011, strategic UAV of the US Air Forces RQ-4B with the onboard number 11-2048) carried out hours of reconnaissance flights off the coast of the Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory of the Russian Federation (source).
  • February 7, 2018 — US Air Force aircraft conducted reconnaissance flights at the borders of the Kaliningrad Region, the Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory of the Russian Federation. A strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the US Air Force RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 for several hours cruised along the southern border of the Kaliningrad region. The strategic UAV of the US Air Forces RQ-4B with the onboard number 11-2048 approached the south-west coast of Crimea. In addition, the British Royal Air Forces Sentinel R.1 aircraft with the onboard number ZJ690 conducted reconnaissance at the border of the Kaliningrad region with Poland.
  • February 8, 2018 — American (strategic air reconnaissance aircraft of the US Air Forces RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134) and British (strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the British Royal Air Force RC-135W with the onboard number ZZ665) military aircraft conducted reconnaissance at the borders of the Leningrad, Pskov and Kaliningrad regions of the Russian Federation.
  • February 9, 2018 — Mil Radar source reports that the US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168438 carried out reconnaissance mission on the southern perimeter of the Crimea.
  • February 12, 2018 — An American reconnaissance aircraft was seen at Russian borders. Boeing RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 carried out a mission in the Baltics. The US Air Force aircraft flew along the borders of the Kaliningrad region, without leaving the airspace of Lithuania and Poland (source).
  • February 13, 2018 — The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W made a long flight near the borders of the Kaliningrad, Leningrad and Pskov regions of the Russian Federation. Meanwhile, a Swedish reconnaissance aircraft Gulfstream 4 with the onboard number 102002 made a long flight off the coast of the Kaliningrad region.
  • February 15, 2018 — Two reconnaissance aircraft of the British Royal Air Force conducted an active reconnaissance on the perimeter of the borders of the Kaliningrad region of Russia. The RC-135W radio-electronic reconnaissance aircraft with the ZZ666 onboard number and the aerial reconnaissance and attack control aircraft Sentinel R.1 with the ZJ690 onboard number within a few hours circled the region, traveling in the airspace of Poland and Lithuania, and over the Baltic Sea near the Russian coast.
  • February 20, 2018 — A strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the US Air Force RC-135W made a long flight near the borders of the Kaliningrad, Leningrad and Pskov regions of Russia.
  • February 21, 2018 — The air reconnaissance and attack control aircraft Sentinel R1 of the British Royal Air Forces with the onboard number ZJ690 carried out a multi-hour flight along the perimeter of the borders of the Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation (source).
  • February 22, 2018 — Two US military aircraft (heavy American UAV RQ-4A Global Hawk with the onboard number 10-2043, the US Air Forces strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134) carried out reconnaissance flights along the perimeter of the borders of the Kaliningrad region of Russia (source).
  • February 23, 2018 — Three US military aircraft (the US Air Forces RC-135W strategic reconnaissance aircraft with the onboard number 62-4134, the US Navy long-range radio-electronic reconnaissance aircraft EP-3E Aries II with the onboard number 157326, the US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168998) carried out reconnaissance flights near Russian borders in the Baltic (the Kaliningrad Region of Russia) and Black Sea (Crimea).
  • February 24, 2018 — A heavy US drone RQ-4A Global Hawk with the onboard number 10-2043 carried out another multi-hour reconnaissance along the line of demarcation in the Donbass. In addition, Mil Radar source reports that on this day the US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168438 carried out reconnaissance in the area of the Krasnodar region of Russia and along the southern coast of the Crimea.
  • February 26, 2018 —  The reconnaissance aircraft of the US Navy EP-3E Aries II with the onboard number 157326 was seen near Russian borders on the Black Sea (coast of Crimea and Krasnodar Territory). In addition, the US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168437 was also recorded near the Russian border in the Black Sea. Strategic US Air Force UAV RQ-4B Global Hawk with the onboard number 10-2043 conducted a multi-hour reconnaissance flight along the coast of the Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory.
  • February 27, 2018 —  Two American (the US Air Force RC-135W strategic reconnaissance aircraft with the onboard number 62-4134, the US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168438) and one German (naval reconnaissance aircraft of the German Navy P-3C Orion with the onboard number 60+05) reconnaissance aircraft made long flights near the sea and land borders of Russia in the south of the Baltic.
  • February 28, 2018 — The US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 169003 carried out a long reconnaissance flight off the southern coast of the Crimea (source).
  • March 2, 2018 — Three US military aircraft (the US Navy long-range reconnaissance aircraft EP-3E Aries II with the onboard number 157326, the US Air Force strategic UAV RQ-4B with the onboard number 10-2043, the US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134) carried out reconnaissance flights near the borders of the Kaliningrad region, off the coast of the Crimea, the Krasnodar Territory, as well as Russian regions bordering the Donbas. In addition, the flights of French (the French Air Force long-range radar detection and control aircraft E3 Sentry AWACS) and Swedish (reconnaissance aircraft GLF4 with the onboard number 102002) Air Force reconnaissance aircraft were recorded near the Kaliningrad region of Russia. On this day the Russian Defense Ministry reported that during a week (~ February 24 — March 2) twenty two aircraft conducted aerial reconnaissance along the country’s borders.
  • March 4, 2018 — Two US Air Force aircraft conducted reconnaissance flights near the borders of the Leningrad, Pskov and Kaliningrad regions of Russia, as well as Russian regions bordering the Donbas. The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 flew along the borders of the Leningrad and Pskov regions, being in the airspace of Estonia, as well as along the southern border of the Kaliningrad region in the sky over Poland (source). The US Air Forces strategic UAV RQ-4A Global Hawk with the onboard number 10−2043 conducted a long reconnaissance flight along the line of demarcation in Donbass. Taking into account the possibilities of reconnaissance to depth, RQ-4A could observe the whole territory of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as a large part of the territory of the border regions of Russia. In addition, it was also recorded a flight of the NATO long-range radar detection and control aircraft E-3A Sentry AWACS with the onboard number LX-N90459, which was heading toward the Russian borders in the north in the sky over Norway.
  • March 5, 2018 — The US Navy long-range radio-electronic reconnaissance aircraft EP-3E Aries II with the onboard number 157326 carried out a regular multi-hour flight off the coast of the Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory of Russia (source).
  • March 6, 2018 — Aircraft of the USA (the US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134) and Sweden (reconnaissance aircraft Gulfstream 4 with the onboard number 102002) Air Forces, as well as aircraft of NATO command (long-range radar detection and control aircraft E-3A Sentry AWACS with onboard number LX-N904581), carried out reconnaissance flights at the borders of Russia in the Baltic region. In addition, an American drone (long-range reconnaissance UAV RQ-4B Global Hawk with the onboard number 10-2043) conducted reconnaissance near the Crimea, the Krasnodar Territory and the Russian regions bordering the Donbas. Two more British reconnaissance aircraft (reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number ZZ665, air reconnaissance and attack control aircraft Sentinel R.1 with the onboard number ZJ690) flew to Russian borders in the Barents Sea area.
  • March 7, 2018 — The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 made a multi-hour flight near the borders of the Kaliningrad, Leningrad and Pskov regions of Russia.
  • March 8, 2018 — Mil Radar source reports that UK Royal Air Force reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number ZZ665 carried out a Southern Baltic mission. It can be seen in the picture that the aircraft flew along the coast of the Kaliningrad region of Russia.
  • March 9, 2018 — Mil Radar source reports that the US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 carried out reconnaissance along the southern borders and coast of the Kaliningrad region of Russia.


This is certainly not a full list. This compilation is just to demostrate the scale of intelligence activity of the United States at the borders of Russia. Practically, this is daily reconnaissance flights. Though this is just the beginning of the year, two months — January and February. With such a frequency of flights, we can imagine how many it will be by the end of the year. The aerial reconnaissance in the previous periods (2017, 2016…) was no less active.

In principle, this kind of activity — such a frequency — in fact could mean preparing for war. But in this case such a frequency of reconnaissance flights caused mainly by two reasons:

1) The deployment of «Iskander» complexes in the Kaliningrad region — Russia’s response to the next expansion of US/NATO to the East by establishing its bases in Romania (NATO member since March 29, 2004), Bulgaria (NATO member since March 29, 2004) and Poland (NATO member since March 12, 1999).

2) Transformation of Crimea by Russia into an impregnable fortress and the deployment of many serious protective equipment there, including S-400 and «Pantsir» complexes, launchers «Bal» and «Bastion«, as well as aircraft, ships, submarines and other stuff (including for the suppression of threats from NATO’ bases in Bulgaria and Romania).


It’s important to note that in most cases, American (and other foreign) aircraft fly to the borders of Russia with the transponders deliberately turned off, which makes it impossible to identify them at a distance, so this forces Russian aircraft to rise in the air to intercept and identify strangers.

«When a foreign object appears in dangerous proximity to the Russian coast, its movement begins to be tracked by various defensive means: radars of warships, air defense and anti-missile systems, devices for detection and tracking of coastal missile systems etc. Regarding the Crimea, Americans are primarily interested in what frequencies the S-400, «Bal» and «Bastion» complexes operate on. If the US pilots will manage to obtain such data, it means that the Pentagon generals will be able to think about ways of radio electronic suppression of these complexes, their disabling even before launching missiles. That’s why American reconnaissance planes almost every week appear near the Crimean coasts, and our interceptors have to literally drive out spies from the borders of airspace of the Russian Federation» — source.


Well, this was just an aerial reconnaissance. No less characteristic is the activity of foreign intelligence agencies inside Russia. The Russian president annually announces the number of neutralized foreign intelligence agents. So here are some statistics (~ over the past seven years):

  • March 5, 2018, Vladimir Putin took part in an expanded meeting of the Federal Security Service Board:
    «As you know, in recent years foreign intelligence services have stepped up their activities. They are working very closely on Russia, using the most advanced methods of clandestine and technical intelligence. Last year alone we stopped 72 employees and 397 agents working with foreign secret services.

    I am asking you to continue working in this crucial area in a most organised and effective manner, and to prevent any attempts of foreign intelligence services to obtain political, economic, technical and military information«.

  • February 16, 2017, Vladimir Putin took part in an annual expanded meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Board to discuss the FSB’s results for 2016 and the priority tasks for ensuring Russia’s national security:

    «Counterintelligence services also face greater demands today. Operational data show that foreign intelligence services’ activity in Russia has not decreased. Last year, our counterintelligence services put a stop to the work of 53 foreign intelligence officers and 386 agents. It is important to neutralise foreign intelligence services’ efforts to gain access to confidential information, particularly information concerning our military-technical capabilities«.

  • February 26, 2016, Vladimir Putin took part in a meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB) board to review the results of the Service’s work in 2015 and set its priority tasks for 2016:

    «Over this time, we put a stop to the activity of more than 400 foreign intelligence officers and agents, with criminal charges brought against 23 of these people«.

  • March 26, 2015, Vladimir Putin took part in a Federal Security Service board meeting:

    «Counter-intelligence agencies worked efficiently and steadily last year. Their special operations resulted in the suspension of activity of 52 officers and 290 agents of foreign special services«.

  • April 7, 2014, Vladimir Putin took part in an expanded meeting of the Federal Security Service board:

    «Colleagues, counterintelligence has always been one of the FSB’s main areas of work. This is indeed an important part of your responsibilities. Last year alone, the security services put an end to the activities of 46 employees of foreign intelligence services and 258 of their agents«.

  • February 14, 2013, Vladimir Putin spoke at an expanded FSB board meeting on the results of its activities in 2012:

    «Colleagues, another crucial FSB activity is counterintelligence. Last year counterintelligence operations allowed us to identify and stop espionage being carried out by 34 officers and 181 agents of foreign secret services, 12 of whom were caught red-handed«.

  • February 7, 2012, Dmitry Medvedev addressed an expanded meeting of the Federal Security Service board:

    «In 2011, the activities of 41 employees of foreign intelligence services were stopped and 158 agents of foreign intelligence services were identified, including a number of Russian citizens«.


Summarizing the result, we get that Federal Security Service of Russia (FSB) revealed and neutralized (year — result):

  • 201141 employees and 158 agents of foreign intelligence services.
  • 2012 — 34 officers and 181 agents of foreign secret services.
  • 2013 — 46 employees of foreign intelligence services and 258 of their agents.
  • 2014 — 52 officers and 290 agents of foreign special services.
  • 2015 — more than 400 foreign intelligence officers and agents.
  • 2016 — 53 foreign intelligence officers and 386 agents.
  • 2017 — 72 employees and 397 agents working with foreign secret services.


This statistics shows that since 2011, the number of neutralized foreign intelligence officers has almost doubled (41 in 2011 — 72 in 2017) and the number of neutralized foreign intelligence agents has grown more than 2.5 times (158 in 2011 — 397 in 2017).

Speaking about reconnaissance, it’s quite intersting to note the uniqueness of operation of Russian forces to start a Syrian campaign — mean transfer of all technique & equipment to Syria in complete secrecy. That’s what Anatoliy Tsyganok, the author of the book «The war in Syria and its consequences for the Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia: the Russian view» said on this point:

«We can assert that the Russian military leadership managed to repeat Operation «Anadyr» of the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces to send Soviet missile systems to Cuba. At that, in more difficult conditions — active hindrances, powerful space-, air- and radioreconnaissance, direction-finding of the United States, NATO and Israel. It does honor to the command of our Aerospace Forces and the General Staff. About 60 combat vehicles — aircraft and helicopters, were secretly transferred to the Syrian province of Latakia, to the already famous military airbase Khmeymim. Their regrouping from Russia to Syria was conducted for several months in the conditions of radio silence. The action was a complete surprise not only for ISIS and other militants, but also for intelligence services and analysts of the West. US space reconnaissance, aerial reconnaissance of NATO, Israel and Turkey, UAV observation — no one has detected the regrouping of our Aerospace Forces. Only two days before the official announcement, Israeli intelligence identified some of the aircraft already at the aerodrome«.

Syria, East Ghouta. Report on situation as of March 2018.

Here’s an episode of the news program aired on Russian TV a few days ago — on March 4, 2018. The program is called «Dobrov on air» (in Russian it’s «Dobrov v efire») and it’s on air every Sunday evening at 23:00 on REN-TV channel. Each Sunday the program sums up the results of the past week — both domestic events and international. «Dobrov on air» program is famous and interesting for its good author’s journalistic investigations. The presenter of the program — Andrey Dobrov.

The presented episode is called «Oasis of war«. It tells about the situation in East Ghouta, Syria.

ALAFF translated this episode and supported it with English subtitles:



In 2017 at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum a presentation of the new multimedia information center «Izvestia» was held. Three media companies — Channel Five, REN-TV and the newspaper «Izvestia» (established more than 100 years ago) united. A joint information portal is located at this address.

Middle Eastern «sentinel»

ALAFF translated the article in newspaper «The Russian newspaper» («Rossiyskaya gazeta»). Official website of this newspaper. The article is taken from the newspaper issue No. 34 (February 15-21, 2018).

The article is an interview with journalist Aleksei Rafaenko — the author of a series of programs on the service of Russian forces in Syria. The interview was given after returning from a business trip to Syria. Aleksei Rafaenko and his team made four films in Syria, three of them have already been shown on Russian TV.

Here is what is said in the article:

The first issue of the «Syrian» special project was aired on the First Channel in the popular program on the Army «The sentinel» on Sunday, February 18, 2018. The time is 7.40 in the morning. The remaining three parts are on February 25, March 4 and 11, at the same time and in the same format.

So at this current moment three parts of «The sentinel» program is available. The last fourth part will be available on March 11, 2018.

Some additional information:

First Channel («Pervyi kanal») — one of 3-4 main federal TV channels in Russia. First Channel’ official website. Section of the program «The sentinel» on the First Channel.



Middle Eastern «sentinel»
The film crew of the First Channel returned from Syria.

A four-part special project is being prepared to the air on the First channel — reports on Russian military who serve in Syria. Our interlocutor, the presenter of the popular Sunday program «The sentinel» Aleksei Rafaenko, is the author of these reports.


Aleksei, last weekend the Voronezh school was given the name of Roman Filipov, the pilot, whose feat shocked not only our country. An American pilot, a veteran of Vietnam, wants to fly to Russia and help the family of the deceased pilot. He wrote: «I don’t know if I’d have the courage to do the same»…
Did your group work on Khemeymim when Roman was still alive?

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: When our group worked at the airbase, we met with many pilots, recorded interviews. I was not personally acquainted with Major Filipov. I was shocked by this story. Each person will try on a situation: If you were a surrounded pilot, what would you do? Personally, I do not find the answer. I just worship such people.

Did your cameraman film Roman Filipov? Maybe even with the light filter lowered on his helmet?

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: Who knows. We were filming «Rooks», but whether he was at this moment at the airport… The pilots have hard work. Example: I interview, suddenly a person says — I’m sorry, I must go. I ask: «Where?» — «I have a combat sortie»… He left for the mission. Then he returned. And we continued the conversation from the moment we stopped.

ALAFF remark: «Rook» — in Russian «Grach» — is a conventional name of SU-25 attack plane. These formidable and powerful aircraft are also called «flying tanks».

— Do all of them take grenades with them to the combat mission?

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: Everyone has a pistol and a few grenades, and there’s also a machine gun in the airplane. We asked: «Why?» — «Everything is possible. We will not surrender just like this».

— In Syria, bandits for the first time captured the pilot in 2014. The engine of the Jordanian F-16 broke down, a pilot senior lieutenant Muath al-Kaseasbeh, 26 years old, landed on a parachute in the vicinity of Raqqa. In early 2015, a horrifying video went around the world: the pilot was burned alive in a cage. Recently, the terrorists executed another pilot, Azzam Eid. His MiG-23 was shot down, the pilot catapulted, was captured, and he was held in captivity for 1,5 years. The video shows that a man, dressed in an orange suit, was chained to a tree with a chain, then he was set on fire…
Roman Filipov was 33 years old. This is the first case on this war, when the pilot fights on the ground to the end: he took the fight and blew himself with a grenade to avoid captivity… Though old people sometimes grumble: our youth — the generation of Coca-Cola, gadgets and computer games.

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: Each of the pilots decides for himself what to do if they have to catapult and fight on the ground. What to choose — a captivity or… It’s a personal choice. Nobody can order here. We know what decision Roman made for himself. I was deeply impressed by this act. And the behavior of his wingman, whom Major Filipov ordered to go into the clouds. He did not leave. While he had fuel, he defended the commander. As best he could. And only with a minimal remainder in the tanks he returned to the airfield. This is also an indicator of courage.
Regarding «the generation of gadgets». There are people of different ages. For example, one pilot, whom we met, is only 27 years old. But this is his second mission to Syria! To all our questions he answers — everything is fine, all my thoughts only about the service and about home. Looking at them you will not say that they serve in the combat zone, where there is a constant psychological overstrain.

What do they say about combat work?

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: As in the movie «V boy idut odni ‘stariki’«: you can’t be blind in a battle — turn your head 360 degrees. The danger there is everywhere — in the air and on the ground. It’s not just about rockets from the ground. It’s tight in the air. And helicopter pilots have no less dangerous work there, they fly relatively low. Figuratively speaking, always in an enemy sight.
But at the same time it amazes the calmness of these people. I did not notice any fear. But there is no bragging too. Although the pilots, perhaps, can afford themselves, let’s say, easy bravado. On the rights of the elitism of their profession. But there is nothing like that. These guys calmly and dispassionately do their work.


Only in the last six months in Syria,
our military neutralized more than
one hundred thousand explosive items.

In war people often behave differently than they do in everyday life.

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: One veteran of the Great Patriotic War told me: the war very well separates black from white and good people from bad ones. It immediately shows who is who. I often go to military units, I communicate with officers. Yes, they are different. And I see: each of them is capable of a feat.

Bashar Assad is credited with the words: if the Russians fight so hard for Syria, then imagine how they will fight for Russia…

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: I also heard about it. We look at our guys in Syria and see a new generation. The best of the best. So many feats! People caused fire on themselves, sacrificing themselves, defending their comrades. I think this is peculiar to our nation. It’s not without reason that the phrase «mass heroism» causes associations with our country. Our people reveal themselves in special conditions when you are on the edge. On the one hand, they are very simple. On the other — courageous, ready for self-sacrifice. And not for the sake of lofty words, say, for the sake of an abstract peace in the whole world. No, they go into battle for the sake of comrades, for the sake of duty. He swore an oath — and will be faithful to it. To understand this, personally I really wanted to go to Syria. To see everything with my own eyes. And bring it to the audience.

One of the parts of your program is dedicated to the military police. We know almost nothing about the police.

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: I myself was not very clear who they are and what they are doing in Syria. So I saw their work: the same fighting unit as the rest. They are on the front line. Dozens of different functions from the protection of objects and patrolling the territory to the escorting of all military and humanitarian supplies. In Aleppo they work as peacekeepers, in the de-escalation zones they separate a warring factions. The truce is often very shaky there. If there were no our military policemen, some participants of the «peace process» would immediately cling to each other’s throats.
Our men stand also on the line of demarcation of Syrians and Kurds.

What plot do you want to finish your Syrian reports?

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: About our humanitarian convoys. This is the work of military policemen and officers of the Centers for reconciling of the warring parties. In many small Syrian villages there’s a humanitarian catastrophe: there is no food or medicine. Our men talk with the elders, find places where the situation is most difficult, bring food and medicine. And also this is the work of our doctors, who manage to examine children and adults in a short time. Priority is for children.

Is the civilian population in a state of post-traumatic stress syndrome?

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: Yes, especially Syrian children. They have matured very early in the war, they saw blood, pain and death.
We took part in one unusual holiday: military policemen and officers of the Center for Reconciliation of warring parties organized «cheerful starts» in the Aleppo school. Our policemen became captains of children’s teams. They held relay races, competitions. This is now needed. For Syrian children, a person in a uniform who smiles at them, at least means that he will not shoot. And only from this children are already very happy. And, besides, our military should not be perceived as some terminators.
Children quite sincerely admitted that they love Russia. Even we ended up in their aura of adoration, we were encircled, each kid holding out a notebook or sketchpad: write something in Russian.

ALAFF remark«Cheerful starts» — in Russian «Veselyie starti» — are game sport relay races, in which children and adults take part. The tradition of holding these sport competitive games was born in the Soviet Union. Some photos for illustration.

Pilots, police, reconciliation centers, sappers, doctors… But sailors always remain in the shadows.

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: I do not agree, our sailors are not really behind the scenes. There are reports from the ships, there was a naval parade in Tartus… But there are things that are too early to tell. Because the information from articles and reports of journalists, alas, is also received by those who would like to harm us. Therefore worthy people have to hide faces, and we have to cover their service not as detailed as we want.
It’s just not the time yet.



Alexei Rafaenko, journalist, 38 years old. Was born in Moscow. After school entered the International Independent Ecological and Political University. Worked as a correspondent, special correspondent, chief editor of newsroom in «paper» editions. Began his television career as a correspondent, and then as a presenter on «Vesti. Dezhurnaya chast» program on the «Russia» channel. Worked on the channel «Zvezda». Laureate of the prizes of the FSB, SVR and the mayor of Moscow.

Currently, the presenter of the project «The Sentinel» (the program is on the First Channel since September 2016). The program is a laureate of the «Media-AS» award of the Russian Ministry of Defense in the nomination «special project».

ALAFF remark: FSB — Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation; SVR — The Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation; «Russia» Channel — one of the main federal TV channels in Russia, along with the First Channel; «Zvezda» — Russian TV channel of military orientation. «Zvezda» TV channel is owned by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.


Aleppo. War and diplomacy. P-VIII

Previous parts of the book:

Highly recommended to read them all first, before reading this part!


Again, a few basic rules:

ALAFF is going to post the whole translation by parts. In this post you will have eighth part — «Evacuation of militants from Eastern Aleppo — a unique operation of the Russian military«. Text may be supported by links and photos to enrich the submitted material. Some photos are originally from the book, some from other resources to illustrate material of the book. Feel free to follow the links, as well as click on the images for bigger size. The end of each post will contain footnotes and sources.

In some places there may be a personal ALAFF’ comment — it will be indicated as «ALAFF remark» and it will be highlighted in brown. Naturally, this comment(s) is a personal poin of view and it is not directly related to the book (i.e it is not presented in the book).


Structure of the book:

  • Introduction — p.10
  • Aleppo, information war and attempts to contain Russia — p.19
  • UN initiatives to rescue militants in Aleppo — p.48
    • Humanitarian pauses and humanitarian convoys — p.51
    • The initiative of urgent medical evacuation from the Eastern Aleppo — p.68
    • «Egeland’s plan» or blackmail of groupings — p.77
    • Evacuation of «civil activists» — p.89
  • Initiative of S. de Mistura on the withdrawal Jabhat al-Nusra militants from the Eastern Aleppo — p.93
  • Russian-American negotiation on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria— p.99
  • A «narrow group» of interested states — a multipolarity or polycentric dualism? — p.163
  • Evacuation of militants from Eastern Aleppo — a unique operation of the Russian military — p.177
  • The liberation of Aleppo and the intensification of military-political efforts to establish an all-Syrian regime for the cessation of hostilities — p.187
  • «Lessons of Aleppo»: geopolitics of the Syrian crisis in the context of the transforming world order — p.213


Evacuation of militants from Eastern Aleppo — a unique operation of the Russian military.

Understanding the futility of the dialogue on Aleppo with the Americans pushed the Russian side to intensify bilateral contacts with regional powers and even directly — with the opposition militants. Since the beginning of December, in Ankara there have been series of non-public contacts between Russian military, representatives of the Turkish special services and armed groups. The result was the second phase of the evacuation of representatives of illegal armed formations and residents from the blocked zone, which began on December 15, 2016.

The operation for the withdrawal of militants was unprecedented in scale. In the vicinity of the Ramus Bridge, an entrance to a 6-kilometer humanitarian corridor was prepared, which linked the blocked last stronghold of militants to the Rashidin-4 district, which was under the control of the opposition. Throughout the road, Syrian troops were withdrawn, and six checkpoint were set. They were on duty by Russian officers from the Center for Reconciliation in Khmeimim, who were ensurig the safety of the passage of columns of transport with people.

With the announcement of the operation at all international platforms, an information campaign was launched from the submission of «friends of Syria» and with the direct participation of Western UN officials. There were attempts to blame Russia for refusing to grant access to «independent observers» in order to conceal «the crimes of the B. Assad regime» during the evacuation. At the meetings of the Ceasefire Task Force in Geneva, representatives of European countries (Italy, Germany, France) with horror in their voices were talking about «arrests and shootings» of people leaving the city. The world’s leading mass media were alarmed: civilians, including teachers, doctors and humanitarian workers who leave East Aleppo, are detained and forcefully taken to the government army [1]. They were echoed by the «human rights» offices feeding from the hands of Western capitals, which organized a campaign to spread information about some man «detained» during the evacuation with a call to beat the alarm and to seek his release [2] (interestingly, how would London, where the headquarters of the NGO «Amnesty International» is located, react to calls for the release of persons suspected of terrorism?).


Amnesty International’ desperate appeal to release a «detained» man.

Of course, there were also some structures specially created for replicating fakes about Syria. For example, the Syrian Human Rights Network (registered in the UK, funded from London and Doha) told about the arrest by the «regime» of the whole convoy with people who were to be evacuated from Eastern Aleppo [3]. This information had so evidently fabricated character that even the UN human rights structures, which usually are not objective at all, did not dare use it.


Syrian Human Rights Network spreading obvious fake.

The truth was this. The evacuation took place under the supervision of international organizations, primarily the ICRC, WHO, as well as UN staff, who had the opportunity to be convinced of the lack of violations of international humanitarian law during the operation. Buses and ambulance carriages of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent Society came to the blocked city, they loaded the militants, their families, the wounded and everyone who wanted to leave the zone and moved to Idlib. By the way, among the UN humanitarian agencies it was the World Health Organization who right away responded to the call to provide independent monitoring of the evacuation process, immediately sent of their people to the humanitarian corridors, who shoulder to shoulder with the Russian officers provided an exit.

The operation was not smooth. Pro-Iranian formations on December 17 took advantage of the evacuation from Eastern Aleppo to solve the problem in which their coreligionists found themselves in the Shiite enclaves of Fu’ah and Kafarya (Idlib province), blocked by extremists from Ahrar al-Sham. Buses with militants were unexpectedly stopped by «Hezbollah», which put forward a demand — the evacuation will continue only if people from Fu’ah and Kafarya will be taken out. Buses were sent in Idlib to save the Shiites. But the action ended tragically — the terrorist group «Jund al-Aqsa» on the way to Fu’ah and Kafarya fired a column of 50 buses, 20 of which burned down (a curious remark — the Americans blocked in the UN Security Council the adoption of a statement for the press condemning the attack of militants on the convoy). Two drivers died. The situation has become a crisis.

During the talks between the heads of diplomatic and military departments of Russia, Turkey and Iran on December 20, 2016 in Moscow, it was agreed that along with the evacuation from Aleppo, people from the Shiite enclaves would be taken out too. On December 23, 2016, Russian Defense Minister S.K. Shoigu reported to President V.V. Putin on the end of the operation to liberate Aleppo.

Indeed, it was an unprecedented operation, no overstatement.

For the first stage, 115 quarters were vacated, almost 82 sq. km. During this time, 7 humanitarian corridors were created, through which about 110 thousand people left the city. 9 thousand militants ceased resistance [4].

The second stage — after the suspension of hostilities on December 15 — was to conduct a large-scale humanitarian operation to withdraw radical militants, members of their families, women, children [5]. 31,284 people were withdrawn, 701 of them were wounded. The number of militants who took advantage of the offer to leave the city amounted to 14,891 people. Amongst the released — 7606 women and 8787 children. The operation was provided during the day by a large group of officers of the Armed Forces of Russia, controlled by flying apparatuses, web-cameras at the entrances and exits from the city [6], for which seven command posts were established.

As it was said above, the operation was provided by about 60 employees of international organizations.

After districts of Aleppo one by one began to pass under the control of the Syrian government, the Russian military from the International Mine Action Center of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation arrived to city to clean it from explosive items. They have done a tremendous work of demining Aleppo, creating the necessary conditions for the return of inward-displaced persons and the safe operation of the UN humanitarian agencies. Approximately 3 thousand hectares of territory, 1 thousand km of roads, 5 thousand buildings (including schools, hospitals, socially significant infrastructure facilities) have been cleared [7]. Unfortunately, we have to admit that international organizations did not render assistance in this to Russia, and our military had to go all alone, street after street, to clean the city of explosive devices.

The «arc» of Aleppo-Hama-Homs-Damascus, connected by transport highways, passed under the control of the Syrian government. In a sense, it became a «rod» of strategic stability for B. Assad. During the report to the President, S.K. Shoigu noted that the next step should be the announcement of a regime for the cessation of hostilities throughout Syria. The truce indeed became effective on December 30, 2016.

On the other hand, an unprecedented scale of operation for the withdrawal of militants from Aleppo is now being considered by many members of illegal armed formations as an option in case when the ring of encirclement gets tighten. The level of trust of the armed opposition to the Russian and Syrian negotiators has increased. The temptation to avoid bloody clashes through the achievement of appropriate agreements has been increased. It is no coincidence that after the liberation of Eastern Aleppo, the number of «local pacifications» throughout Syria increased significantly, with the mediation of the Russian Center in Khmeimim.

The military meaning of the operation for the liberation of Eastern Aleppo is of serious interest both from the point of view of assessing the fighting capacity of the Syrian government troops and to study the experience of the use of the Russian Armed Forces. The victory was the result of a complex combination of measures of a power character with a whole series of special events using methods of psychological struggle, the use of modern technologies, units of special operations forces (SOF). Intelligence service and negotiators of the Center for Reconciliation, in cooperation with Syrian colleagues, effectively shattered the militants’ defense. The point liquidation of their commanders by the SOF fighters disorganized the anti-government forces, and a powerful information-psychological impact forced them to seek peaceful ways of settling the conflict. This experience, undoubtedly, will be studied by the Russian military and will be in demand in future at other places, considering the growing threat of international terrorism.

[1] Ensor J., Alhaji Y. Civilians Fleeing Rebel-Held East Aleppo «Detained and Conscripted» by Syrian Forces / J. Ensor, Y. Alhaji // The Telegraph. 2016. 5

[2] Man Missing During East Aleppo Evacuation. Amnesty International. 20 January 2017 //

[3] Syrian Network for Human Rights. Syrian Regime and Its Militias Detained Civilians Evacuated From Aleppo’ Besieged Neighborhoods. Dec 16-SNHR //

[4] Working meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. The head of the military department briefed the President on the end of the operation to liberate the Syrian city of Aleppo. December 23, 2016 //

[5] ibid. (see footnote #4)

[6] Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. A live broadcast from the humanitarian corridor checkpoints in Syrian Aleppo is organized on the official website of the Defense Ministry //

[7] A reference on Russian efforts for humanitarian demining in the Syrian Arab Republic. February 15, 2017 // Center for rapid response to violations of the cessation of hostilities (Geneva).

Breakthrough military developments of the Russian defense complex

(March 14, 2018 — UPDATED)

On March 1, 2018 the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin delivered a traditional annual speech — «The President’s Message to the Federal Assembly». The speech — almost 2 hours — was mostly about domestic situation in Russia: the social sphere, the economy, medicine, education, state pension obligations etc. However, the final part of the president’s speech obviously had significance not only for Russia, but for the whole world. And you don’t have to be a great expert to understand that this part of the speech V. Putin addressed primarily to the United States. It was about the latest Russian developments in the field of defense capability. V. Putin demonstrated six new models of Russian weapons. The information was accompanied by videos. Still in the morning of March 1, 2018 all this information was classified as «secret», and at lunch time V. Putin made it publicly available. Obviously, there were reasons for this. ALAFF is not trying to analyze these reasons, but just propose to get acquainted with the latest military developments of the Russian defense complex mentioned by V. Putin in his speech.

So below is a part of the V. Putin’s annual speech «The President’s Message to the Federal Assembly» on the latest military developments and the country’s defense capability. Text of the speech is fully taken from the official website of the President of Russia.

ALAFF accompanied the text with photos & videos. All video materials are taken from the official page of the Russian Ministry of Defense on Youtube. Plus, ALAFF added some comments of experts and high-ranking military concerning new types of weapons. All these additional comments are highlighted in brown.


President Vladimir Putin says:

Now, on to the most important defence issue.

I will speak about the newest systems of Russian strategic weapons that we are creating in response to the unilateral withdrawal of the United States of America from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the practical deployment of their missile defence systems both in the US and beyond their national borders.

I would like to make a short journey into the recent past.

Back in 2000, the US announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Russia was categorically against this. We saw the Soviet-US ABM Treaty signed in 1972 as the cornerstone of the international security system. Under this treaty, the parties had the right to deploy ballistic missile defence systems only in one of its regions. Russia deployed these systems around Moscow, and the US around its Grand Forks land-based ICBM base.

Together with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the ABM Treaty not only created an atmosphere of trust but also prevented either party from recklessly using nuclear weapons, which would have endangered humankind, because the limited number of ballistic missile defence systems made the potential aggressor vulnerable to a response strike.

We did our best to dissuade the Americans from withdrawing from the treaty. All in vain. The US pulled out of the treaty in 2002. Even after that we tried to develop constructive dialogue with the Americans. We proposed working together in this area to ease concerns and maintain the atmosphere of trust. At one point, I thought that a compromise was possible, but this was not to be. All our proposals, absolutely all of them, were rejected. And then we said that we would have to improve our modern strike systems to protect our security. In reply, the US said that it is not creating a global BMD system against Russia, which is free to do as it pleases, and that the US will presume that our actions are not spearheaded against the US.

The reasons behind this position are obvious. After the collapse of the USSR, Russia, which was known as the Soviet Union or Soviet Russia abroad, lost 23.8 percent of its national territory, 48.5 percent of its population, 41 of the GDP, 39.4 percent of its industrial potential (nearly half of our potential, I would underscore), as well as 44.6 percent of its military capability due to the division of the Soviet Armed Forces among the former Soviet republics. The military equipment of the Russian army was becoming obsolete, and the Armed Forces were in a sorry state. A civil war was raging in the Caucasus, and US inspectors oversaw the operation of our leading uranium enrichment plants.

For a certain time, the question was not whether we would be able to develop a strategic weapon system – some wondered if our country would even be able to safely store and maintain the nuclear weapons that we inherited after the collapse of the USSR. Russia had outstanding debts, its economy could not function without loans from the IMF and the World Bank; the social sphere was impossible to sustain.

Apparently, our partners got the impression that it was impossible in the foreseeable historical perspective for our country to revive its economy, industry, defence industry and Armed Forces to levels supporting the necessary strategic potential. And if that is the case, there is no point in reckoning with Russia’s opinion, it is necessary to further pursue ultimate unilateral military advantage in order to dictate the terms in every sphere in the future.

Basically, this position, this logic, judging from the realities of that period, is understandable, and we ourselves are to blame. All these years, the entire 15 years since the withdrawal of the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, we have consistently tried to reengage the American side in serious discussions, in reaching agreements in the sphere of strategic stability.

We managed to accomplish some of these goals. In 2010, Russia and the US signed the New START treaty, containing measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms. However, in light of the plans to build a global anti-ballistic missile system, which are still being carried out today, all agreements signed within the framework of New START are now gradually being devaluated, because while the number of carriers and weapons is being reduced, one of the parties, namely, the US, is permitting constant, uncontrolled growth of the number of anti-ballistic missiles, improving their quality, and creating new missile launching areas. If we do not do something, eventually this will result in the complete devaluation of Russia’s nuclear potential. Meaning that all of our missiles could simply be intercepted.

Despite our numerous protests and pleas, the American machine has been set into motion, the conveyer belt is moving forward. There are new missile defence systems installed in Alaska and California; as a result of NATO’s expansion to the east, two new missile defence areas were created in Western Europe: one has already been created in Romania, while the deployment of the system in Poland is now almost complete. Their range will keep increasing; new launching areas are to be created in Japan and South Korea. The US global missile defence system also includes five cruisers and 30 destroyers, which, as far as we know, have been deployed to regions in close proximity to Russia’s borders. I am not exaggerating in the least; and this work proceeds apace.

So, what have we done, apart from protesting and warning? How will Russia respond to this challenge? This is how.

During all these years since the unilateral US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, we have been working intensively on advanced equipment and arms, which allowed us to make a breakthrough in developing new models of strategic weapons.

Let me recall that the United States is creating a global missile defence system primarily for countering strategic arms that follow ballistic trajectories. These weapons form the backbone of our nuclear deterrence forces, just as of other members of the nuclear club.

As such, Russia has developed, and works continuously to perfect, highly effective but modestly priced systems to overcome missile defence. They are installed on all of our intercontinental ballistic missile complexes.

In addition, we have embarked on the development of the next generation of missiles. For example, the Defence Ministry and enterprises of the missile and aerospace industry are in the active phase of testing a new missile system with a heavy intercontinental missile. We called it Sarmat.


Sarmat will replace the Voevoda system made in the USSR. Its immense power was universally recognized. Our foreign colleagues even gave it a fairly threatening name.

That said, the capabilities of the Sarmat missile are much higher. Weighing over 200 tonnes, it has a short boost phase, which makes it more difficult to intercept for missile defence systems. The range of the new heavy missile, the number and power of its combat blocs is bigger than Voevoda’s. Sarmat will be equipped with a broad range of powerful nuclear warheads, including hypersonic, and the most modern means of evading missile defence. The high degree of protection of missile launchers and significant energy capabilities the system offers will make it possible to use it in any conditions.










Voevoda’s range is 11,000 km while Sarmat has practically no range restrictions.

As the video clips show, it can attack targets both via the North and South poles.

Sarmat is a formidable missile and, owing to its characteristics, is untroubled by even the most advanced missile defence systems.

ALAFF remark: the rocket «Sarmat» is developed by the Academician V.P. Makeyev State Rocket Centre (source).

Detailed data on rocket «Sarmat» (unofficial), in Russian.

Plus some additional info (source):

The Ministry of Defense of Russia has published a video shot at the Krasnoyarsk Machine-Building Plant (see above).

Plus some additional info (source):

March 14, 2018 UPDATE: Preparation of the strategic missile complex «Sarmat» for the next surge tests (see video above).

V. Putin continues his speech:

But we did not stop at that. We started to develop new types of strategic arms that do not use ballistic trajectories at all when moving toward a target and, therefore, missile defence systems are useless against them, absolutely pointless.

Allow me to elaborate on these weapons.

Russia’s advanced arms are based on the cutting-edge, unique achievements of our scientists, designers and engineers. One of them is a small-scale heavy-duty nuclear energy unit that can be installed in a missile like our latest X-101 air-launched missile or the American Tomahawk missile – a similar type but with a range dozens of times longer, dozens, basically an unlimited range. It is a low-flying stealth missile carrying a nuclear warhead, with almost an unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory and ability to bypass interception boundaries. It is invincible against all existing and prospective missile defence and counter-air defence systems. I will repeat this several times today.


In late 2017, Russia successfully launched its latest nuclear-powered missile at the Central training ground. During its flight, the nuclear-powered engine reached its design capacity and provided the necessary propulsion.

Now that the missile launch and ground tests were successful, we can begin developing a completely new type of weapon, a strategic nuclear weapons system with a nuclear-powered missile.






You can see how the missile bypasses interceptors. As the range is unlimited, the missile can manoeuvre for as long as necessary.

As you no doubt understand, no other country has developed anything like this. There will be something similar one day but by that time our guys will have come up with something even better.

ALAFF remark:  Head of the SM-4 Chair (High Precision Aircraft) of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University Professor Viktor Selivanov spoke about the main features of the new system (source):

«Firstly, this is a completely unique power«, — the professor said, referring to the new cruise missile that operates on nuclear fuel.

Secondly, in his opinion, this fuel, in addition to unprecedented speed and power, does not give such a thermal trace, which would allow infrared targeting of interceptors to detect this missile.

Plus some additional information taken from the official website of the Russian Defence Ministry (source):

At the end of 2017, a successful launch of the newest Russian cruise missile with a nuclear power unit took place at the Central Range of the Russian Federation. During the flight, the power unit reached the set power level, provided the necessary level of thrust.

The launch of the missile and a complex of ground tests allow us to proceed to the creation of a fundamentally new type of weapons — a strategic complex of nuclear weapons with a missile equipped with a nuclear power unit.

The range of the rocket is not limited, it can maneuver for any length of time, bypassing the defensive lines.

Plus some more information (source):

This weapon is the absolute «exclusive» in Vladimir Putin’s speech. Previously, such systems were not reported anywhere in the open sources. Judging by the video presentation, we are talking about a ground-based missile.

The video clearly shows that the launch of the prototype was made from a mobile chassis on one of the test sites. Perhaps, this weapon is the further development of the «Iskander» tactical missile systems.

Plus some more information (source):

«The basis of the nuclear cruise missile was the basis of the X-101 missile. This missile can be based on strategic nuclear bombers-missile carriers Tu-160 and Tu-95. This means that we do not violate the START and INF Treaties on the number of launchers. If the X-101 missile flies to a range of about 5,000 km, then with a nuclear power unit, the new rocket has no restrictions: you can call the numbers 10,000 kilometers, and 15,000 kilometers, and 20,000″, — the military analyst Alexei Leonkov explains.

The nuclear warhead, which will be placed on a new rocket, is likely to be a kiloton class. Its capacity can be over 100 kilotons. At the same time, the principle of the engine itself remains behind the scene, no one will say how it works. This is Know-How, that’s all. It is clear that this technology can be used for space purposes too.

V. Putin continues his speech:

Now, we all know that the design and development of unmanned weapon systems is another common trend in the world. As concerns Russia, we have developed unmanned submersible vehicles that can move at great depths (I would say extreme depths) intercontinentally, at a speed multiple times higher than the speed of submarines, cutting-edge torpedoes and all kinds of surface vessels, including some of the fastest. It is really fantastic. They are quiet, highly manoeuvrable and have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit. There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them.


Unmanned underwater vehicles can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads, which enables them to engage various targets, including aircraft groups, coastal fortifications and infrastructure.

In December 2017, an innovative nuclear power unit for this unmanned underwater vehicle completed a test cycle that lasted many years. The nuclear power unit is unique for its small size while offering an amazing power-weight ratio. It is a hundred times smaller than the units that power modern submarines, but is still more powerful and can switch into combat mode, that is to say, reach maximum capacity, 200 times faster.







The tests that were conducted enabled us to begin developing a new type of strategic weapon that would carry massive nuclear ordnance.

By the way, we have yet to choose names for these two new strategic weapons, the global-range cruise missile and the unmanned underwater vehicle. We are waiting for suggestions from the Defence Ministry.

ALAFF remarkCommander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Admiral Vladimir Korolev spoke about the capabilities of the underwater unmanned vehicle, which Vladimir Putin presented to the Federal Assembly (source):

«The main element of such an underwater vehicle, a nuclear power unit, was successfully tested. The presence of a nuclear power unit allows an uninhabited underwater vehicle to move at immense depth (over a thousand meters) and at high speed, remaining unnoticed by the enemy.

Unmanned underwater vehicles will have an almost unlimited range of navigation, low noise and high maneuverability. All this will allow them to secretly go to the objects of defeat», — said in Korolev’s statement.

He noted that «the guided system specially created for this weapon will enable the underwater vehicles to autonomously exit to the target and to hit it with high accuracy».

Also, Korolev added that «it would be very difficult to intercept such a device, it is almost impossible».

Plus, there’s some information taken from the official website of the Russian Defence Ministry (source):

Russia has developed unmanned underwater vehicles capable of moving at great depths and at intercontinental range with a speed that many times exceeds the speed of submarines, the most advanced torpedoes and all types, even the fastest, of overwater ships. These vehicles have low noise, high maneuverability and are practically invulnerable to the enemy. For today in the world there are no means, capable to resist to these vehicles. Unmanned underwater vehicles can be equipped with both conventional and nuclear munitions.

In December 2017, a multi-year trial cycle of an innovative nuclear power unit was completed to equip this autonomous uninhabited vehicle. With a volume a hundred times less than that of modern nuclear submarines, the apparatus has a high power and 200 times less time to enter combat mode, that is, to maximum power.

V. Putin continues his speech:

Countries with high research potential and advanced technology are known to be actively developing so-called hypersonic weapons. The speed of sound is usually measured in Mach numbers in honour of Austrian scientist Ernst Mach who is known for his research in this field. One Mach is equal to 1,062 kilometres per hour at an altitude of 11 kilometres. The speed of sound is Mach 1, speeds between Mach 1 and Mach 5 is called supersonic, and hypersonic is above Mach 5. Of course, this kind of weapon provides substantial advantages in an armed conflict. Military experts believe that it would be extremely powerful, and that its speed makes it invulnerable to current missile and air defence systems, since interceptor missiles are, simply put, not fast enough. In this regard, it is quite understandable why the leading armies of the world seek to possess such an ideal weapon.

Friends, Russia already has such a weapon.


The most important stage in the development of modern weapons systems was the creation of a high-precision hypersonic aircraft missile system; as you already know for sure, it is the only one of its kind in the world. Its tests have been successfully completed, and, moreover, on December 1 of last year, these systems began their trial service at the airfields of the Southern Military District.

The unique flight characteristics of the high-speed carrier aircraft allow the missile to be delivered to the point of discharge within minutes. The missile flying at a hypersonic speed, 10 times faster than the speed of sound, can also manoeuvre at all phases of its flight trajectory, which also allows it to overcome all existing and, I think, prospective anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence systems, delivering nuclear and conventional warheads in a range of over 2,000 kilometres. We called this system «Kinzhal» (Dagger).







ALAFF remarkHigh-precision hypersonic missile complex «Kinzhal» can strike, without entering the enemy’s air defense zone. This was stated by Colonel-General Sergei Surovikin, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces (source).

Commenting on the message of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Federal Assembly, Surovikin noted the unique characteristics of the latest weapons.

A high-speed carrier aircraft allows the missile to be delivered to the dropping area in minutes. According to him, the high-precision hypersonic missile has a range of more than 2,000 kilometers.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces accentuated that the missile is capable of overcoming all existing and developed air defense and missile defense systems.

He stressed that the «Kinzhal» complex significantly expands the capabilities of the Russian Aerospace Forces to respond to a possible aggression and help detain possible opponents from ill-considered actions.

Plus some additional information (source):

Surovikin noted that the effectiveness of the hypersonic missile «Kinzhal» was repeatedly confirmed on state tests.

He added that «a march engine fixed on an aeroballistic missile, within seconds accelerates the warhead to hypersonic speed».

«The use of an all-weather homing head on the final section of a hypersonic flight ensures the required accuracy and selectivity of target destruction at any time of day», — the General added.

«Kinzhal» took up a trial and combat duty from December 1, 2017. According to Surovikin, at present the «basics of its combat use» are being worked out.

Plus some more information (source):

The Сommander-in-Chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces Colonel-General Sergei Surovikin spoke about the capabilities and features of the newest hypersonic missile X-47M2 «Kinzhal».

A high-speed carrier aircraft delivers an aeroballistic missile to the dropping area in minutes. Further, the march engine accelerates the ammunition to hypersonic speed in seconds. At the end of the trajectory, an all-weather homing head is turned on, it ensures the required accuracy and selectivity of target damage at any time of day, — Surovikin said.

The flight to the target takes a few seconds, which excludes the interception of the «Kinzhal» by air defense means. The length of the X-47M2 is about three meters, the speed of the ammunition exceeds 10 Mach, the range of its flight is 2000 kilometers. Since December 1, 2017, «Kinzhal» is being tested in experimental-combat operation in the Southern Military District with interceptors MiG-31BM.

Plus some more information (source):

The tactical and technical characteristics of this superhighspeed air-launched missile, for obvious reasons, are not disclosed, but it is already known that it will become a part of the armament complex of the newest fifth-generation fighter, the Su-57.

Plus some more information (source):

MiG-31 performed the training-combat launch of the missile of the «Kinzhal» (Dagger) complex from the stratosphere (video is above).

Plus some more information (source):

March 14, 2018 UPDATE: System «Kinzhal» (Dagger) in action: new video (see above).

V. Putin continues his speech:

But this is not all I have to say.

A real technological breakthrough is the development of a strategic missile system with fundamentally new combat equipment – a gliding wing unit, which has also been successfully tested.


I will say once again what we have repeatedly told our American and European partners who are NATO members: we will make the necessary efforts to neutralise the threats posed by the deployment of the US global missile defence system. We mentioned this during talks, and even said it publicly. Back in 2004, after the exercises of the strategic nuclear forces when the system was tested for the first time, I said the following at a meeting with the press (It is embarrassing to quote myself, but it is the right thing to say here):

So, I said: “As other countries increase the number and quality of their arms and military potential, Russia will also need to ensure it has new generation weapons and technology.

In this respect, I am pleased to inform you that successfully completed experiments during these exercises enable us to confirm that in the near future, the Russian Armed Forces, the Strategic Missile Forces, will receive new hypersonic-speed, high-precision new weapons systems that can hit targets at inter-continental distance and can adjust their altitude and course as they travel. This is a very significant statement because no country in the world as of now has such arms in their military arsenal.” End of quote.

Of course, every word has a meaning because we are talking about the possibility of bypassing interception boundaries. Why did we do all this? Why did we talk about it? As you can see, we made no secret of our plans and spoke openly about them, primarily to encourage our partners to hold talks. Let me repeat, this was in 2004. It is actually surprising that despite all the problems with the economy, finances and the defence industry, Russia has remained a major nuclear power. No, nobody really wanted to talk to us about the core of the problem, and nobody wanted to listen to us. So listen now.

Unlike existing types of combat equipment, this system is capable of intercontinental flight at supersonic speeds in excess of Mach 20.

As I said in 2004, in moving to its target, the missile’s gliding cruise bloc engages in intensive manoeuvring – both lateral (by several thousand km) and vertical. This is what makes it absolutely invulnerable to any air or missile defence system. The use of new composite materials has made it possible to enable the gliding cruise bloc to make a long-distance guided flight practically in conditions of plasma formation. It flies to its target like a meteorite, like a ball of fire. The temperature on its surface reaches 1,600–2,000 degrees Celsius but the cruise bloc is reliably guided.







For obvious reasons we cannot show the outer appearance of this system here. This is still very important. I hope everyone understands this. But let me assure you that we have all this and it is working well. Moreover, Russian industrial enterprises have embarked on the development of another new type of strategic weapon. We called it the «Avangard».

We are well aware that a number of other countries are developing advanced weapons with new physical properties. We have every reason to believe that we are one step ahead there as well – at any rate, in the most essential areas.

ALAFF remarkThe commander of Strategic Missile Forces, Colonel-General Sergei Karakayev, described the unique features of the «Avangard» missile (source).

According to him, the missile can fly to another continent in the dense layers of the atmosphere, make maneuvers along the course and height. The fact is that the rocket does not fly along a ballistic trajectory, but in the atmosphere, at an altitude of several tens of kilometers.

«The use of various types of maneuvers prevents the determination of the flight path of the hypersonic unit and issuance of target designation for its interception by means of anti-missile defense», — the General said.

The missile is protected against laser irradiation. Its tests have already been completed.

Karakayev also spoke about the «Voevoda’s shiftman» — a heavy intercontinental rocket «Sarmat«, which is also capable of changing flight trajectories.

Plus some more information from another source:

The commander of the Strategic Missile Forces Sergei Karakayev said that the creation of the strategic missile complex «Avangard» was an effective response to the deployment of the US’ missile defense systems.

It is noted that the «Avangard» is equipped with a gliding wing unit. The tests of the missile complex, according to Karakayev, have been successfully completed.

Karakayev added that the unit, maneuvering, is able to bypass the zones of detection and destruction of all modern and promising missile defense systems.

V. Putin continues his speech:

We have achieved significant progress in laser weapons. It is not just a concept or a plan any more. It is not even in the early production stages. Since last year, our troops have been armed with laser weapons.


I do not want to reveal more details. It is not the time yet. But experts will understand that with such weaponry, Russia’s defence capacity has multiplied.






Those interested in military equipment are welcome to suggest a name for this new weaponry, this cutting-edge system.

ALAFF remark: This type of laser weapon refers to weapons on new physical principles. This is one of the most secret examples of new weapons of Russia. This is confirmed, among other things, by the fact that V. Putin said almost nothing about this unique weapon (unlike other samples).

Such a laser unit, in addition to ground based, can be installed both on ships and on aircraft.

Plus some more information (source):

Judging by the video presentation shown during the speech of Vladimir Putin, this is a ground-based system on a massive wheeled chassis. The emitter is mounted on a turret rotating 360 degrees. High angles of vertical aiming suggest that this system can be used both against air and against ground targets. The scope of laser weapons is extremely wide: anti-missile and anti-satellite defense, disabling of enemy surveillance devices, interception of fast air targets and much more.

V. Putin continues his speech:

Of course, we will be refining this state-of-the-art technology. Obviously, there is far more in development than I have mentioned today. But this is enough for now.

I want to specifically emphasise that the newly developed strategic arms – in fact, new types of strategic weapons – are not the result of something left over from the Soviet Union. Of course, we relied on some ideas from our ingenious predecessors. But everything I have described today is the result of the last several years, the product of dozens of research organisations, design bureaus and institutes.

Thousands, literally thousands of our experts, outstanding scientists, designers, engineers, passionate and talented workers have been working for years, quietly, humbly, selflessly, with total dedication. There are many young professionals among them. They are our true heroes, along with our military personnel who demonstrated the best qualities of the Russian army in combat. I want to address each of them right now and say that there will absolutely be awards, prizes and honorary titles but, because I have met many of you in person many times, I know you are not after awards. The most important thing is to reliably ensure the security of our country and our people. As President and on behalf of the Russian people, I want to say thank you very much for your hard work and its results. Our country needs them so much.

As I have already said, all future military products are based on remarkable advances that can, should and will be used in high-technology civilian sectors. I would like to stress that only a country with the highest level of fundamental research and education, developed research, technology, industrial infrastructure and human resources can successfully develop unique and complex weapons of this kind. You can see that Russia has all these resources.

We will expand this potential and focus on delivering on the ambitious goals our country has set itself in terms of economic, social and infrastructure development. Effective defence will serve as a guarantee of Russia’s long-term development.

Let me reiterate that each of the armament systems I referred to is uniquely important. Even more importantly, taken together all these advances enable the Defence Ministry and General Staff to develop a comprehensive defence system, in which every piece of new military equipment will be assigned a proper role. On top of strategic weapons that are currently on combat alert and benefit from regular updates, Russia will have a defence capability that would guarantee its security in the long term.

Of course, there are many things that we have to do in terms of military construction, but one thing is already clear: Russia possesses a modern, high-technology army that is quite compact given the size of the territory, centred on the officer corps, who are dedicated to their country and are ready to sacrifice anything for its people. Sooner or later, other armies will also have the technology, the weapons, even the most advanced ones. But this does not worry us, since we already have it and will have even better armaments in the future. What matters is that they will never have people or officers like the Russian pilot Major Roman Filipov.

I hope that everything that was said today would make any potential aggressor think twice, since unfriendly steps against Russia such as deploying missile defences and bringing NATO infrastructure closer to the Russian border become ineffective in military terms and entail unjustified costs, making them useless for those promoting these initiatives.

It was our duty to inform our partners of what I said here today under the international commitments Russia had subscribed to. When the time comes, foreign and defence ministry experts will have many opportunities to discuss all these matters with them, if of course our partners so desire.

For my part, I should note that we have conducted the work to reinforce Russia’s defence capability within the current arms control agreements; we are not violating anything. I should specifically say that Russia’s growing military strength is not a threat to anyone; we have never had any plans to use this potential for offensive, let alone aggressive goals.

We are not threatening anyone, not going to attack anyone or take away anything from anyone with the threat of weapons. We do not need anything. Just the opposite. I deem it necessary to emphasise (and it is very important) that Russia’s growing military power is a solid guarantee of global peace as this power preserves and will preserve strategic parity and the balance of forces in the world, which, as is known, have been and remain a key factor of international security after WWII and up to the present day.

And to those who in the past 15 years have tried to accelerate an arms race and seek unilateral advantage against Russia, have introduced restrictions and sanctions that are illegal from the standpoint of international law aiming to restrain our nation’s development, including in the military area, I will say this: everything you have tried to prevent through such a policy has already happened. No one has managed to restrain Russia.

Now we have to be aware of this reality and be sure that everything I have said today is not a bluff ‒ and it is not a bluff, believe me ‒ and to give it a thought and dismiss those who live in the past and are unable to look into the future, to stop rocking the boat we are all in and which is called the Earth.

In this connection, I would like to note the following. We are greatly concerned by certain provisions of the revised nuclear posture review, which expand the opportunities for reducing and reduce the threshold for the use of nuclear arms. Behind closed doors, one may say anything to calm down anyone, but we read what is written. And what is written is that this strategy can be put into action in response to conventional arms attacks and even to a cyber-threat.

I should note that our military doctrine says Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons solely in response to a nuclear attack, or an attack with other weapons of mass destruction against the country or its allies, or an act of aggression against us with the use of conventional weapons that threaten the very existence of the state. This all is very clear and specific.

As such, I see it is my duty to announce the following. Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies, weapons of short, medium or any range at all, will be considered as a nuclear attack on this country. Retaliation will be immediate, with all the attendant consequences.

There should be no doubt about this whatsoever. There is no need to create more threats to the world. Instead, let us sit down at the negotiating table and devise together a new and relevant system of international security and sustainable development for human civilisation. We have been saying this all along. All these proposals are still valid. Russia is ready for this.

Our policies will never be based on claims to exceptionalism. We protect our interests and respect the interests of other countries. We observe international law and believe in the inviolable central role of the UN. These are the principles and approaches that allow us to build strong, friendly and equal relations with the absolute majority of countries.

Aleppo. War and diplomacy. P-VII

Previous parts of the book:

Highly recommended to read them all first, before reading this part.


Again, a few basic rules:

ALAFF is going to post the whole translation by parts. In this post you will have seventh part — «A «narrow group» of interested states — a multipolarity or polycentric dualism?«. Text will be supported by links and photos to enrich the submitted material. Some photos are originally from the book, some from other resources to illustrate material of the book. Feel free to follow the links, as well as click on the images for bigger size. The end of each post will contain footnotes and sources.

In some places there may be a personal ALAFF’ comment — it will be indicated as «ALAFF remark» and it will be highlighted in brown. Naturally, this comment(s) is a personal poin of view and it is not directly related to the book (i.e it is not presented in the book).


Structure of the book:

  • Introduction — p.10
  • Aleppo, information war and attempts to contain Russia — p.19
  • UN initiatives to rescue militants in Aleppo — p.48
    • Humanitarian pauses and humanitarian convoys — p.51
    • The initiative of urgent medical evacuation from the Eastern Aleppo — p.68
    • «Egeland’s plan» or blackmail of groupings — p.77
    • Evacuation of «civil activists» — p.89
  • Initiative of S. de Mistura on the withdrawal Jabhat al-Nusra militants from the Eastern Aleppo — p.93
  • Russian-American negotiation on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria— p.99
  • A «narrow group» of interested states — a multipolarity or polycentric dualism? — p.163
  • Evacuation of militants from Eastern Aleppo — a unique operation of the Russian military — p.177
  • The liberation of Aleppo and the intensification of military-political efforts to establish an all-Syrian regime for the cessation of hostilities — p.187
  • «Lessons of Aleppo»: geopolitics of the Syrian crisis in the context of the transforming world order — p.213


A «narrow group» of interested states — a multipolarity or polycentric dualism?

After the failure of the Russian-American talks on October 3 and the inability of Moscow and Washington to reach an agreement on the settlement of the situation in Aleppo, the bilateral track was frozen for some time. The US, explaining its decision to withdraw from the dialogue, began to blame Russia for the fact that it was through her fault, they said, that it was not possible to reach a compromise. They said, Moscow «at the last moment» put forward impracticable conditions (the point is that the Russian delegation conditioned the cessation of air strikes in Eastern Aleppo by Washington’s fulfillment of its obligations to separate Jabhat al-Nusra and the «moderates» — so that the «pause» in bombing was not used by terrorists for regrouping and receiving reinforcements, but served to separate terrorists and the «correct» opposition, on the existence of which the Americans insisted). According to the Washington politicians, it was this that made it impossible to achieve the deal. On the Russian side, it was pointed out that any potential agreements on joint fight against terrorism in the SAR lost meaning in conditions when the United States did not fulfill its main promise — to separate Jabhat al-Nusra from the «moderates». Washington wanted us to stop the airstrikes in Eastern Aleppo, where terrorists were entrenched, while not wanting to separate these same terrorists and US-controlled detachments. In the end, there was a paradoxical situation: the Americans demanded that Russia stop fighting terrorists as a precondition for… starting a joint fight against terrorism. In this case, Moscow could also require Washington to freeze the operation to liberate Iraqi Mosul from ISIS, which was conducted with the active participation of Americans, and where, according to the same Western human rights activists, civilians died as a result of airstrikes by a US-led coalition [1].


Amnesty International report on situation in Mosul, 28 March 2017.

It is interesting how the international community met the news that Russia and the United States could not come to an agreement. Probably the best definition that characterizes the reaction, especially of the members of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), — a confusion. This was well manifested during the first meetings of the Task Forces on the Ceasefire and Humanitarian Access in Geneva on October 13, 2016. Earlier, the Russian-American co-chairmanship «framed» the discussion, enabling states to «freely» express their views (in most cases with such a country group composition — to criticize Russia), as if delegating responsibility for their words to one of the co-chairs (read — the US) and «hiding» behind him. But during the first meetings after the failure of the Russian-American dialogue, the speeches of all members of the ISSG were of a confused nature. Where has the militant russophobia gone? Instead of criticism of «Russia and the B. Assad regime», the ISSG member-countries expressed regret about the inability of Moscow and Washington to reach an agreement on Aleppo and start cooperation in Syria, as well as the hope that Russian-American contacts will be renewed in the near future.

As for the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Syria, his reaction was painful. In the statement, S. de Mistura expressed «deep regret at the fact that the Russian-American ceasefire negotiations in Aleppo, in particular, and in Syria in general, failed to achieve a positive outcome» [2]. As we know, with the start of the dialogue between Moscow and Washington, the Special Envoy was betting precisely on the ability of the two countries to reach an agreement on Syria and believed that the collective work on the settlement of the Syrian crisis (moreover, its both military, and political and humanitarian aspects) should be built around this agreement.

At the same time, despite the sediment that remained with the two ISSG co-chairs due to the inability to reach a compromise on joint counter-terrorist operations in Syria, both Russia and the US showed common sense and prevented the collapse of the «architecture» of the multilateral diplomacy which was formed within the framework of the International Syria Support Group. Not only the ISSG itself was saved, but its working bodies as well — the Ceasefire and Humanitarian access Task Forces. However, if everything was more or less simple with the Humanitarian Group, the situation with the Ceasefire Group was more complicated. In was in the work of this structure, the confrontation between Russia and the US (as guarantors of the cessation of hostilities regime, announced in February 2016) was especially acute, and the most heated discussions on the situation «on the ground» were held within its framework. A dilemma arose whether to save this structure, even if the status of the regime of the cessation of hostilities in Syria after the failure of the Russian-American talks is questionable? The American delegation in Geneva, headed by Ambassador W. Wood, received instructions: both Task Forces should be retained, but their «profile» in these Task Forces should be reduced. The Russian team proceeded from the assumption that the current problems in the Russian-American dialogue are anyway temporary, and sooner or later everything will return to the issue of strengthening / restoring the truce. In this connection, there was no point in destroying the already functioning ISSG institutions. It was important to keep the situation under control.

The preservation of ISSG structures was the right decision. The pause in the Russian-American interaction was obviously temporary. The continuation of the functioning of both the International Syria Support Group and its working bodies has preserved the «carcass» of international cooperation in resolving the Syrian crisis and provided an opportunity to search for new formats of cooperation to which the world community was pushed by a life itself, primarily by the continuation of bloodshed in Syria.

Despite the suspension of the Russian-American dialogue on Syria, contacts between diplomats of the two countries continued, including within the same Task Forces in Geneva, as well as in New York, Washington, and Moscow. Practically every day there were telephone conversations between S.V. Lavrov and J. Kerry (although the Secretary of State sometimes showed shyness with regard to making the communication of ministers public, so press releases on these calls were not always published at the request of the American side).

However, the current circumstances related to the failure of Washington to fulfill its obligations under the Russian-American agreement of September 9, 2016, opened the possibility for more active involvement in the dialogue on Syria of countries that had a real influence «on the ground». In this regard, in one of the phone conversations S.V. Lavrov reminded J. Kerry about the idea of organizing contacts within the so-called «narrow group» of interested states that have levers of influence on the situation «in the field». The Secretary of State became interested in this and promised to work out the possibility of such a meeting. At the same time, he proposed «criteria» for the right to be present at such negotiations. The first is direct participation in the Syrian conflict on the ground or in the air. The second is the support of the forces and groups fighting in Syria. Such a methodology for selecting the «narrow group» member-countries definitely had some logic. In accordance with it, the following format was emerging: Russia, the United States, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Here it is worth paying tribute to the Americans, first of all, the same J. Kerry, who in fact alone have achieved the consent of all the regional states to come to a meeting of the «narrow group».

The first meeting of the «narrow group» was held on October 15, 2016 in Lausanne.

It took time to determine a composition of negotiators. Thus, the Iranian Foreign Minister M. Zarif for a long time could not get permission to visit Lausanne from the supreme leader of the country A. Khamenei. As a result, he declared his readiness to participate in this meeting only if the Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Iraq would be invited too. In response, Saudi Arabia insisted that Jordan be invited. Russia, for its part, has ensured that the United Nations takes part in the negotiations (Secretary-General’s Special Envoy S. de Mistura). So the format was «nine plus» (9 countries + UN).

The conversation in the course of the Lausanne meeting on October 15, 2016, in contrast to the useful, but still tending to polemic the ISSG meetings, was very frank. The conversation was built around the initiative put forward on October 6 by S. de Mistura to evacuate Jabhat al-Nusra militants from Eastern Aleppo while maintaining the «local council» as the governing body in the city [3]. In this way, the negotiations had a specific agenda, the implementation of which was in the hands of the participating countries.

J. Kerry, along with the Saudi, Qatari and Turk insisted that first thing to do is to stop airstrikes on Eastern Aleppo and ensure a ceasefire. Only in these conditions, they say, it will be possible to make efforts to separate terrorists and «moderates». In response, Russia and Iran, with the support of Egypt, put forward a demand, as a first step, to force the armed groups controlled by the Americans and the region states to drive al-Nusra out of the city and subscribe to the regime for the cessation of hostilities. There should not be a repetition of the situation when the US conditioned its long-standing obligations to separate the «moderates» and al-Nusra by preconditions like the seven-day «silence». To reinforce its position, the Russian delegation distributed the material with a list of those illegal armed formations that operated in Aleppo along with al-Nusra, such was the majority. It is significant that the Saudi, Qatari and Turk, and even J. Kerry, were shirking to answer the question who of them takes care of this or that grouping from the list.

As a result of complex and lengthy discussions, Russian diplomats have achieved an understanding that al-Nusra problem must be solved in priority order. The Saudis and Turks promised to urgently send a signal to their «ward» factions to break off any contacts with terrorists and demand their withdrawal from East Aleppo. Then there will be a common understanding, where in the city is al-Nusra, and where is «moderates», and it will be possible to call on the government and the opposition to declare a humanitarian pause.

The radicals in this case would have two options — to leave (in accordance with the plan of S. de Mistura) or to be destroyed. It is characteristic that no specific public announcements following the meeting were made at the insistence of the Saudis. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the KSA, A. Jubeir, expressed a certain skepticism about the prospects for implementing the agreements and asked not to announce anything.

It’s curiously that after the meeting in Lausanne, the Americans tried to justify themselves for their participation in the event, where Russian diplomats were present. State Department spokesman J. Kirby said at the press conference that the US «is not ready to sit down at the same table with the Russians and conduct any serious discussions on the situation in Syria» [4].


Excerpt from the US Department of State’s Spokesperson John Kirby statement to CNN, 18 October, 2016.

It is clear that such statements were primarily aimed at domestic political consumption, namely, at the «hawks» in Washington, which were against the resumption of any contacts with Russia and tracked any «movements» of J. Kerry with a steadfast gaze worthy of other important for the US plots. In this way, J. Kirby tried as if to justify himself in advance to the opponents of cooperation with Moscow, assuring that the bilateral format was frozen and now it is only a matter of multilateral negotiations. The Russian side reacted calmly and even philosophically to such rushing searchings.

On the other hand, not in public statements, but in reality Washington adhered to a highly pragmatic approaches. Thus, J. Kerry, during the meeting in London on October 16, 2016, with the core of the «Syria friends group» (USA, France, Great Britain, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan) called the Lausanne event a «success», because it, he said, allowed to return Russia and the regional states to the negotiating table to discuss specific obligations. It is curious that the Secretary of State mentioned Moscow’s demand to separate Jabhat al-Nusra and «moderate» opposition, as if sending a signal to his allies that they will have to fulfill this obligation in one way or another.

In this way, it was the pause in the Russian-American dialogue that made it possible to organize a meeting in a format that unites the countries directly involved in the Syrian crisis. It is characteristic that during the negotiations S.V. Lavrov and J. Kerry in one way or another were «soloists». However, it is important that the necessary «signals» were heard by the regional players. This is confirmed by the fact that already on October 19-20, 2016 in Geneva, representatives of Russia, the United States, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia discussed the necessary steps to address the problem of Eastern Aleppo and even agreed on a draft document («Proposals on Eastern Aleppo») containing specific obligations of the parties. There were also subsequent rounds of negotiations. «Red lines» of Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are not hard to guess — the withdrawal of Shiite formations and the preservation of opposition structures («local councils») as local self-government bodies.

The liberation of East Aleppo and the evacuation of militants and civilians from the city in December 2016 made it irrelevant for further discussion of this problem in the format of a «narrow group» (as well as bilaterally with the Americans). However, the discussions on Aleppo with the participation of the regional players served as a statement that it is time for deep involvement of the countries of the region in the development of serious, breakthrough, and, most importantly, realistic solutions to some of the problematic aspects of the Syrian crisis. This is not someone’s whim, but a demand dictated by the logic of the evolution of the modern world order, which more clearly bears the features of «polycentric dualism». Russia and the United States will continue to be able to play a «guiding» role, and to determine the main vector of interaction of all interested players. However, this should be done with the participation or, at least, taking into account the positions of the regional players, without which we can not count on the implementation of taken decisions.

The appearance of the «Astana» format and the announcement on December 30, 2016 of the introduction of a ceasefire regime in Syria with guarantees from Russia, Turkey and Iran confirm the tendency to diversify the participants in the decision-making process on key aspects of the Syrian settlement, which in turn is the result of objective processes of redistribution of power from the center to the periphery as a characteristic of the emerging polycentric world order.

[1] Iraq: Civilians killed by airstrikes in their homes after they were told not to flee Mosul / Amnesty International. 28 March 2017 //

[2] U.N. Syria envoy ‘deeply regrets’ suspension of U.S./Russia talks / Reuters. 3 October 2016 //

[3] Transcript of the Press-Conference by UN Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, and UN Senior Adviser, Mr. Jan Egeland, Geneva, 6 October 2016 //

[4] CNN Transcripts. State Department on Russia’s Halting Airstrikes in Aleppo. Aired October 18, 2016 — 07:30 //

Aleppo. War and diplomacy. P-VI (II)

Previous parts of the book:

Highly recommended to read them all first, before reading this part.


Again, a few basic rules:

ALAFF is going to post the whole translation by parts. In this post you will have sixth part — «Russian-American negotiation on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria«. Text will be supported by links and photos to enrich the submitted material. Some photos are originally from the book, some from other resources to illustrate material of the book. Feel free to follow the links, as well as click on the images for bigger size. The end of each post will contain footnotes and sources.

In some places there may be a personal ALAFF’ comment — it will be indicated as «ALAFF remark» and it will be highlighted in brown. Naturally, this comment(s) is a personal poin of view and it is not directly related to the book (i.e it is not presented in the book).

!! The chapter «Russian-American negotiation on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria» takes more than 60 pages of the book. It would be too much to put all translation in one post, so the chapter is divided into two parts. First part of the chapter is in previous post. In this post you will have second part of the chapter.


Structure of the book:

  • Introduction — p.10
  • Aleppo, information war and attempts to contain Russia — p.19
  • UN initiatives to rescue militants in Aleppo — p.48
    • Humanitarian pauses and humanitarian convoys — p.51
    • The initiative of urgent medical evacuation from the Eastern Aleppo — p.68
    • «Egeland’s plan» or blackmail of groupings — p.77
    • Evacuation of «civil activists» — p.89
  • Initiative of S. de Mistura on the withdrawal Jabhat al-Nusra militants from the Eastern Aleppo — p.93
  • Russian-American negotiation on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria— p.99
  • A «narrow group» of interested states — a multipolarity or polycentric dualism? — p.163
  • Evacuation of militants from Eastern Aleppo — a unique operation of the Russian military — p.177
  • The liberation of Aleppo and the intensification of military-political efforts to establish an all-Syrian regime for the cessation of hostilities — p.187
  • «Lessons of Aleppo»: geopolitics of the Syrian crisis in the context of the transforming world order — p.213


Russian-American negotiations on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria (p. II of II)

The «freezing» of the Russian-American negotiating track was perceived by some players who jealously watched the dialogue between Moscow and Washington, with frank enthusiasm. Especially it concerns France. In Paris, they decided, as the saying is, to try to «take revanche».

In order to understand better the motives of the French, who proposed the draft resolution of the UN Security Council, one thing must be taken into account. Before putting the text in agreement, France (at least, it looked like this for the outside world) tried to negotiate with Russia. French Foreign Minister J.-M. Ayrault on October 6, 2016 specially traveled to Moscow to explain the meaning of the French initiative on the adoption of the UN Security Council resolution on Syria. Then the Frenchman assured the Russian side that Paris has no desire to «provoke» Russia to a veto. On the contrary, France is allegedly aimed at finding compromises. Even during the press-conference it was stated that J.-M. Ayrault came to Russia «not with threats» [1].

In fact, the French minister visited Moscow with the sole purpose of demonstrating to the «world community» that France was «playing openly» and was trying to find a compromise. And it is Russia that manifests an unconstructive, non-negotiable approach.

J.-M. Ayrault intentionally misinformed Moscow that he is not interested in achieving a veto. After all, in the Russian capital, he was clearly told that in the proposed form, the draft resolution has no chance of being accepted. In so doing, S.V. Lavrov said that Russia will not vote against if France takes into account our amendments and considerations. The French minister confirmed that «Paris does not want to run into any veto» [2].


The president of Russia V.V. Putin answers one of the questions, taking part in the eighth «Russia Calling!» Investment Forum organised by VTB Capital. Moscow, October 12, 2016.

On this promising note J.-M. Ayrault flew from Moscow to Washington and the next day went with J. Kerry to the press, accused Russia of degrading the situation in Syria [3], then without discussion the French brought their project to the vote in the UN Security Council.

Already on October 8, 2016, that is, two days later, the same J.-M. Ayrault, sitting in the UN Security Council, complained that «Aleppo was thrown to death by the executioners, and the military operation is aimed at capitulating the city. Eastern Aleppo can repeat the fate of Gernika, Srebrenica and Grozny. B. Assad and his allies nurturing extremism, thus being accomplices of ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and are trying to crack down on the moderate opposition» [4]. J.-M. Ayrault called the Russian-American agreement stillborn. And this is France, which in 2003, together with Russia, Germany and other sensible players, tried to warn the Anglo-American duo from invading Iraq. In general, the French, well aware of the doomedness of their initiative, nevertheless forced a voting.

It is difficult to paint the hysteria that rose in the UN Security Council after the Russian veto. US Deputy Permanent Representative D. Pressman went so far as to accusing Russia of being «one of the providers of terrorism» [5].

It should be kept in mind that the French put forward their proposal virtually immediately after the Russian-American dialogue on Aleppo was frozen on October 3, 2016. Of course, France tried to take advantage of this and «raise» its foreign policy status by introducing one more useless initiative to the UN Security Council. At the same time it is obvious that without a «nod» from the key ally — Washington — Paris would never have decided to advance the draft resolution. Hence, the Americans were interested in this. The essence of the initiative of Paris was to achieve the goal that the Americans sought, negotiating with Russia, but, as you know, they could not achieve. Namely, to ban flights of aviation in the Aleppo region, to provide cover for the terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra and the militants who joined them, despite the obligations of the UN member states to fight the terrorist threat with all available means [6]. How else to interpret the paragraph of the French draft, in which all sides were called upon to «stop all bombing and all military flights over the city of Aleppo» (it was, of course, offered under humanitarian «sauce») [7].


Excerpt from the UN Document S/2016/846 (proposed by France draft resolution on Syria).

There were other harmful proposals in the text, for example, about the need to strengthen monitoring of the cessation of hostilities (it is known that France tried to «occupy» the role in this process, supervised by Russia and the United States), and that in case of non-compliance with this decisions the UN Security Council can take «further measures» (read — sanctions, etc.).

So the main meaning of the project was obvious — to create a «no-fly zone» over Aleppo, what the Americans sought during the negotiations between Russia and the US, but what they failed because of the inability to meet Moscow’s counterclaim — to divide the «moderate» opposition and terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra. That is why the French, with backstage support from the Americans, attempted to close the sky over Aleppo. The question that naturally arises when reading the French project: whom Paris tried to shield and protect, promoting the initiative with a ban on combat aviation flights over Aleppo? After all, according to Russian data, at that time up to 6,000 militants operated in the eastern part of the city, of which about 1,000 belonged to Jabhat al-Nusra, 2,000 to the radical Ahrar al-Sham affiliated with al-Nusra, 1,5 thousand to the extremist detachment of Nour al-Din al-Zenki, who became famous throughout the world for beheading a 12-year-old Palestinian boy [8], 800 people to Fastaqim Kama Umirt, who fired tank shots on UN headquarters in Eastern Aleppo on October 30, which forced the World Organization to urgently evacuate its international staff from the city. At the same time, al-Nusra militants carried out coordination of activities of all these groups, as well as planning operations in the general headquarters (Gurfa Amalia Mushtaraka) [9]. Thus, Paris de facto defended the international jihadist International, entrenched at that time in Aleppo by banning strikes against the targets of terrorists. Strangely enough, but it was understandable why France openly sided with the terrorists. It was them who were the fighting backbone of the forces opposing the troops of B. Assad in Aleppo. Their «salvation» was necessary in order to prevent the fall of Eastern Aleppo under the pressure of government forces, which would mean a radical change in the war in favor of official Damascus.

On the same day, a voting was taken on the alternative Russian draft resolution. The United States, Great Britain and France voted against. Despite the fact that the text mentioned the Russian-American agreements of September 9, and called for all countries to be guided by this document (it figured in the draft as an annex). The initiative of S. de Mistura on the solution of the problem of Eastern Aleppo by evacuating the Jabhat al-Nusra militants from there was welcomed. The text also contained a requirement to ensure unhindered humanitarian access, including through the announcement of weekly humanitarian pauses. The project also called for the immediate observance of the cessation of hostilities, primarily in Aleppo [10] — and this is exactly what the Americans have been calling for.

So what was the problem of the Russian project? It was that one of the points sounded like this: the UN Security Council «stresses the urgent need to achieve and verify separating moderate opposition forces from Jabhat al-Nusra as a key priority» [11].


Excerpt from the UN Document S/2016/847 (proposed by Russia draft resolution on Syria).

So, this was absolutely unacceptable for Americans, since the division of terrorists and «moderates» promised by CIA director J. Brennan during his visit to Moscow in February 2016 was never carried out by Washington. This became one of the main reasons for the breakdown of the Russian-American negotiating track. That is why the Americans could not accept a resolution that obliged the US to fulfill, at last, a promise to divide the anti-government forces they allegedly monitor and jihadists. It was against this point that the US delegation stubbornly opposed in New York. The reason is simple. Washington did not have any really controlled forces «on the ground». They could work for the separation of the «moderates» and terrorists only through regional allies who did not aspire to fulfill this demand of Washington and were interested in keeping a linkage between the most combat-effective structure — Jabhat al-Nusra and other anti-government detachments. Americans understood this. And they did not want to «go under» accusations of non-compliance of the demand of the UN Security Council resolution. That’s why the United States, as well as Britain and France voted against the Russian project.

Stumbling on an attempt to push through the anti-Syrian draft resolution, the West did not abandon its efforts and began to act by others hands. In November, the «troika» (Spain, New Zealand, Egypt) began to promote the draft «humanitarian» resolution on Syria. There were no «surprises» in it either. The document insisted that all parties in Aleppo [12] cease «any attacks», including actions against the terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra, but not the confirmation of the ceasefire regime, which, as is known, has no effect against the terrorists. Given that the fighting «fist» in Aleppo was jihadists from Jabhat al-Nusra (Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Syria S. de Mistura at the briefing in the UN Security Council on September 25, 2016, said that number of al-Nusra militants is 50% of the total number of militants in the city) [13], this was, perhaps, the first time when the Security Council was used to protect terrorists. The project, of course, did not receive support, and it was vetoed by Russia and China (Venezuela also voted against it, Angola abstained).

In October-November 2016, Russian and American experts in Geneva repeatedly tried to return to the settlement of the «Aleppo issue». Washington mainly sought to establish an uninterrupted supply of the grouping surrounded in the eastern neighborhoods of the city. The allies of the United States and the United Nations joined in this task. Attempts were made to abolish the checkpoints of the Syrian government along the roads of Ramouse and Castello with the replacement of the Syrian military with Russian ones (apparently, as a potential target for provocations). Russia was ready to agree to this proposal only on the condition that American soldiers will stand next to our officers at the checkpoints.

In November and December 2016 in Geneva, a series of consultations of experts from Russia and the United States were held, within the framework of which two teams tried to give the idea of S. de Mistura a practical shape. Delegations worked on a document entitled «Proposals for stabilization of the situation in Eastern Aleppo». Interest in finding a formula for implementing the initiative of the special envoy was on both sides. As mentioned above, for Moscow the withdrawal of terrorists from the city provided an opportunity to prevent its storming, for Washington — not only to keep the «moderate» detachments in Aleppo, but also to consolidate there «opposition» authorities, which in the long term would mean turning the city into an anti-Assad stronghold not far the border with Turkey, from where militants would receive reinforcements and weapons, as well as from Idlib, where the headquarters of al-Nusra was located and from where it was possible to coordinate the actions of armed groups and amass forces for a future attack.

During this period, the main contradiction was the question of the number of Jabhat al-Nusra fighters in Eastern Aleppo, who were to be released as part of the implementation of the ideas of S. de Mistura. This aspect was really basic, even «strategic», since it depended on how many militants would remain in the city after the implementation of S. de Mistura’s initiative and, accordingly, in how much a large anti-government stronghold the supporters of the overthrow of B. Assad could turn the eastern quarters of the city.

During the bilateral consultations, the head of the American delegation, William Wood (an experienced diplomat, formerly the US ambassador to Afghanistan and Colombia), tried to convince the Russian team that there are 200 al-Nusra terrorists in East Aleppo — and no more. He assured that these data are allegedly based on information obtained by US intelligence. He did not provide any evidence base, suggesting to take it by the word. He called to agree on withdraw 200 terrorists from the city, which could become «the first real step in the implementation of the idea of S. de Mistura». At the same time, the Special Envoy himself on behalf of the UN announced a figure of 900 al-Nusra militants — which is several times more than what W. Wood insisted on. In so doing, the American demanded at all rounds of consultations without exception, immediately, «right this minute» to introduce the regime for the cessation of hostilities in the city. Without this, he say, Washington will not be able to persuade the moderate opposition to drive out Jabhat al-Nusra from the eastern quarters. He aggravated: under the conditions of the Syrian government’s offensive, the «correct» opposition is «forced» to unite with terrorists (the same rhetoric was also used by the Americans a little earlier, before a moratorium on airstrikes in Aleppo became effective, when they demanded the cessation of bombing of the city). Say, just stop the work of combat aviation, and the «moderate» opposition will immediately separate from Jabhat al-Nusra.

The Russian side had irrefutable evidence that there were significantly more al-Nusra militants in the city — about 1,500 bayonets. In Aleppo the Russian military were present «on the ground» and had serious opportunities to gather information about the situation. Our data was based on radio intercept materials, information from defectors and captives, but not on statistics taken from social networks and mass media that Americans used. And a common sense also prompted: it was absurd and unprofessional to assert that 200 terrorists allegedly not only keep the eastern part of the city with a population of 275,000 under control, but also confront the Syrian government forces.

The Americans denied that trying to «push through» the obviously understated numbers of terrorists in East Aleppo, they «save» the most combat-capable anti-government force «on the ground». They assured that if the militants who stay in East Aleppo after al-Nusra’s withdrawal will violate the ceasefire regime, they will have to be expelled from the city. By the way, by this phrase it is clearly seen how politicized was the approach of the B. Obama administration to the terrorists who remained in East Aleppo, as well as to methods of combating them (violators of the RCH will have to be «expelled», not destroyed). Indeed, the Americans did not directly answer the question of Russian diplomats and the military, whether the violators of «silence» will be subjected to force-based measures, as stipulated in the rules and procedures of the RCH. They were shirking: say, it is desirable that the opposition first try to expel violators from the city. If it does not work out, then the United States and Russia would have thought together whether to strike or not. In other words, the formula proposed by the Americans deprived Russia and the government of the SAR of the right to use force against violators of «silence» and was aimed at maximum footdragging in the decision-making process to fight those who broke the truce.

Thus, the US task was to achieve legitimization in Eastern Aleppo of opposition «local councils» (as the initiative of S. de Mistura envisaged) with low losses, by withdrawing from the city an insignificant, symbolic part of the jihadists, and thus securing the city for «opposition». It is in this context that it should be considered as if accidentally thrown by W. Wood a remark that «al-Nusra militant who observes the ceasefire should be regarded as a peaceful resident of Aleppo«.

The following detail fits the general picture: once, after a lengthy dispute over the number of terrorists in Eastern Aleppo, a CIA representative was forced to admit that the information about only 200 al-Nusra militants in the city was received by the US from the «opposition». Also the representatives of the US special services surprised the Russian military with the methodology of qualifying armed groups. Thus, a detachment of 500 militants, commanded by 10 «al-Nusra fighters», in their understanding was «moderate».

The Russian-American negotiations on the document «Proposals to stabilize the situation in Eastern Aleppo» were joined at a later stage by the regional states, who had influence on the militants in Eastern Aleppo — Turkey, KSA and Qatar. And the same thing happened here: the parties started to «altercate» on the number of Jabhat al-Nusra militants in the city. USA, and from their submission the regional troika too, spoke «in chorus» about 200 al-Nusra militants in the eastern quarters, without showing any evidence at all. It is characteristic that the estimates of the total number of «people with arms» in the city coincided with all participants in the consultations — 5-6 thousand people. That is, the contradictions concerned only the number of those who were subject to evacuation.

Consultations in a multilateral format, as well as the Russian-American track of negotiations, showed that the United States and the regional states were stubbornly clinging to the understated number of al-Nusra militants in Eastern Aleppo and were not ready to show flexibility on this issue. They were aware that if al-Nusra militants, as the most disciplined and experienced segment of the anti-Assad front, will left these areas, the rest of the «opposition» would immediately lose its fighting efficiency. That is why they were interested in keeping this fighting «fist» in the city in order to prevent the transition of Eastern Aleppo under the control of the Syrian government forces.

The situation of the blocked grouping of militants was deteriorating, the ring of encirclement was getting tighten under the attacks of government troops. Let’s recall — this was in the conditions of the moratorium, imposed on October 18, 2016 by the decision of the Russian president V.V. Putin, on the use of combat aircraft for strikes on targets in Aleppo. This affected the position of the United States, leading to some easing of Washington’s negotiating demands. J. Kerry proposed S.V. Lavrov to hold in early December 2016 negotiations of experts on the simultaneous withdrawal of all combatants, without dividing them into moderates and al-Nusra militants. That is, it was not about implementing the initiative of S. de Mistura on al-Nusra’s withdrawal, but about trying to get everyone out of the part of the city still under the control of the militants.

The US position was influenced by the fact that Washington was forced to catch up with events, because simultaneously with the Russian-American consultations the evacuation of civilians and militants from Aleppo was already underway in the framework of Russian-Turkish agreements. By December 9, there was already more than 91% of the city’s territory under the control of the Syrian government forces [14]. The day before the Syrian army had temporarily stopped firing in the southeast of Aleppo in order to ensure the safe exit of people. It was about a column of 8 thousand people and the length of the route at 5 km [15].

Therefore, the Americans were late and tried at least somehow to stop the process of moving the rest of the city under the control of Damascus.

On December 10, 2016 Moscow proposed a compromise: the cessation of hostilities in Aleppo is possible from 8.00 Damascus time on December 15. The US had to use a 5 days temporal «gap» to compile a list of «moderate» detachments that would leave the city, and their approximate numbers. Terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra could not leave together with the armed opposition. If the jihadists would agree to stop resistance, they would be evacuated to Idlib province through special corridors. If on the appointed day within 8 hours after the deadline (until 16:00 on December 15) the organized exit of the militants did not begin, the fighting against the jihadists could resume.

But US Special Envoy for Syria M. Ratney demanded «immediately» to declare the cessation of hostilities in Aleppo allegedly in order to allow «peaceful residents» of the besieged neighborhoods of the city to leave them in safety. It implies at least a 48-hour «silence» with the possibility of its extension. Moreover, the American pressed, the announcement by Russia and the «Assad regime» of readiness to introduce the RCH in Aleppo would mean a positive signal for the militants, an «incentive» to agree to evacuation from Aleppo. At the same time, the Americans traditionally evaded undertaking any obligations to guarantee compliance with the armistice by the opposition «under their control».

Trying to convince the Russian side of the need to introduce the RCH in Aleppo «in the very near future», M. Ratney reasoned very cynically in the spirit of the fact that the outcome of the battle for the city is still decided in favor of the «regime», and the US, with its offer, kindly help Russia «pay less image price» for the victory, give it the opportunity not to be associated with the death of civilians — which is inevitable if the Armed Forces of the SAR and the allied forces will decide to «clean up» the city.

During the Geneva consultations, Americans were shown a video from a Russian drone, which broadcast the process of getting people out of the city online. It was emphasized that the Russian and Syrian sides are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of civilians fleeing from terrorists, whom al-Nusra and affiliated groups used for many months as a human shield. M. Ratney and his colleagues were informed in detail on the efforts being made by the Russian military to provide humanitarian assistance to people leaving the city. While al-Nusra and the groups associated with them continued to fire and mine humanitarian corridors, kill dissenters and use women and children as human shields. As for the Americans demanding the «immediate» introduction of the RCH throughout Aleppo, Russia had great doubts that the US this time will be able to provide us with solid guarantees of its compliance by militants. And, in general, all this was very much like an attempt to give terrorists another respite.

After a long «walking around» and M. Ratney’s numerous consultations with J. Kerry, the Americans said that the introduction of a regime for the cessation of hostilities throughout Aleppo «at least» from December 12-13 for 48 hours with the possibility of extension is a key element of the eventual arrangement for the United States. Without this, they say, it will not be possible to «persuade the opposition» to leave the city.

On December 11, the negotiations were stopped. Russia informed that its position on the possibility of introducing an armistice on December 15 has not changed (although, stipulating that if the evacuation of civilians ends earlier, the withdrawal of militants can also begin earlier).

This was the final chord of the Russian-American negotiations on Syria. The bilateral track did not justify itself, and Russia relied on alternative possibilities to solve the problem of Eastern Aleppo — through cooperation with the countries of the region.

Why did two influential states — Russia and the United States — fail to agree on coordination of actions in the fight against terrorism, which poses a serious threat to both these countries and the world as a whole? The answer to this question contains a whole series of sometimes unrelated elements. We’ll list only a few of them.

One of the reasons is the untwisted flywheel of anti-Russian rhetoric and the chain of hostile moves towards Moscow by the B. Obama administration. After the failure of the «reset», the counteraction to Russia, and then a barefaced russophobia, became an integral part of American foreign policy. Moreover, aggressive anti-Russian attacks turned into an integral part of the «image» of most major politicians in the United States. Anyone who did not criticize Moscow, in fact, had no opportunity to advance on the career ladder. The presence of ties with Russia, even fictitious ones, could become a tool for discrediting (let’s remember that there was an attempt to expose D. Trump in some «special relationship» with Moscow, which, in the opinion of the Democrats, should have automatically blackened him). The administration of B. Obama fell into the trap it had created itself: under the conditions of «self-censorship», which was adhered to by most American politicians, simply voicing the need to unite efforts with Russia in the fight against the common evil was already something out of the ordinary and required great political courage. It is this thing that explains the position of the American negotiating team at the bilateral consultations in Geneva on combating terrorism. The US delegation constantly stipulated the creation of a coordination mechanism for counter-terrorism activities by unilateral concessions from Moscow. Washington needed them for two reasons. Firstly, in order to «sell» them to an anti-Russian-minded domestic political audience (say, look, Russians are so interested in cooperating with us that they not only fulfill our demands, but they also force the «B. Assad regime» to take unpopular measures). Secondly, in order to demonstrate to its regional allies that, while negotiating with Russia on fighting terrorism, the US does not betray a common anti-Assad matter (in capitals that sponsored armed groups in the SAR, they were extremely unhappy with the fact of consultations between Moscow and Washington). On the contrary, America, they say, is committed to «corporate solidarity», is seeking serious concessions from Moscow and Damascus and constantly keeps the Russians under pressure, forcing them to take the steps in which the anti-Assad camp is interested.

Speaking about the prospects for Russian-American cooperation, we can state with confidence that former US Secretary of State J. Kerry was a supporter of building a cooperation with Russia on the fight against terrorism. However, he was opposed by an entire «army» of those who could not stand the sight of the idea that Washington and Moscow would carry out joint projects in Syria. One of the main opponents of cooperation with Russia was former US Secretary of Defense A. Carter, who pursued a policy of blocking Russian-American agreements and appropriately oriented the military part of the US interdepartmental delegation in Geneva, which was negotiating with the Russian side. J. Kerry failed to overcome the resistance of the US Defense Ministry, as well as opponents of interaction with Russia in other departments. The author is convinced that whatever concessions Moscow would make, the US appetite would just grow. The «system» would still not allow a major joint project to fight terrorism, it functioned on a different, anti-Russian «fuel». The Washington would not have allowed the announcement of the beginning of Russian-American cooperation, and the intra-US system of checks and balances would still work to prevent a rapprochement between Moscow and Washington.

A couple of words worth mentioning about the interaction along the line US — regional allies. Because of the highly inconsistent and subjected to conjunctural fluctuations policy of the former US administration, at the end of B. Obama’s presidency there were contradictions in Washington’s relations with all regional centers of power, primarily with Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Thus, for example, Ankara was irritated by the active American support of Kurds from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the fight against ISIS (the bet on the PYD was partly the result of Washington’s attempt to create an effective anti-ISIS force «on the ground» from the detachments of «moderate» opposition). There have been cases when Turks carried out strikes on the forces of the PYD, which were supported by the US and in whose ranks there were the American advisers, which caused extreme discontent in Washington. Moreover, the parties could not agree on who would control the areas recaptured from the ISIS, which also served as an irritant in bilateral relations. As for Saudi Arabia, of course, a shock to the kingdom was the conclusion in July 2015 in Vienna of a Joint comprehensive plan of action to resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear program between the six international mediators and Iran with the participation of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Policy Security. The plan implied, in particular, a phased removal of sanctions from Tehran — the main rival of Riyadh in the region [16].


Excerpt from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) document.

This, of course, could not but affect the US-Saudi relations, which for a long time served as the «core» of American influence in the Persian Gulf region. We should also add a reduction in Washington’s control over its Middle Eastern partners to the already undermined confidence of the states of the region towards the United States. Thus, the Americans had to choose possible allies among the anti-Assad detachments «on the ground» from the «menu» prepared in advance by the regional players, who since the beginning of the Syrian crisis began to provide massive support to anti-government forces, most of which were of Islamist tone. Accordingly, Washington had to seek the fulfillment of various aspects of the US-Russian agreements not so much directly in contact with them, but through regional allies. The latter were by no means always ready to obey, receiving Washington’s recommendations, which often ran counter to their interests, and at times openly sabotaged these recommendations (examples — the failure of the US attempts to achieve the separation of «moderate» militants from Jabhat al-Nusra, or Washington’s inability to get anti-government groups to implement the Russian-American agreements of 9 September 2016 regarding the removal of opposing forces from the Castello road in Aleppo). Plus, the interdepartmental intra-American contradictions were superimposed on this, including disagreements between the Pentagon and the CIA, which relied on different groups in Syria.

Thus, internal and external «enemies» did not allow B. Obama and his administration to take a decisive step towards cooperation with Russia in the field of combating terrorism.

Cooperation in the fight against terrorism in Syria between Moscow and Washington under the new US administration would have a significant influence on the balance of power in the region.

Especially since D. Trump himself demonstrates his readiness to «deal fairly with everyone — all people and all other nations» and «seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict» [17]. Such a common ground could be exactly the fight against terrorism. It is obvious that the settlement of the protracted crisis in Syria is a complex process with many components. And putting a serious strike on the jihadists does not guarantee a shift in the resolution of the conflict. Here we can not do without a long and complicated process of inter-Syrian negotiations, without taking measures to restore confidence, without continuing the work to strengthen the ceasefire regime, and so on.

However, in a situation when the modern world order is increasingly tending towards polycentricity, and the regional centers of power are increasingly asserting their interests and willingness to vigorously and sometimes even aggressively defend them, there’s a risk of imbalance of the international system. In this situation, the demonstration by Moscow and Washington of unity in the fight against terrorism could become a serious disciplining signal for the remaining elements of the system of international relations, which means that in the long run it would contribute to increasing its stability and health in general, without which it is impossible to imagine the recovery and conflict-free development of many countries of the Middle East.

[1] Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at a joint press conference following talks with French Minister of Foreign Affairs and
International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault, Moscow, October 6, 2016 //

[2] «Russia Calling!» Investment Forum VTB Capital. October 12, 2016.

[3] Secretary Kerry Meets French Foreign Minister Ayrault. 7 October 2016 //

[4] Security Council. Seventy-first year. 7785th meeting. 8 October 2016. UN Documents S/PV.7785.

download the document here (right click — save as).

[5] Security Council. Seventy-first year. 7785th meeting. 8 October 2016. UN Documents S/PV.7785.

download the document here (right click — save as).

[6] Foreign Ministry statement in connection with Russia’s veto of the French-proposed UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria on October 8, 2016

[7] Security Council. Draft Resolution. 8 October 2016. UN Document S/2016/846.

download the document here (right click — save as).

[8] Syria War: Rebels Behead 12-Year-Old Boy on Video. 20 July 2016 //

[9] Materials prepared by the Russian military and containing data on anti-government groups in Aleppo, were distributed by S.V. Lavrov during the meeting of
the «Narrow Group» on Syria at the ministerial level in Lausanne on October 15, 2016.

[10] Security Council. Russian Federation: Draft Resolution. 8 October 2016. UN Document S/2016/847.

download the document here (right click — save as).

[11] Security Council. Russian Federation: Draft Resolution. 8 October 2016. UN Document S/2016/847.

download the document here (right click — save as).

[12] Egypt, New Zealand and Spain: draft resolution. 5 December 2016. UN Document S/2016/1026.

download the document here (right click — save as).

[13] 25 September 2016. Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Syria, Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura //

[14] Briefing thesises by the Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. December 9, 2016
(materials of the Ministry of Defense).

[15] Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at the end of the first day of the OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Hamburg,
December 8, 2016

[16] Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Vienna, July 14, 2015 //

[17] Transcript: Donald Trump’s Victory Speech // The New York Times. 2016. 9 November.