Putin Pays Visit To Syrian President Assad

This appeared in The Millennial Source

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On January 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Syria’s capital, Damascus, to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This unannounced visit was only Putin’s second trip to Syria since its protracted civil war began nearly nine years ago.

Putin and Assad are allies, and the Russian military has supported Assad’s Ba’athist Syrian Arab Republic forces throughout Syria’s civil war.

A recent withdrawal of US troops from the area is considered advantageous to Putin and Assad’s goals for the region.

What happened during Putin’s visit to Syria?

The last time the two leaders met was in May 2018 at Putin’s summer residence in Russia.

Putin’s intentions in the region

By supporting Assad, Putin is able to maintain influence in an infamously unstable region while simultaneously weakening Russia’s European rivals. Syria’s close proximity to nations in the European Union has led to a refugee crisis on the continent that has resulted in much political turmoil.

It’s believed that Putin is seeking to increase instability in the EU and other western countries. There have been suggestions that Putin is manipulating national politics in several European countries in order to serve his own ends, including sowing discord during elections.

What does Assad want?

Beyond the civil war, parts of Syria have also been occupied by ISIS, a fundamentalist Islamic regime that wishes to establish a caliphate — or Islamic state — in the region. Assad has been fighting against ISIS forces while also fighting the civil war. For this and other reasons, Russian support has been essential to Assad’s ability to maintain his strength.

Though the US and EU have opposed Assad’s undemocratic methods, they have also been fighting ISIS. Western-led efforts to eradicate ISIS have largely worked towards Assad’s interest as he seeks to consolidate power in the country.

Even as Assad has engaged in the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, western countries have been reluctant to fully intervene out of fear that doing so would allow room for ISIS or another malevolent group to fill the power vacuum that would result should Assad’s government collapse.

Russian and Syrian military actions

These aid groups say the plight of the Syrian people is only getting worse, especially as many refugees are coming across the borders of neighboring countries such as Turkey.

The US withdrawal from Syria

After announcing the withdrawal of troops, Trump seemed to partially reverse course by saying the US would deploy a small number of troops to Syria’s oil fields. On his Twitter account, the US president argued that this was not a reversal and that US troops’ only purpose there would be protecting oil.

With the US having largely abandoned the area, many believe that Assad and Putin’s allied position in the region has been strengthened. The Kurdish fighters who had formerly fought alongside American troops called on assistance from Syria and Russia in their fight against Turkish forces. As a result, Russia’s influence in the region has likely increased.Meanwhile, after US troops were withdrawn, at least three abandoned bases that had been used by the American military were taken over by Russian forces.

Originally published at https://themilsource.com on January 9, 2020.

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