Putin’s rationale for Syria

Mary Dejevsky looks at what Russia hopes to gain from its support of Assad

The World Today
Published 12 February 2018 Updated 18 November 2020 3 minute READ

Mary Dejevsky

Columnist, The Independent

When Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Syria, in what was the first Russian military intervention outside Europe since the Soviet collapse, Moscow and the West offered rather different explanations.

While Russia said its engagement was designed to stabilize the country and fight terrorism, the West said this was simply a pretext. What Putin really intended was to keep his Syrian ally, Bashar al-Assad, in power and to stake a claim, if not to actual territory, then to greatly enhanced influence in the Middle East. The difference largely reflected the prevailing western view of Putin’s record.

After the 2007 cyber-attack on Estonia, the 2008 military intervention in Georgia, the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the meddling − to put it no more strongly − in eastern Ukraine, the Russian president was seen as an aggressive expansionist who was out to restore, if not the Soviet Union, then something akin to the Russian empire.

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