Why Russia Supports Assad

(New York Times) Dmitri Trenin - Syria's civil war has de facto begun. America, Europe, Turkey and the Gulf states have already given Assad a thumbs down. Russian mediation might have had a chance if Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Mikhail Fradkov, the director of Foreign Intelligence, had come to Damascus last summer, or even last fall, and kept coming in an exercise of shuttle diplomacy. Today, their mission looks more like a face-saving gesture. Syria is not a Russian ally; Tartus is a naval resupply facility rather than a naval base; and the total value of Russia's arms trade with Syria during the previous decade amounted to around $1.5 billion, which makes Damascus Moscow's seventh-largest client. To understand Moscow's attitude to Syria, one has to take a broader view. When the Kremlin - or Fradkov's office - looks at the Arab Awakening, they see democratization leading directly to Islamicization. They point out that post-Gaddafi Libya is chaotic, with a lot of the former regime's weaponry finding its way into unsavory hands. The writer is director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

2012-02-10 00:00:00

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