posted on Jul, 20 2012 @ 03:27 AM
Russias concern is to deny victory to the west,
Moscow will not give up Damascus, as Russia’s foreign minister has made clear – despite rebels’ latest success in targeting the heart of the
Assad regime. At stake here, beyond Syria, is the restoration of Russian power in relation to the west.
Russia’s relations with Syria date back to the emigration to Turkey and Syria of Circassian minorities in the 19th century and this link still
influences Russia’s perception of the Syrian crisis. The fear is that chaos in Syria, if followed by an Islamist victory, might radicalise the
Russian Caucasus. Moreover, Syria has traditionally been a counterweight to Turkey, especially when Turkish-Syrian relations were troubled. If the
Damascus regime fell, Moscow’s southern flank would be weakened. Indeed, the regime’s fall would cut Russia out of the Middle East, where it has
met with one setback after another over the past 50 years.
Of course, the counter-argument is that the more Moscow supports Damascus, the more it jeopardises its position in Syria. But Russia does not think in
these terms. It does not seek to adapt to a changing world but to return to the old world by preserving what is left of it. Russia is fighting
national decline not with renewal or development but with systematic political obstruction.
Russia’s decline in the Middle East began in 1971, when Anwar Sadat. president of Egypt, expelled Soviet military advisers. The Russians were unable
to make up for this defeat in the region because Iraq was too unpredictable and Iran too uncontrollable. Syria has the advantage of being highly
predictable and perfectly controllable. It is predictable because Syrians have always known just how far to push against the west or Israel – their
realism evident in Damascus’s silence after Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor Syria was building with the help of North Korea. It is also
controllable because the country has very few allies besides Russia and Iran. The regime has no cards to play and, despite an apparent opening to the
west in recent years, is unreformed.
Moscow sees Syria as the perfect friend. Relations might sometimes be strained by the big military debt Damascus has incurred with Moscow. Yet the
stability of Syrian policy is appealing to the Russians because it closely resembles theirs. Both countries defend their interests by compromising as
little as possible with the west, short of resorting to force. Both maintain authoritarian and nationalist regimes for which doing business with the
west need not imply adopting its model of democracy and human rights. There have been close contacts between the Russian and Syrian elites since the
mid-1950s, especially between their armies and intelligence communities