In its new Issue, Russia Direct explains why it’s too early to assign a grade to Russia’s military campaign in Syria and explores the potential of building a true anti-terrorism coalition that will unite Russia and the West.

Activists from a Muslim group pray for the victims of the attacks in Paris, in Kolkata, India, November 18, 2015. Photo: AP 

Ever since Moscow got involved in the Syrian civil war in October 2015, sending troops and military equipment to Syria, experts have assessed the challenges and implications of this decision for the stability of the Middle East as well as for Russian domestic security. Then, after the Kremlin announced a partial withdrawal of its forces from the country, many wondered what this decision might mean for the future of the crisis and the situation in the region.

Russia Direct explores these questions in its new Issue, “Terrorism: Inside Russia's Syria Campaign and the Global Fight Against Extremism,” which features analysis by both Russian and foreign scholars. The report also provides clues as to whether the recent terror attacks in Europe could lead to more active anti-terrorism cooperation between the EU and Russia.

Nikolay Surkov, associate professor at MGIMO University, examines the achievements and failures of Moscow’s campaign in Syria and gives an assessment of what challenges lie ahead for Russia in bringing peace to the war-torn nation. Building on his analysis of official and unofficial goals of the Kremlin’s involvement, he defines which of them were accomplished and which were not. In addition, Surkov explores what were the main consequences of the campaign for Russia and other regional actors. He also looks into how Moscow could potentially gain from an increased demand for Russian military hardware as a result of the Syrian military campaign.

Alexey Levinson, social research director at the Moscow-based Levada Center, shares his perspective on why Russians approved Putin’s gambit in Syria and reviews the reasons why the Kremlin’s information campaign around Syria was different in comparison to the one around Ukraine.

“In fact, Russian public opinion was not the major target of the Kremlin’s Syrian campaign,” the expert notes. “Putin needed Syria for other political reasons: It was a very successful move to strengthen Russia’s position in the international arena and his opponents recognized it.”

One of the factors that, according to state officials, prompted Russia’s involvement in the crisis was the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS) expanding its influence to Russia’s borders. On the background of recent terror attacks in Europe the question arises whether counter-terrorist forces from both Russia and the EU could find a way to exchange information and work together jointly to fight a common enemy.

Russia Direct brings together experts from Russia and the EU to assess such a possibility as well as the implications of failing to establish a united coalition.

Nadezhda Arbatova, head of the Department for European Political Studies at the Institute for World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) at the Russian Academy of Sciences, notes that, as long as relations between Russia and the West suffer from mutual distrust as a result of the Ukraine crisis, it is unlikely that a united coalition might emerge. However, she argues that, “There is simply no alternative to creating a broad anti-terrorism coalition.”

A European scholar, Nicolas Stockhammer from the University of Vienna, also agrees that a united coalition is a necessary prerequisite of any counter-terrorism effort. The main problem, according to him, is that Russia and the EU view the terrorist threat differently and it will probably take some time before a joint action could be undertaken.

Finally, the new Issue also features a special brief in which top Russia experts weigh in on the most important recent events in Russian foreign policy and domestic affairs. Pundits like Nicolai Petro (University of Rhode Island), Andrei P. Tsygankov (San Francisco State University), Dmitry Polikanov (PIR Center), Ivan Tsvetkov and Stanislav Tkachenko (both of St. Petersburg University) share their opinions on the events influencing Russian foreign policy.

What did Russia gain from its military campaign in Syria? Why is Europe more vulnerable to the terrorist threat than Russia and the U.S.? Download the new Issue and find out.