The Wall Street Journal first reported that the Russians, who entered Syria’s civil war to help the embattled regime of Presiden Bashar al-Assad, is now seeking Syrian fighters and other foreign nationals to fight in Ukraine where Russian forces will face an urban battle, similar to what the Russian proxies did in Syria.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby was asked about the reports and confirmed that Washington believes them. “We do believe that the accounts of them – the Russians – seeking Syrian fighters to augment their forces in Ukraine, we believe there’s truth to that,” he said to the media during a press conference.
“It’s interesting that Mr. Putin would have to find himself relying on foreign fighters here,” Kirby said, though he admitted that Washington doesn’t have a clear picture of everything that is going on the ground there.
How Many Syrian Troops, And What Quality Are They?
While one official said Syrian proxies are already on the ground in Russia, it isn’t known how many troops have answered Russia’s call, what the quality of these troops are and how they’ll be used.
Some analysts believe that the Russian troops, who have already suffered a large number of casualties, many among their conscript soldiers, have scant experience in urban warfare. And they’re probably expecting a high number of casualties as the fighting is expected to be bloody house-to-house fighting. Russian President Vladimir Putin won’t have to answer for those deaths.
While military officials in Washington believe that the troops were recruited for their experience in urban warfare, a Syrian newspaper located in Syria, Deir Ezzor 24 was advertising for Syrian fighters to go to Ukraine for a period of six months to “act as guards” and be paid between $200-$300 US dollars a month. They specifically were advertising for Syrians who fought for the Russians in Libya.
It is another serious escalation for the Russians who have already used Chechen forces, who were sent into Kyiv to assassinate key Ukrainian leaders and were reportedly wiped out during their advance on Kyiv. The Syrian troops have ties to the mercenaries from the Wagner Group, who were transferred from the Middle East to Ukraine. Wagner mercs have fought in Libya, Syria, as well as in the Donbas.
Russia Threatened Mercenaries Fighting For Ukraine:
The Ukrainian government also advertised for foreign fighters to fight for Ukraine’s survival, a move which the Russians condemned and threatened to treat as criminals if they were captured. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov on March 3, told Russian state-run news media threatened any foreigners caught under arms in Ukraine.
“None of the mercenaries the West is sending to Ukraine to fight for the nationalist regime in Kyiv can be considered as combatants in accordance with international humanitarian law or enjoy the status of prisoners of war,” he said.
“At best, they can expect to be prosecuted as criminals,” added Konashenkov. “We are urging all foreign citizens who may have plans to go and fight for Kyiv’s nationalist regime to think a dozen times before getting on the way.”
Troubling Signs for the Myth Of Russian Invincibility:
The fighting in Ukraine has bogged down badly for the Russian military. And while Western military analysts believe that they will ultimately prevail due to overwhelming advantage in troops, armor, artillery, and aircraft, this invasion has gone poorly for and reflected badly on the Russian military.
Andrei V. Kozyrev, the foreign minister for Russia under Boris Yeltsin, said, “The Kremlin spent the last 20 years trying to modernize its military,” in a post on social media.
“Much of that budget was stolen and spent on mega-yachts in Cyprus. But as a military advisor, you cannot report that to the President. So they reported lies to him instead. Potemkin military.”
Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the head of the Russian military, had reportedly studied the US military’s wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan and wanted to modernize their tactics and equipment to make it a more effective fight force. But with centralized, risk-averse senior officers, junior officers not allowed to act independently, and an NCO corps that isn’t allowed to make on-the-spot decisions.
Now they are turning to foreigners who will apparently be used as cannon fodder.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for more than 10 years and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.