Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February has provoked a battle of nationwide resistance. Whereas some have described the invasion as “the largest assault on a European state since World Warfare Two,” newer conflicts could reveal what’s more likely to unfold because the battle continues. The continuing battle in Syria could also be significantly instructive: Each Ukraine and Syria are — or have been — comparatively industrialized nations, and Russia both brought on or has been a number one antagonist in these wars. Particularly, the character of the battle, the presence of overseas fighters, and the refugee disaster that got here to characterize the Syrian civil battle could portend what’s to come back in Ukraine.
The Russian navy more and more seems to be making use of the tactical classes it realized from its intervention in Syria to the battle in Ukraine. In Syria, densely populated cities usually mounted vital resistance to the Assad regime. In response, the first antagonists within the Syrian civil battle, the Assad regime and its Russian backers, relied on siege warfare. This method restricted useful resource flows into the cities, breaking provide strains and crushing civilian help for fighters in city facilities.
To breach metropolis defenses, the Russian navy then indiscriminately bombed them — destroying civilian infrastructure like hospitals alongside navy targets. Though civilian casualties mounted, city shelling enabled the Russian-allied Syrian authorities to recapture territory road by road. Past city warfare and indiscriminate bombing, the Assad regime additionally unleashed chemical weapons, together with sarin nerve gasoline, in Syria to suppress and defeat resistance, allegedly aided and abetted by Russia.
Russia’s ways in Ukraine present putting similarities to these utilized in Syria. Over the previous month and a half the Russian navy besieged and encircled cities and surrounding areas, like Mariupol and Kyiv. They indiscriminately bombed these areas, usually leaving civilians who have been unable to flee alongside Ukrainian navy models. They’ve focused theaters, hospitals, and practice stations in addition to navy targets, inflicting over 1,800 estimated Ukrainian civilian deaths. On the similar time, the U.S. authorities has more and more raised alarms in regards to the potential for Russian use of chemical weapons in Ukraine.
Russia’s seven-year involvement within the civil battle in Syria means that city warfare ways of indiscriminate bombing and concentrating on of civilian infrastructure are more likely to proceed, if not worsen, in Ukraine. The doable penalties of such a brutal method will probably be not solely widespread devastation of Ukraine’s infrastructure and financial system but additionally vital civilian casualties.
The depth of the battle in Syria was inconsistently distributed throughout the nation. All through the battle, sure areas noticed intense preventing and contestation, with management of locations like Raqqa altering palms a number of occasions. Different areas, like Tartous, have prevented vital battles and largely remained underneath authorities management. Even when preventing severed ties between cities and the central Syrian state, civilians in these locations performed a major position in organizing day-to-day life and sustaining normalcy to the best extent doable.
Equally, in Ukraine the depth of battle has diversified considerably from area to area. Strategic areas and cities within the south and east of the nation have been scenes of extreme preventing, whereas most cities within the west stay largely untouched. In locations the place Russia has defeated Ukrainian forces, the Russian navy has begun to form native governance and administration by figuring out political collaborators, kidnapping politicians who resist Russian rule, and enjoying Russian propaganda over the airwaves. Civilians’ peaceable protests towards Russian occupation are met with threats to chop entry to water and electrical energy. If Russia’s remedy of its personal residents is any indication, Russian oppression of Ukrainian civilians could intensify as opposition to Moscow’s rule will increase. Certainly, the atrocities at Bucha are a sign of how Russia will consolidate political energy and authority in occupied territories. If Kyiv falls or the Russian navy breaks ties between the capital and different cities, civilians and political leaders elsewhere might have to determine self-reliant administrative methods to take care of each day life whereas defending towards Russian assaults. This would come with offering providers like trash assortment, electrical energy, education, and well being care.
The inflow of overseas fighters to Syria featured prominently in protection of the civil battle. Aspiring troopers flocked to hitch the ranks of various sides, with leftists becoming a member of Kurdish fighters, whereas jihadists from Russia to Australia joined the Islamic State. Because the battle has moved to a detailed, the repatriation and reintegration of those overseas fighters has grow to be an more and more fraught safety concern. Governments are hesitant to permit the return of people who could have fight coaching, connections to armed teams globally, and resentment towards their house nation: a potent mixture for potential violence of their house nations.
Likewise, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted individuals from all over the world to journey to Ukraine to combat. Nevertheless, the presence of overseas fighters has raised issues that the battle may unfold extremist right-wing ideologies. Although most overseas fighters don’t have any connection to right-wing extremism, and traditionally they’ve usually been handled as “cannon fodder” in different conflicts, extremists could achieve abilities that they might deliver again house and would possibly make them extra deadly home terrorists. As violence by right-wing extremists is already on the rise, governments ought to more and more monitor the hazards of right-wing extremists with fight expertise and international connections to like-minded supporters.
The Syrian civil battle brought on almost 7 million individuals to flee overseas to flee the violence that engulfed the nation, alongside one other almost 7 million who’re internally displaced. Though some Syrians resettled in Europe, the overwhelming majority of refugees (5.5 million) are in neighboring nations within the Center East, primarily Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Lebanon, for example, absorbed way more Syrian refugees relative to its inhabitants than another nation on the earth: virtually 25% of Lebanon’s inhabitants. These refugees have offered distinctive challenges to host governments whereas exacerbating present issues (similar to trash assortment and site visitors).
An estimated 4 million Ukrainians have already fled the violence to neighboring European nations like Poland and Romania, which have been uncharacteristically beneficiant in accepting refugees from Ukraine. One other 7 million Ukrainians have been displaced internally. Although host nation hospitality ought to proceed, governments ought to keep in mind the pressing wants of refugees — from fundamental requirements like meals, clothes, and well being care to longer-term necessities like education, housing, and employment — in addition to the extra challenges to each day life ensuing from the fast and big inflow of individuals. These challenges are more likely to persist throughout the battle and for years after.
Takeaways for US coverage
The similarities between the battle in Syria and Ukraine provide many classes for U.S. policymakers. City warfare is more likely to be a continued characteristic of the battle. U.S. navy help ought to embrace weapons and defensive tools fitted to use in city environments, and personnel who’ve technical experience in utilizing these weapons in densely populated environments needs to be made accessible to their Ukrainian counterparts. On the similar time, U.S. help to Ukraine ought to embrace humanitarian support that dietary supplements the numerous lack of civilian infrastructure: hospitals, utilities like electrical energy and communications, and meals.
The uneven distribution of battle additionally implies that some areas of Ukraine may face larger devastation than others. Given the indiscriminate violence towards civilians by Russian forces that some have thought-about to be genocidal, to the extent that it’s logistically possible, the U.S. could need to contemplate doable help for self-defense and administrative self-reliance efforts by Ukrainian civilians who fall exterior the safety of the Ukrainian navy. This might probably draw classes from U.S. help to Syrian Kurdish defensive and governance efforts towards the Islamic State.
Whereas the battle stays ongoing, the USA ought to improve the variety of refugees it takes in from Ukraine and elsewhere. Rising refugee flows into the USA will alleviate the pressures to help refugees in nations that neighbor conflict-affected states.
The U.S. must also contemplate what victory appears to be like like and the set of post-conflict insurance policies that have an effect on Ukraine, Europe, and the USA. In Syria, it isn’t clear what victory appears to be like like. The Assad regime may stay in energy, posing a possible menace to one-time U.S. allies, the Syrian Kurds, whereas the regime’s reference to Russia additionally weakens U.S. affect within the area. The endgame in Ukraine is equally unclear. A negotiated settlement may give Russia the time to reorganize, regroup, and higher put together itself for an intensified assault. Equally, for Ukraine the whole liberation of its territory from Russia leaves few ensures towards future invasion in need of extra widespread safety ensures. A victorious Russia that ends in regime change may equally set off civil battle and resistance towards overseas imperialism, doubtless headed by any remaining Ukrainian navy and political leaders.
If the battle does come to a detailed and Ukraine liberates its territory from Russian occupation, post-conflict reconstruction will probably be an extended and arduous course of. U.S. overseas coverage ought to deal with aiding the reconstruction of civilian emergency providers, utilities, and rebuilding houses, roadways, and transit methods for refugees to return. In Europe, the reliance on Russian oil, gasoline, and coal stays a safety danger. The U.S. now has a chance to advertise and put money into renewable energies that might weaken the Russian financial system whereas additionally progressing towards international local weather targets. Lastly, the USA needs to be involved in regards to the potential for returning right-wing extremists. Although unlikely, the already excessive exercise of right-wing extremists in the USA may make people who combat in Ukraine and grow to be radicalized by right-wing ideology particularly deadly or higher capable of recruit others in pursuit of violent and devastating ends.
The battle in Ukraine is exclusive in that it’s an interstate battle of conquest and annexation, not seen for a few years within the worldwide system. Nonetheless, the USA can nonetheless study key classes in regards to the dynamics that would outline this battle from different conflicts, particularly these through which Russia is a number one antagonist. Moderately than method the battle in Ukraine as particular or distinctive as a result of it’s unfolding in Europe, the U.S. ought to look to the Syrian civil battle, which can present a helpful set of classes realized and insurance policies to contemplate each within the close to and long run.
Megan A. Stewart is an Assistant Professor at American College’s Faculty of Worldwide Service and a Non-Resident Scholar with MEI’s Protection and Safety Program. The opinions expressed on this piece are her personal.
Photograph by Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Company through Getty Pictures