by Arthur Evans
The concept of a “transparent war” was launched by the Russian Army in 2017, and Russia continues the active implementation of it in Syria. At the beginning of September, several dozen journalists from various international media outlets returned from Syria. Most of them, accredited in Moscow, thanks to the Russian army, visited Damascus for the first time, although some had previously visited the blood-soaked Syrian land.
Given a large number of journalists, the group was briefed by Major General Igor Konashenkov himself, the main spokesman for the Ministry of Defense. People who organized the journalistic tours – it was they who were responsible for this very extensive program. In a short time, the Russian military has done its best to cover the maximum of facilities and work tasks of the Russian military by conducting journalistic tours. While doing so, the tours were conducted at high-security standards, bringing their position to foreign media. Journalists who went along with their Russian colleagues from other news outlets felt very relaxed and safe in the territory controlled by official Damascus.
What can a foreign journalist who goes with the Russian army see in Syria? First and foremost – the reach in the field of high defense technology. In front of foreign journalists, proudly marched a special battalion of the Syrian army fully trained by Russian military instructors, fully equipped and trained to the highest standards of training of Russian special forces.
At the same time, the Russians are letting Western media to their military bases, demonstrating a technique, high readiness of their units as well as the daily life of the military, such as vacations and housing. Considering that the Pentagon, in working with journalists, has long gone the step of observing the “daily lives of soldiers”, the Russians in this field still have to gain experience. Probably when asked by Igor Konashenkov’s department to allow Western journalists to live together with a Russian unit in Syria for a whole week, the Russian military would respond negative or plan to execute this operation for a very long time. However, a strong interest in the “transparent war” and a high interest of European readers in the lives of Russian soldiers in the combat zone will sooner or later allow one of the representatives of foreign media outlets to report on such a story. Showing a peaceful life in the liberated zones Russia can do nothing to make it look better than it really is. The ruins and mood of citizens speak for themselves. For most journalists, residents talk about hatred of the Islamic State, talk about dead family members and relatives, and the devastation of war.
Syrians, relying on themselves, are renewing their lives and building all from scratch. They build markets, coffee shops, etc. and this is not a myth but a reality. The Assad government is trying its best to support those who return to their hometowns and want to reclaim their pre-war lives, but unfortunately, Damascus is running low on resources. Nevertheless, with the help of Russian officials and Russian businessmen, production in the country is being restored. There is plenty of food and clothing in the shops and the markets, taxis and public translation are normally working in Damascus and Aleppo. The problem of the financial state of part of the population is still acute.
The war deprived people of apartments and houses as well as jobs. Recovery to 2011 levels without serious investment from Europe to Syria will be long and painful. And poverty is the main problem for returning refugees to their cities where there are no jobs. The biggest help would be a new investment in the Syrian economy and the end of the war. That’s what all the officials in Damascus are talking about. A month ago, the first serious European investors returned to Syria from the international hotel industry. However, this is not enough. The country needs peace, and Ankara is back on the Syrian border as Washington announces a new withdrawal. Yet an army of radical Islamists funded and trained by the West remains after the US withdrawal.
However, the achievements of the official Damascus over the last 5 years with Russian assistance is a great success. The country has been preserved, and it is already clear that the Russians have helped bring peace to much of the territory.
Check more images in original article (in Spanish), by Pablo Gonzales: Cuarto aniversario de la misión militar rusa en Siria (Parte 1)
NOTE: This article first appeared at Fort Russ.