Russia wants to establish a new military base in a part of Syria perilously close to an area that American troops have been charged with defending, heightening the risk of a confrontation from either an unintentional skirmish or a deliberate provocation, U.S. News and World Report informs.
Analysts believe the potential for new fighting in northeast Syria is particularly high as Russia seeks to test the resolve of the U.S. and its allies following President Donald Trump’s hasty decision to withdraw from the region last month.
“This is a new phase that the U.S. hasn’t dealt with before,” says John Dunford, a research assistant at the Institute for the Study of War, which tracks the movement of forces in the region. “As we move into a new phase of war, northeast Syria becomes more and more compacted with different forces.”
U.S. troops, under orders from the President to secure oil fields in northeast Syria, last week reportedly began patrolling near the strategically important Syrian town of Qamishli adjacent to the Turkish border, which essentially serves as a gateway into the region.
That area is also home to a new Russian air base established in coordination with Turkey since the U.S. withdrawal, seemingly in an attempt to exert military control of the region. Moscow has touted in recent days that it has used the base for what it calls humanitarian missions to help locals return to their homes but also as a key military hub for its air force to protect new patrols it has deployed. Those troops operate in coordination with forces loyal to the regime of Bashar Assad, at numbers unseen since the start of the conflict, the news outlet noted.
“The smallest form of miscalculation or incident could lead to an escalation that could threaten U.S. forces patrolling in this area,” Dunford says.
The sudden influx and convergence of opposing forces in a confined region would be damaging enough for American interests. But Russia’s increased air forces and electronic warfare capabilities also threaten to erode the technological dominance that U.S. forces have maintained there in recent years.