Russia's Support for al-Asad's Syria: Reasons Old and New
Since 2005, Russia and Syria enjoyed a close relationship. The Syrian uprisings put this alliance to the test, and yet Russia continues supporting Bashar al-Asad’s regime. For this, there are several ‘old’ reasons. Economically, Russian companies benefited from the breakthrough in the Russian-Syrian relations in 2005 and invested heavily in Syria’s energy sector. Syria is also Russia’s fifth biggest weapons-buyer. Militarily, the Kremlin is interested in the Tartus naval station, seen by some as the Russian fleet’s foothold in the Mediterranean. The Arab Spring, and specifically the situation in Syria and the international community's interest in it, also offered Russia new political motives to support al-Asad. Firstly, Russia’s resistance to Western pressure and marginalisation of the Syrian opposition are aimed at the domestic audience. Secondly, the Syrian uprising is Russia’s chance to protest international military interventions as an acceptable way of regime changes. Thirdly, Russia’s stance on Syria promotes Russia’s image of a ’benevolent’ Eurasian power, which upholds international law and favours multilateral and regional solutions to crises. Finally, Moscow’s ‘different’ stand on the issue elevates Russia’s importance in international diplomacy.