As the potential for direct military confrontation between the United States/NATO and Russia in Syria escalates by the day, the vast majority of Americans have little clue why the Russians would have ever become involved in the crisis to begin with. Undoubtedly, most of them believe what they are told through the mainstream media – that Russia is yet again acting aggressively in its plans for total world domination and the establishment of the Fourth Reich.
For many observers in the alternative media, understanding the Russian move is somewhat more sophisticated but still substantially lacking. For instance, while some simply oppose the Russian involvement on the basis of not wanting to see any further escalation, others heap lavish praise upon Putin for his decisions and present the Russian president as the potential leader for the world. At times, the adulation borders on the cult of personality, a dangerous situation regardless of the pure motives of the individual at the center of worship.
It is true that, in the recent geopolitical back and forth that has been taking place between Russia and the West, the Russians have acted entirely in self-defense and that is has been the West that has provoked the current tensions. Indeed, in the context of Syria, Iran, and Ukraine, Russia has clearly stood on the right side of history while the United States and NATO move further and further in the opposite direction.
However, while Russia has indeed acted and continues to act as a savior in Syria, Iran, and Ukraine, it is important to note that Russian foreign policy is not an act of charity and that, ultimately, Putin’s concern is centered with the fate of Russia. Whatever the world wishes to see Putin do in Syria will be subject to the geopolitical, national, and domestic interest of Russia, a stance once can scarcely criticize any national leader for maintaining.
Below are a number of reasons that Putin and Russia are so concerned with the fate of Syria.
1.) The Pipeline
The West has long desired a Qatari pipeline project that would stem from the oil fields of Qatar and traverse Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey before making its way to Europe. Besides the obvious benefits for Qatar and the basic addition of another source of oil and gas for Europe, the pipeline would represent a substantial reduction in the amount of leverage Russia currently holds over Europe. As of today, Russia is the main provider of the majority of Europe’s oil and gas. If the EU decides to act too provocatively in its eastern regions, Ukraine, or other areas of the Russian sphere of influence, Russia has the trump card of being able to turn off the oil and gas spigot, leaving Europe in the dark and cold. Europe would then be left with few options in the short to medium term other than to come around to Russia’s way of thinking. With the development of the Qatari pipeline, however, that trump card would be removed as Europe would then simply open the Qatari spigot further to make up for what was lost when the Russians cut there’s off. In that event, Russia would also be deprived of a substantial amount of oil and gas-related income.
Assad nixed the Qatari pipeline idea back in 2009 in favor of the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline that would have seen oil and gas coming from Iran through Iraq and Syria and on into Europe. While not directly beneficial to Russia’s oil company Gazprom, the pipeline is one that is owned and operated by Russian allies who are generally beholden to Russian support in the United Nations Security Council and military support when faced with NATO/American war efforts. The Russian leverage over Europe would thus largely still exist and the “out” provided by Qatar would be prevented.
2.) The Warm Water Port
The quest for warm water ports has long played a major role in Russian foreign policy history. Currently, Russia boasts of a number of those ports – Sevastopol, Crimea, and Tartus.
The Syrian port of Tartus has no doubt been a major force behind Russian support of Assad and Syria throughout the crisis. Up until this point, however, the Russians only controlled a portion of the Tartus port. Recently, however, in concert with Russian military involvement, Russia now controls virtually the entire port. The control of the entirety of the Tartus port most certainly sweetened the deal in terms of Russian involvement. This new development has caused many to wonder whether or not Russia was able to squeeze greater control of the Tartus port out of Assad at a critical moment when Syria needed Russian help the most. It is also worth mentioning of the development of a Russian airbase in Latakia, a port city in its own right.
3.) Strategic Influence
Strategic influence plays a major role in the Russian decision as well. Syria has been in its “sphere of influence” for quite some time, but it has also acted one of the last Russian outposts in the Middle East after the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia does not want to lose this asset, with its pipeline potential, buffering qualities against Western aggression, and, of course, the warm water port. Furthermore, a closer alliance with Syria portends a closer alliance with Iran, the last country on the chessboard to fall before the assault begins on Russia and China proper. Russia’s alliance with Iran is a separate discussion but, suffice it to say that a greater alliance with Iran is to Russia’s distinct advantage and the close alliance with Syria facilitates that needed alliance with Iran. Likewise, with its entrance into the fight against ISIS, Russia has solidified good relationships with Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Hezbollah.
4.) The Domino Theory
As mentioned above, Russia is presumably aware of the strategy being used against it – i.e. the attempt to chip away at all nations that resist the dictates of the NATO power structure and, in particular, areas of Russian alliance and influence before finally turning its sights directly on Russia itself. The creeping moves to gradually surround Russia cannot go unnoticed. If Syria falls, so falls Hezbollah. Iran will be isolated. Once Iran falls, there is little else left beyond Russia itself. Putin will then see the increase of terrorism in Russian territories and a greater push east by NATO in Ukraine. In essence, Russia is attempting to prevent the dominoes from falling.
5.) Fighting Terrorism Abroad
The use of Islamic fundamentalists as proxy fighters in Syria long ago raised the eyebrows of Russian leaders because, if for no other reason, that a number of Chechen fighters were flocking to the Middle East in order to engage in Jihad. The fear was not only that they would return to Russia and begin launching terror attacks but that the networks that control both Middle Easter jihadists and the Chechen variety would begin directing their proxies to attack Russia inside Russia, i.e. Chechnya and even farther inside the country. With the constant threat of Western-backed Chechen fighters in Russia launching attacks inside the country in the forefront, Turkey and the puppet government of Ukraine recently collaborated in the creation of “Muslim brigades” to be used against Russia in Crimea and other areas surrounding or in Russia. Thus, Russia is attempting to “fight ISIS abroad so they don’t have to fight them at home” by destroying an organized structure that may exist in Syria and hopefully reducing the number of dupes, fanatics, and psychopaths in absolute number.
6.) Turkish Expansion
While perhaps not the most extensive threat by any means, Turkey is attempting to spread its influence across the Middle East and Asia, a theatre that includes Russia as a target as well. While Turkey has provided Yeomen’s service in the agenda of NATO and the Anglo-Americans, it is clear that megalomaniacs like Erdoghan have pipe dreams of re-establishing the Ottoman Empire. These dreams are, in reality, delusions. However, these dreams make Turkey dangerous in the meantime, particularly to Russia. The attempt to promote Uyghur terrorism in Asia, in and around Russia’s Asian/Eurasian borders, and Tatar terror in Crimea is reason enough for Russia to attempt to crush Turkey’s plan for Syria.
While Russia’s position in Syria is, without a doubt beneficial to the Syrian people, it should not be romanticized that the Russian government is simply sitting at home watching the crisis unfold, overcome with concern for the victims of the war. The truth is that many factors have come into play in this regard. We should not allow ourselves to assume that world leaders are concerned with all of the same issues as the people they “lead.”
Still, it is without question that, in regards to Syria, Ukraine, and virtually the entire geopolitical angle, Russia finds itself on the right side of history. As observers, activists, and people of the world, we must support these efforts where they match up with our own agenda and principles, and be prepared to oppose them when they do not.
daily alternative | alternative news – 6 Reasons Why Russia Cares So Much About Syria