Ukrainian forces helped Syrian rebels attack Russian mercenaries in the Golan Heights earlier this year. The attack was not reported in the Western press, but was undertaken to prevent Moscow from recruiting and training more terrorists and soldiers for its armed forces.

Syria is a failed state and has become a staging ground for Moscow’s misadventures. Putin still has military bases and thousands of soldiers there, years after sending its troops to help President Bashar al-Assad crush pro-democratic movements. That civil war led to the world’s largest refugee crisis, and became the testing ground for Russian weapons and tactics that now destroy Ukraine. It was also where Hamas and others were trained to attack Israel and is now where Moscow continues to execute schemes aimed at destabilizing the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.


Just before October 7, Ukrainian intelligence tipped off Netanyahu that an attack out of Syria was imminent, but he didn’t heed the warning. However, this time Kyiv commandos obliterated training and recruiting centers there because, as a Syrian veteran explained, “Syrians and Ukrainians have the same enemy and the same killer”. And so does the West.

Russia destroys Aleppo 2015

Russia destroys Kyiv 2022

The Ukrainians didn’t ask anyone’s permission to attack Syria, and the video obtained by Kyiv Post and published on June 3, shows their special forces, with the help of Syrian opponents to the Bashar al-Assad regime, blow up Russian checkpoints, strongholds, foot patrols, and convoys of military equipment in the Golan Heights. Russian recruitment centers were also in their crosshairs and had been interviewing, training, and “loaning” men for years to the Russian Armed Forces as well as to terrorist groups. Syria is currently a favored posting for Russian soldiers because it’s not a war zone. “Syria, to many Russian soldiers, is like a holiday venue where they can serve to receive a better pension,” commented one officer in an interview.


However, it’s not a retirement haven either. A Politico piece – entitled “Russia is fighting more than one war” – related how Russia’s military has fought and committed atrocities in Syria, and in nearby nations, for eight years without signs of slowing. Its forces conduct indiscriminate attacks, kill US troops in the region, and represent a Russian time bomb, planted in the middle of a restive region ready to explode. The piece concluded that “the [ongoing] war in Syria is also a sad reminder that public attention in the West fades, and that the Syrian Civil War — once a central point in US foreign policy discussions – continues even after the vast majority of attention has shifted to other conflicts.”


Lest we forget, the Syrian Civil War began in 2011 when its people marched for democratic rights during the Arab Spring and ended badly in 2020. Al-Assad and his Russian thugs cracked down brutally. Some 600,000 died and Syria became the world’s largest refugee crisis, according to the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency). The country was simply dismantled and is no more. “Since 2011, more than 14 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety. More than 7.2 million Syrians remain internally displaced in their own country where 70 percent of the population is need of humanitarian assistance and 90 percent live below the poverty line. Approximately 5.5 million Syrian refugees live in the five countries neighboring Syria – Türkiye, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Germany is the largest non-neighboring host country with more than 850,000 Syrian refugees.”

Syria’s massive and scattered diaspora: Darker indicates more density

Moscow continues to export murder and mayhem from there and the country is now a drug mecca that manufactures and exports a stimulant called Captagon (also known as “The ISIS Drug” or a “poor man’s cocaine”). “The Assad regime has now morphed into more of a mafia organization than a government,” wrote The Washington Post. “Unless Syria is stopped from using trafficking to finance and fuel regional violence, the plagues of both drugs and terrorism throughout the region will only worsen.”


After Oct. 7, Israelis found that some captured Hamas militants were high on Captagon which likely contributed to their murderous rampage. Syrian President al-Assad is now a drug lord, becoming staggeringly wealthy because his military has the exclusive rights to produce the addictive drug. It is also a source of funds for Hamas and others who distribute it. Syria also sells millions of these addictive pills across the Middle East, exporting more misery and violence in the region.

Russia’s malice spreads from Syria to Libya. The eastern half of Libya is run by strongman military officer, Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who is a US citizen and former CIA asset. He’s gone rogue and made deals with Moscow. In April, Russian vessels began shipping thousands of tons of military equipment from a Russian port in Syria called Tartus to Libya’s port of Tobruk. The cargo included artillery, armored personnel carriers, and rocket launchers, according to news site Fawasel Media.


Russian military bases in Syria

In March, Euronews warned about the danger of letting Russia move into Libya. “A weak, Kremlin-influenced Libya is a threat to NATO and European security. With the gaze of much of the world fixed on the wars unfolding in Gaza and Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to expand his country’s reach in Africa. He is now using Libya as a steppingstone to position Russian submarines in the central Mediterranean and place nuclear weapons on Europe’s southern flank.”

Libya provides Russia with access to African nations where Wagner mercenaries are involved in civil wars or insurrections such as Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, wrote Defensenews. Washington’s Institute for the Study of War pointed out two other hazards: Russian cruise missiles installed in Libya could hit any target in Western Europe; and Libya is already helping smugglers ship boatloads of illegal migrants to Europe and can now further enhance Russia’s weaponization of migrant flows out of Africa. Already, Libya is accused of evading EU sanctions and laundering Russian gas for sale to Europe. So it’s little wonder that recently Moscow announced it will open a consulate in Benghazi and build a naval base there. “A Russian Mediterranean base in Libya would threaten Europe and NATO’s southern flank,” concluded the Institute.


Russia in Libya and Syria flanks Europe

These developments are further escalations by Russia in its war against Europe and the Middle East. A White House spokesman recently said, “keeping Russia out of the Mediterranean has been a key strategic objective,” but this has obviously failed. Unimpeded, Russia seeks another naval base on the Red Sea in Sudan – where it is enmeshed in another bloody civil war. The strategy is obvious. A base there would give Russia permanent access to the Suez Canal, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Peninsula.

The questions raised by these developments must be addressed: Why has the West and Israel simply allowed Russian ops to take root in Syria? Why was it left up to Ukraine to destroy Russian military architecture in Syria? Why didn’t Israel heed Ukraine’s warning about an imminent terrorist attack from there? Where’s the United States and NATO in all of this? For Syrians, it is too late to ever wrest back their nation-state, but it’s obvious that Moscow’s Syrian-Libyan nexus must be unraveled immediately. And this time, the warnings must be heeded.

Reprinted with the author’s permission. Read the original here.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post. 

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter