According to information from Syria, Bashar al-Assad agreed with Russia’s demand to send part of his military troops into Ukraine and allow active recruitment.
As the negotiations between Assad and the Kremlin started in early March, it was assumed that regular units would not be involved except for those militaries who would express the will to participate in the war against Ukraine. Still, Moscow got carte blanche for mass recruitment among tribal militias and other paramilitary formations. The key accent was planned to be put on recruitment of two Christian militias fighting on Assad’s side referring to a common religion. The leitmotif of recruitment was that Russia had saved Syria and now the last one should pay its debt with blood. The topic of “paying back the debt” has long been manipulated in Assad’s troops and they were forced to sign various gratitude texts to RF in groups or individually with oaths to “pay back the debt with blood”.
Pro-Assad local television and radio channel “Deir ez-Zur 24” was the first to start such recruitment. It was the one to announce on March 11 that Russia promises to feed and pay 1,500 euros per month to those fighting against Ukraine. Basically, Russian media take information from this channel when they inform about arriving Syrian volunteers. However, the Armed Forces of Ukraine has not met any of these Syrians, neither alive nor dead. American CNN has also reported about sending these mercenaries to Russia relying on its sources in Syria.
Still, recruitment of Syrians willing to participate in war with Ukraine is far not so successful as Moscow would like it to be. The number of 400 and more mercenaries leaving for Russia was not even mentioned by the media. In reality, this number could be ten times less.
Assad supporters are not thrilled about going to Ukraine. Some of them publicly said that Russia desires the impossible and it is irrational to go to war with Ukraine before the left bank of Evfrat, Idlib and other territories are conquered. They are politely telling Moscow that it first should help to get back their own territories, including Golan heights and afterwards they will be open to help Moscow. Syrians are also hesitant since the Kremlin wanted to conquer Kyiv in 3 days, occupy the whole Ukraine in two-three weeks and now the war is going to take a month at minimum. They understand that things are not going according to plan.
This situation does not suit the Kremlin, and in recent days it has pressed Assad hard to provide 40,000 soldiers from his regular forces if he is unable to help with recruitment among tribal and religious militias. The Kremlin reassures him that the U.S. is now fully engaged in Ukraine, while Turkey is also actively involved in making peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Moscow assures Assad that as long as the 102nd Russian military base with its aircraft is in the Armenian city of Gyumri, he is not threatened by anything and can lend Russia 40,000 soldiers for a month. During this period, neither Turkey nor anyone else will attack him. Moscow promises to return the remains of the staff to the country. Damascus is not happy with such an offer, but Moscow keeps being tough. So Siria has to agree on the condition of advance payment.
Nevertheless, the Kremlin misses 2 important points: even if Assad Syria semi-official joins the war it will change the situation drastically, and also the position of China, which didn’t give them such permission. Currently, it’s hard to tell what will be the reaction of Beijing, but it’s going to be a strong sign of Moscow’s military weakness with pretty clear consequences.