Prelude to Ukraine: Russia's Intervention in the Syrian Civil War

Seminars and Colloquia

The talk outlined Russia's intervention, in league with Iran, in the Syrian civil war and its role in enabling Bashar al Assad to remain in power in a truncated Syria. Russia's intervention was primarily through air power, with fighting on the ground assigned to Iran and its allied militia.

This intervention followed the invasion of Georgia and the annexation of Crimea and was instrumental in creating the impression that Putin has found the formula for the effective use of military power in the service of an aggressive foreign policy. The intervention included indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets. Washington's passive posture prior to the intervention and in its aftermath must have encouraged Putin to continue with the same policies. It was only after the invasion of Ukraine that Russia's feet of clay were exposed. Russia's close cooperation with Iran contributed to their cooperation in Ukraine.

Itamar Rabinovich is Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University as well as distinguished Professor and Fellow at New York University and the Brookings Institution. He is the founder and current president of the Israel Institute. He was Ambassador of Israel to the U.S. from 1993 to 1996 and chief negotiator with Syria between 1993 and 1995. He has published several books and essays on Modern History and Politics of the Middle East. His most recent books include The Lingering Conflict: Israel, The Arabs, and the Middle East, 1948–2012 (2013); Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman (2017) and Syrian Requiem: The Syrian Civil War and its Aftermath (Princeton University Press, 2021 with Carmit Valensi). Rabinovich is presently Visiting Fellow at the IWM in Vienna, where he is working on the completion and publication of his new book, Middle Eastern Maze: Israel, The Arabs and The Region 1948–2022, in three languages.

Ivan Krastev, IWM Permanent Fellow, provided commentary and moderated the ensuing discussion.


Fellows Colloquia are internal events for the IWM Visiting Fellows and Guests.