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Russia's President Vladimir Putin aboard a plane on his way to the Russian Hmeimim air base. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev / TASS via Getty Images

Since New Year’s Eve, Russian bases in Syria have been attacked several times by swarms of armed drones that aren’t visible on radar, the WSJ reports. The greatest attack on Russia’s headquarters in the region comes as Russia is working out a drawback of troops, per The Washington Post.

Why it matters: The attacks suggest Russia’s gains in the region might just be temporary since they show that its presence can still be penetrated despite the fact that Putin has declared victory over enemies, WaPo’s Liz Sly reports.

The incidents also reveal some vulnerabilities in Russia’s preparedness for war in the region.

  • “Unlike U.S. forces, which cleared out insurgent groups block by block in Iraq, Russian troops have usually carpet-bombed areas where suspected enemy groups took refuge,” writes the WSJ’s Thomas Grove. “The tactic lowers vulnerability to insurgent violence but has left the military largely untrained in dealing with unconventional warfare.”
  • And unconventional warfare will continue to afflict the region.

No one has stepped forward to claim the attacks as their own. Different paths this could take:

  • A relatively unknown group called the Free Alawite Movement issued warnings the day after one of the attacks that “coming days will bring more pain for the Russians,” but the group didn’t claim the attacks.
  • Syrian rebel groups have drones, but usually use them for surveillance or dropping bombs, according to the WSJ. Rebel groups usually claim their movements.
  • The drones used have a more sophisticated capability than the drones ISIS usually uses, per WaPo.
  • Russian officials have suggested the U.S. or its allies might be behind the attacks, but the Pentagon says it played no role in the attacks.

The backdrop: After Russia got involved in the war in support of the Syrian regime, rebels in Latakia launched rockets towards Russia’s Hmeimim airbase, and launched mortars vers the Russian embassy in Damascus. In November when Vladimir Putin declared victory over enemies, he promised to make Russia’s presence permanent in Hmeimim and Russia’s naval service base.

Go deeper

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas case, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

Officials warn 5 key tech sectors will determine whether China overtakes U.S.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. intelligence officials responsible for protecting advanced technologies have narrowed their focus to five key sectors: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

Why it matters: China and Russia are employing a variety of legal and illegal methods to undermine and overtake U.S. dominance in these critical industries, officials warned in a new paper. Their success will determine "whether America remains the world’s leading superpower or is eclipsed by strategic competitors."

5 hours ago - Health

Pfizer says COVID vaccine over 90% effective in kids

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said their COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at protecting children between the ages of 5 and 11 from symptomatic infections from the virus, according to a study posted online by the FDA Friday.

Why it matters: Pfizer is seeking an emergency use authorization to vaccinate children — one of the last groups of Americans still largely ineligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

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