Russia Backing Of Syria’s Assad Seen As Way To Maintain Foothold In Arab World [View all]
By Associated Press,
MOSCOW — Russia’s defiance of international efforts to end Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on protests is rooted in a calculation that it can keep a Mideast presence by propping up its last remaining ally in the region — and has nothing to lose if it fails.
The Kremlin has put itself in conflict with the West as it shields Assad’s regime from United Nations sanctions and continues to provide it with weapons even as others impose arms embargoes.
But Moscow’s relations with Washington are already strained amid controversy over U.S. missile defense plans and other disputes. And Prime Minister Vladimir Putin seems eager to defy the U.S. as he campaigns to reclaim the presidency in March elections.
“It would make no sense for Russia to drop its support for Assad,” said Ruslan Pukhov, head of the independent Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. “He is Russia’s last remaining ally in the Middle East, allowing it to preserve some influence in the region.”