Russia Waged a Cheap War in Syria. Here’s What Those Tactics Might Look Like in Ukraine

This post originally appeared as "Russia waged a cheap war in Syria. Here’s what those tactics might look like in Ukraine"in The Monkey Cage at The Washington Post on March 11, 2022. Reprinted here with permission.

Russian troops are increasingly bogged down in Ukraine—and global sanctions have hit the Russian economy hard. As the economic costs of invading Ukraine rise, will the Kremlin look at cost-saving warfare strategies it used in Syria? The bombing of Ukrainian hospitals suggests Russia may be doing this already.

Our research on Russia’s campaign in Syria offers insights into what those strategies might entail. In Syria, Russian troops shifted the course of a civil war by destroying critical infrastructure from the air, deploying widespread siege tactics, and using paramilitary and local fighters to advance the country’s goals. If Russia’s intervention in Ukraine drags on, our findings suggest that Russian strategies along these lines will raise the costs for civilians significantly.

Will Todman
Deputy Director and Senior Fellow, Middle East Program