Over 100 Russian mercenaries are dead after attacking U.S.-backed forces in Syria, according to astonishing new reports.
It is the deadliest clash between U.S. and Russian-backed forces since the Cold War.
The Russian mercenary soldiers were fighting for oppressive Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Bloomberg called the battle “the deadliest clash between citizens of the former foes since the Cold War.”
More than 200 contract soldiers, mostly Russians fighting on behalf of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, died in a failed attack on a base held by U.S. and mainly Kurdish forces in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region, two of the Russians said. The U.S. official put the death toll in the fighting at about 100, with 200 to 300 injured, but was unable to say how many were Russians.
As soon as they were fired upon the Kurdish forces returned fire and with devastating effect.
American officials think the attack may have been a “rogue” local initiative and were reluctant to say it was given the greenlight by the Kremlin back in Mother Russia.
A spokesman for the U.S. military, Colonel Thomas F. Veale, said that the Assad-linked forces advanced in a “battalion-sized formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars” and fired rounds at the Kurdish/U.S. base.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s government has still not issued any statements about the battle that was so disastrous for his forces, although this report from the New York Post explains how Putin had to approve the attack on U.S. forces.
Not every Russian ignored the event. “This is a big scandal and a reason for an acute international crisis,” said Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat and lawmaker who’s now an independent political analyst. “But Russia will pretend nothing happened.”
U.S. officials are also unsure of just who has been paying the salaries of the Russian mercs.
“It’s not clear who was paying the Russian contingent, whether it was Russia directly, Syria, Iran or a third party,” Bloomberg said.
But it does appear that Russia doesn’t want this loss to lead to increased confrontations.
“No one wants to start a world war over a volunteer or a mercenary who wasn’t sent by the state and was hit by Americans,” Vitaly Naumkin, a senior Russian adviser on Syrian policy, said, according to Bloomberg.
Still, Russia has been the sole reason Assad has remained in power. As Bloomberg noted:
Putin, with Iran’s help, turned the tide of the seven-year war by committing air and manpower to buoy Assad’s beleaguered forces in 2015, quieting U.S. calls for the Syrian leader’s immediate removal. With Islamic State, which once controlled large swaths of Syria, now largely defeated, rival powers and militias are fighting in various combinations to fill the vacuum. Russia, Iran, Israel and Turkey have all had aircraft shot down in or near Syria this month.
This battle so disastrous to Russia’s forces was not the only incident where the U.S. took out Russians. Sometime after this battle a U.S. drone also took out a Russian T-72 battle tank near Al Tabiyeh, Syria.
According to Business Insider:
A US drone operating in Syria destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank near Al Tabiyeh, Syria, on Saturday, a Pentagon representative confirmed to Business Insider on Tuesday.
“The tank had been maneuvering with coordinated indirect fire on a defensive position occupied by Syrian Democratic Forces and Coalition advisers,” US Marine Corps Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway said, adding that the SDF’s “position was within effective range of the hostile weapons systems.”
“The T-72 battle tank was a 1970s Soviet-era design that has seen heavy upgrades and use in the Syrian theater,” BI noted. “The Pentagon reported that T-72s took part in the attack on the SDF headquarters on Wednesday.”
These confrontations between U.S. and Russian forces mark some of the first times the two nations have gone head-to-head in battle for decades.
[Note: This post was written by Warner Todd Huston]