Feature

Russia: Why Moscow is still on Assad’s side

The Kremlin sees Assad “as a leader fighting against an uprising of Islamic barbarism” who deserves help, not condemnation. 

Ruslan Pukhov
The Moscow Times

The West has misread Russia’s motives in Syria, said Ruslan Pukhov. Western analysts keep trying to find “rational explanations” for Moscow’s continued support of the bloodthirsty regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, arguing that Russia wants to keep its military base in Syria, for example, or to continue selling arms there. But the support is not quite so cynical. The Kremlin has a genuine fear that the Arab Spring revolutions will unleash radical Islam across the Middle East. And make no mistake, Russians have a horror of Islamism. Saudi Arabia exported its radical Wahhabi ideology to Chechnya, and Russia suffered for many years “from Islamic-inspired terrorism and extremism in the North Caucasus.” Saudi support for the Syrian rebels “only reinforces Russia’s deep suspicion of the Islamic character of the Syrian insurgency.” Add to this Russia’s traditional aversion to Western intervention—President Vladimir Putin must feel some affinity for Assad “as a fellow autocratic ruler” and would see interference in Assad’s country as an intolerable precedent—and you get a firm resolve to block action against Assad. Ultimately, Moscow sees Assad “as a leader fighting against an uprising of Islamic barbarism” who deserves help, not condemnation. 

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