News By Country How did Putin test, modernize his army before waging...

How did Putin test, modernize his army before waging war on Ukraine?


n July 14, 2021, at a meeting with Russian helicopter company Rostvertol, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu stated that Moscow had tested more than 320 types of new weapons during military operations in Syria. Shoygu, who said, “In the meantime, we tested your helicopters as well,” had underlined that the new helicopters equipped with state-of-the-art technologies were produced completely thanks to the “experience in Syria.”

The Russian military, which actively launched operations in Syria as of fall 2015, to prevent the Bashar Assad regime from falling, conducted exactly 6,833 air raids until March 2018. Only 14 percent of these attacks targeted Daesh, as it was mostly civilian settlement areas that were bombed. The total number of people who died as of March 2021 due to operations by Russian warplanes is close to 90,000. However, the real figures can most likely never be revealed, as foreign observation institutes stopped counting after a certain point. As the Russian military and the Assad administration consider everyone who was killed a “terrorist” or “terror-affiliated,” their figures are hardly credible.

Military intervention in Syria not only afforded Russia the opportunity to modernize its army by testing new weapons and determining the deficiencies of its equipment, but it also carried Moscow to the top of the armament race in the Middle East. The orders the Russian weapon industry received from Middle Eastern countries in 2018 and 2019 soared to $55 billion. According to sectoral reports, the increase in Russian weapons exports in 2017-2019 was a whopping 102 percent. The deal signed with Egypt alone in 2019 is worth $2 billion.

The numerous analyses published in the world press since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion in Ukraine last week point to the following common denominator: Russia was able to enter Ukraine with the confidence it built up as a result of the war and weapons experience it gained in Syria. Let us highlight one aspect that Western analysts gloss over: Russia was able to enter Ukraine with the experience it gained in Syria, at the cost of tens of thousands of Muslim lives. 

The invasion of Ukraine once more brought to light the racism, discrimination, and elitism in the West’s genetic coding. For days now, we have heard Western journalists saying, “Ukraine is not Iraq or Afghanistan; how can such an invasion be possible?!” We see that the refugees fleeing into Europe are selected and segregated based on their skin color. We are witnessing the “millions,” who were nowhere to be seen as various countries of the Muslim world were being invaded one by one, flock to the streets in European capitals to protest Russia’s invasion.

Similar inconsistencies and chains of contradictions exist here, in the actual definition of imperialism as well. The vast majority perceive “imperialism” to be made up solely of Western countries – particularly the U.S. Therefore, explaining Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as, “Putin was forced to conduct this operation because of NATO,” is quite common. Those attributing expansionism solely to the “West” or to the U.S. suddenly go silent when Russia or China does the same thing—or they try to conceal it with a veil of ridiculous statements. Whereas, while Russia was gradually invading Crimea, the Caucasus, or the Muslim region in Asia in the past, NATO was nowhere to be seen.

Therefore, analyses that seek a historical perspective without trying to relate every matter to NATO are also necessary.

One of the most active topics of debate since the start of Ukraine’s invasion is why Europe deprived Muslims of the excessive compassion it is now displaying toward Ukrainians. The same question should probably also be formulated as to why the change of administration by force, through expansionism, imperialism, or weapons, is ascribed to Europe or to the U.S. alone. Or perhaps we should ask why the world didn’t voice solidarity with the hundreds and thousands of Muslims who were being slaughtered by the U.S., Russia, as well as their allies, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and other regions.

The people of the modern world are not only cherry-picking which of the oppressed they stand in solidarity with, but pre-conditioned to blindly accept the wars waged by “imperial states” of the Western world. In this case, the result is not a conscientious stance or efforts to protect human honor, but simply discrimination.

Taha Kılınç
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