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AVAILABLE EXPERT – Russian involvement in Syria

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Queen’s University security expert, Christian Leuprecht, is available to comment on the growing presence of Russian military forces and equipment in Syria, adding to concerns that Russian involvement in the ongoing conflict against the so-called Islamic State could prove destabilizing.  

“Russia appears to be providing the Syrian government with ever more advanced equipment – which also means that Russia must be providing the requisite training to go along with flying Russian warplanes that are far newer and more advanced than what the remnants of the Syrian air force,” says Dr. Leuprecht.  “On the other hand, Russia itself appears to be deploying its own troops and equipment.“

Satellite pictures published on Tuesday by IHS Janes shows the Russians constructing two air bases north of the Latakia airport near the coast, an Alawite stronghold.  Over the weekend four warplanes were sighted in Syrian territory. By Tuesday, there were dozens of fighter jets and air-to-ground warplanes, along with six attack helicopters.  The New York Times had already reported 15 helicopters, nine T-90 tanks, and 500 Russian Marines on the ground. 

“But what is the purpose of this deployment?  Simply to send a signal to ISIS that Russia is prepared to defend its last naval “base” on foreign soil; to become active in fighting the rebels; or for Russia to bolster its foothold in the region?  One of the strategic puzzles here is the deployment for SA-22 surface-to-air missiles, presumably to defend Russia’s new air bases.  But ISIS does not have an air force.  The concern, then, is that these air defence systems could be used to deny Syrian airspace to American and French planes,” says Dr. Leuprecht.

To arrange an interview, please contact communications officer Chris Armes (613-533-6000 ext. 77513 or chris.armes@queensu.ca) or Anne Craig (613-533-2877 or anne.craig@queensu.ca) at Queen’s University News and Media Services Department in Kingston, Ont., Canada.

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