Russia has vowed to block any military intervention in Syria. The last warning came from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who, during a press conference in Moscow, repeated that Russia will veto any attempt to obtain UN approval for deploying military measures against Syria. He added that, "If some people intend to use force at any cost… they must do it on their own initiative and confronting themselves with their own conscience. But they will never obtain the authorization of the UN Security Council."

Of course, as it is fully expected that if Syrian President Bashar Assad is overthrown, the Muslim Brotherhood will take over Syria, Russia's determination to protect him should probably be welcomed.

Syria has been a longstanding ally of Russia, going back to earlier that the Assad family seized power. In the 1970s, Moscow signed a military agreement with Damascus that included facilities for Russian navy and air force but which also effectively made Syria one of the best clients for the purchase of Russian weaponry: jet fighters, different types of missiles and light weapons. This trade continued even after the supposed end of the cold war. At present, 90% of Syrian weaponry is of Russian origin.

Russia's stance on Syria, however, cannot be explained merely in terms of commercial convenience. Geopolitical considerations and the acquisition of positions of strength are what are inspiring today's policies in Russia.. The word "democratization" is not in Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's lexicon, and could partially explain the negative attitude Russia is having over the Arab revolutions, probably out of concern that revoution could be infectious. Russian analyst Alexander Golts recently considered that Putin "is convinced that any popular protest in any part of the world, and especially in the Middle East and Russia, is inspired by the White House and sponsored by the State Department." But Putin's rivalry with the United States preceded the "Arab Spring," and is also doubtless a factor. So Russia flexes its muscles and weaves a large network of strategic agreements with all those countries that are against American interests; Syria happens to be one of them.

Internationalization of the Conflict to Prevent International Interference

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, meanwhile, is taking advantage of the Russian backing to gain more time against the demonstrators. As the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar put it, Syria is relying on the internationalization of the conflict to prevent international interference. The Lebanese newspaper mentions that Assad is skillfully playing Syria's "Russian card" to form a barrier against any military intervention that might oppose his regime. An-Nahar further explains that Russia is playing the role of the international repelling-barrier, whereas Iran -– which Russia is also supporting against U.S. sanctions -- is playing the regional repelling-barrier. Iran is trying to threaten Gulf countries not to take measures against Syria. In support of Assad, Russia has dispatched its naval task force in the Syrian port of Tartus to show that any international intervention will transform Syria into a new Afghanistan. Another Lebanese newspaper, As-Safir ,mentions that the presence of the Russian fleet is the final assertion that Syria has become the epicenter over the division of powers: Russia standing with Syria and Iran against the US and its Western allies. In other words, the Syrian crisis represents the start -- or middle -- of a new cold war.

Putin is also seeking reelection to the Russian presidency in March; according to Russian analyst Alexander Golts, Putin will try to show in the next months that Russia is a superpower that can compete with the U.S., and that he is the man to revive nationalistic and hegemonic ambitions. Further, Golts says that the closer to the March election, the more Putin will try to produce evidence to indicate U.S. involvement in the demonstrations against him in Russia. A key point of Putin's presidential campaign agenda is to raise anti-American feelings in the country to prevent the West from interfering in his reelection. As Golts said, "Russia will be locking the United States in a fight over Syria […] only to prevent its alleged involvement in the Russian domestic affairs on the eve of the presidential vote."

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