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Relations Between Russia and Syria in the Bashar Assad Era

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             Relations Between Russia and Syria in the Bashar Assad Era


It is noteworthy that the Middle East region, which was one of the most important areas of the global struggle between the Soviet Union and the US during the Cold War, remained much lower among the Russian Federation's foreign policy priorities during the 1990s (Naumkin et al., 2012: 61). In the post-Soviet period, the existence of fundamental problems to be solved in the post-Soviet period such as economic crises, radicalization, increasing nationalism within the borders, political conflicts and hot struggle with Chechnya showed that Russia's foreign policy priority was redefining and re-establishing its relations with the US, NATO, and the EU. One point is Russia's attempt to rebuild its hegemony in the former Soviet territory during the same period. In this context, especially in the first half of the 1990s, we have seen that Russia is moving with a certain understanding of Western countries in important issues such as the Gulf War and the Arab-Israeli peace process.

In the new period of Russian foreign policy, when Vladimir Putin was elected president in 2000, it can be said that Moscow tried to play a more effective role in the Middle East (Malashenko, 2013: 5). One of the main reasons for this is the fact that Russia, which is on the agenda again with Putin, is the idea of being a hegemon in Eurasia. As a matter of fact, rapidly increasing trade and high level political contacts with the countries in the region, military and diplomatic support to the countries  excluded by the West such as Iran and Syria, diplomatic dialogue with actors such as Hamas and Hizbullah and observer membership in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, especially with the help of tools such as 2000 ' By the end of the 1990s, Russia became an important actor in the Middle East geopolitics (Freedman, 2010).

The Arab revolutions that broke out in such a period in which the influence of the region started to rise again, in this respect, as in many other countries, Russia caught the unprepared (Katz, 2011: 4). In this respect, Russia, which started in Tunisia and Egypt and watched the people's uprisings coming to Syria slowly from outside, has started to follow new policies that will increase its active position in the region as a result of the events reaching Libya and Syria.

On the other hand, in the mid-2000s, the eyes of Hafiz Assad were converted to Syria. While the policies implemented by a 30-year-old administration were discussed within the country, another question in mind was whether the son of Hafez Assad would replace the existing policies for Syria. After his father's death, Bashar Assad took over the administration and tried to solve some of the problems he encountered in domestic and foreign policy with Hafez al-Assad's methods; However, the fact that Bashar al-Assad's father was working with the management team has aroused concern in some hopeful sections of the new leader.

After Bashar al-Assad came to power, the people with the hope of change were the USA and the EU. However, Bashar al-Assad did not look at the US's efforts to democratize the Middle East under the name of the Greater Middle East Project (BOP). As a matter of fact, the fact that the administrations were changed in this way by the interventions in Tunisia, Egypt and especially Iraq caused a negative impression on Bashar al-Assad for the USA and the EU. As a result of this impression, the Assad government, looking for regional strong strategic partnerships, started to show closeness to the governments of Russia and Iran.

As mentioned in the above sources, Putin and Bashar al-Assad has taken over the administration and the Middle East and new strategic partnerships have started to gain priority in the foreign policies of these countries. We can also clearly see that these bilateral relations have been developed and developed to the present day. In the content of the article, I will examine the wide-ranging bilateral relations within the scope of economic, military and strategic security.

Economic Cooperation

The Russian Federation, which wants to strengthen the areas of domination in the region and prevent its loss after the Arab Spring demonstrations spread to Syria, has shown that the United Nations Security Council has openly rejected the idea of ​​armed intervention in Syria and has shown it to be one of the decision-making states in Syria. Especially in the past years, Syria, which is one of the biggest arms markets for Russia, has increased the volume of arms trade, especially as a result of the civil war. Besides, when we look at the year 2010, the trade volume between the two countries is 1,1 billion dollars and when we look at the end of 2009, it is seen that the investments reached a figure of 20 billion dollars. The long-term economic agreements show that the two countries will follow strategies together in the future. The US government did not hesitate to implement its economic sanctions against Syria, which is one of the most important trump cards in the US, which indicates that the Assad government is fragile after the civil war and that the government status in Syria is not stable and reliable. With these sanctions, Syria, where the civil war was experienced, has been weakened economically and even lost most of its oil wells. While the events continued in the chess game style in the Middle East geography, the Russian Federation signed some economic agreements with the Syrian government in order to prevent the US from taking complete control of the United States, and the Assad government was breathing in this area. If we look at the newest of these economic studies, it was stated that the economic cooperation between the two countries was the most important step on the way to break the will of the western states on this land in the meeting held last year between Russia Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov and Syrian President Bashar al-Asad in 2018 (Mustafa H ., 2018) In addition to the current commercial relations, Russian authorities have presented the idea of ​​Syrian economic development to Assad. The fact that the trade volume between the two countries increased by 27% in 2018 compared to 2017 is one of the topics that Russian companies are planning to revive Syria's economy by doubling this rate by following a more active policy. In addition to these, the commercial and economic relations between Russia and Syria are not only limited to military spending but also pipelines and energy projects have been part of this cooperation.

Military Cooperation

The trade link between Russia and Syria has improved until 2008. Due to this development, the commercial volume between the two countries increased to over $ 2 billion. In addition, according to the figures shown in the Russian press, this figure is up to $ 4 billion when military agreements are also included. To date, we cannot ignore the fact that the Russian Federation has been the only weapon guarantor for the Syrian government for many years. Aleksandr Denisov, Vice-President of the Federal Service for Russian Military and Technological Cooperation, emphasized the fact that Syria was a particularly military market for Russia, and that the rate of 80% of the weapons used in Syria was Russian. show us that it is extremely high. As a result of this military cooperation, Russia's military investments in Syria increased to over $ 26 billion by 2012. In the context of these investments, it would be of benefit to examine Russian-origin weapons in the Syrian inventory. For example, in Syria's military inventory, there were 5,000 tanks, more than 500 aircraft, and 41 Russian-built ships until recently. In addition, Russia did not hesitate to supply the ‘Yakhont iler cruiser missile system used against warships to Syria. As a result of the increase in the severity of the civil war and the intervention of Israel, the US and some other western states in Syria, new agreements were signed between the Syrian and Russian governments, including S-300 Air Defense Systems and MIG31 military warplanes. After mentioning these numerical data, we have to add another military issue to the struggle of the Russian soldiers against the terrorists in the Syrian borders and to take an advocacy role on the side of the Assad administration. As it is known, after the demonstrations that brought Syria under the influence of Syria into a civil war and terrorist acts, Assad urged his most reliable regional partner Russia to assure himself in order to secure himself. After that date, he has given powers and facilities to Russian troops in ensuring security. . Today, the Russian military forces jointly with the Syrian regime forces and joint air or ground attacks on the terrorist organizations where the location of the military cooperation between Russia and Syria clearly shows us what the point.

Strategic Security Cooperation

So far, we have examined the short history of the bilateral relations of Syria and Russia and the new collaborations brought about by the new events. Under this heading, we will discuss the issue of security cooperation between the two countries, which has an impact on the strategic and geopolitical importance of Syria, which is more concerned with Russia. As we know, it is seen that the ideal of Russia to be in the Mediterranean since the ancient times and to be present here. Thanks to the historical relations and trade volumes established with the Syrian government, Syria has become a gateway to the Mediterranean, especially for the Port of Tartus and Russia. Russia, refusing to intervene in Western countries during the Arab Spring, has sought to develop its relations with the Assad government at the military and economic level in this troubled period, as it does not want to weaken its presence and position due to the unstable and uncertain structure of the Assad government. What should we understand when we say strategic security? As it is known, the Syrian territory is both an important transit route for the transfer of resources to Europe while hosting rich oil resources. In addition to this, we cannot ignore the geopolitical and geostrategic importance of Syria, which is the only region in Russia in the Middle East, which is the dominant region of the US's new containment policy. Russia considers the security of the Syrian state as its own safety, taking into account the commercial, political and economic ties that come from the past with the current government, since it has only Syria in the hands of the Middle East states, which are especially close to its environment line (Win-Win Policy). In this context, the Russian Federation takes the necessary steps to ensure the security of the Syrian government and to ensure the security of its own country and its interests. In fact, the investments in the region, the economic plans implemented, the military supports and the proposals for political solutions constitute a part of the steps towards ensuring security here.


In order to keep the relations of history and its own national interests and security under control, Russia has collaborated with the Syrian government in the 2011 Arab Spring demonstrations in Syria and the civil war in which they were transformed. When these studies are examined in the military, economic and security dimensions, it is seen that the cooperation plans carried out by the two countries are healthy and reliable in terms of their interests in the region. Against the US and some western states' policies to create instability in the region, and in particular to weaken the Assad regime, especially with the use of proxy elements, the Assad administration has chosen Russia as its strategic partner, which it considers the most reliable for itself. While the steps taken show that Russia is permanent in the Middle East and the Mediterranean and that it is formalized with the Syrian government, on the other side of the mirror, it seems that the two countries constantly develop political, military and economic policies in order to ensure the permanence of the Assad government in the region. And it is unlikely that we will be witness to the fact that these cooperation steps, which have shown regular developments when we come to the present, will be carried forward and that Syria will be an indispensable part for Russia and Russia for Syria.



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