Earlier this week, news of a planned “full scale” assault on Aleppo, Syria’s second city, surfaced. An intelligence source told The Times that they expect a “crescendo of air attacks on Aleppo as part of Russia’s strategy to declare victory there.”
The planned assault by Vladimir Putin, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, will coincide with the US presidential election. It is thought this timing is deliberate: that Russia wants to exploit the fact the US will be distracted.
The news comes after weeks of heavy bombardment that has left 250,000 people trapped in the rebel-held east of the city without food, fuel or medical supplies. During this time, Russia has come under heavy criticism for killing civilians.
Mid-week, a “humanitarian pause” was announced ahead of the intensified attack: Putin has ordered a truce on 4th November, allowing temporary safe passage for civilians and rebel forces. The rebels have declined the offer.
But what, ultimately, does Putin hope to achieve in the city? A panel of experts answer.
It’s impulse—nothing more
Matt Qvortrup is Professor of Political Science and author of Angela Merkel: Europe’s Most Influential Leader (Duckworth 2016)
Vladimir Putin’s decision to introduce a “humanitarian pause” on the bombing in Aleppo was met with puzzlement. Most were thinking along the lines of the 19th Century Austrian Diplomat von Metternich who asked, “What did he mean by that?” when he heard that the French foreign minister Talleyrand had died. For some reason we are always assuming sinister motives based on the reasoning of a calculating chess-master when dealing with Putin. But he is not renowned for careful deliberation. From the youthful stories of how ‘little Voldoya” (his nickname) thumped a fellow citizen on the Moscow metro to his forays into eastern Ukraine, Putin’s style of government—and his approach to life—is based on impulsive action, not on rational calculation. He knows that the bombing is giving Russia a bad press she can ill afford. A humanitarian gesture might give him some much-needed goodwill. Putin acts, he doesn’t plan.