ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Although US President Donald Trump announced an immediate troop withdrawal from Syria in December, the Russian government thinks the US army will most likely stay longer than expected.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told TASS on Saturday that Moscow thinks Washington’s withdrawal process will take longer than expected.
“Controversial signals are coming, the schedule and the overall consequence of respective steps in the area,” he said, noting that the Russian foreign ministry is “monitoring the process.”
“We expect the process to be long, rather uncertain and controversial, but we’ll see,” Ryabkov stressed.
The Russian diplomat suggested that it would be better for US troops to leave Syria as fast as possible.
Dr. Maxim A. Suchkov, an expert of the Russian International Affairs Council and a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Russia Pulse, told Kurdistan 24 that Moscow is starting to believe “the inertia” of US foreign policy in the Middle East and around the world “is stronger than the will of President Trump.”
According to Suchkov, the Russians see Trump as isolated on his policy choices against the “will of the rest of his security and policy team, not to mention most of the political establishment in Washington.”
Even Russia’s President Vladimir Putin expressed his distrust in December. Putin said that “the US has been in Afghanistan for 17 years already, and almost every year they say that they’re pulling their troops out.”
On Sunday, Trump told reporters at the White House that US forces would not withdraw quickly. “I never said we’re doing it that quickly,” he said.
According to Trump, the US will leave Syria “at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight” the so-called Islamic State (IS).
Suchkov believes Russian skepticism over the US decision is driven by the fact that “its military posture enables America to have leverage in the Syrian conflict over Iran and Russia and to potentially seek to transform its military presence into a political capital on any further talks over Syrian settlement.”
He also suggested America’s aim to deter Iran from having a presence on the Syria-Iraq border is a key component to US foreign policy.
“All of these components are taken into account in Moscow, and are further aggravated by the heavy distrust between Russia and the US at this point in bilateral relations.”
Timur Akhmetov, a researcher at the Russian International Affairs Council, said Russia does not trust Trump’s words because his plans do not fit into a long-term US strategy “to contain Iran and to put pressure on Damascus into negotiations with the Syrian opposition.”
“This strategy would require a longer time to take effect meaning that it would outlive Trump’s presidency.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany