Russia Navigates Through the Syrian Quagmire

Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war has cast an international spotlight upon their recent actions. By propping up Bashar-Al Assad’s Regime, Russia seeks to stabilize the region and expand their influence to counter anti-Assad rebel and jihadist groups.

The decades-long relationship between Russia and Syria dates back to the Cold War when the Soviet Union was supplying Syria with arms. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 faltered Russia’s relationship with Syria, but the joint elections of Putin and Assad in 2000 marked a restrengthening in their relationship as allies.

On April 7th, a chemical attack on the Syrian suburb of Douma, the last opposition-held town in its region, cost 70 lives. According to BBC, France claims that they have proof that chemical warfare was used by Assad’s regime, but the Syrian government denied the accusation and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Russia had “irrefutable evidence that this was yet another attack, staged with the participation of special services of one state that is striving to be at the forefront of the Russophobic campaign.”

A spokesman from the Russian defense ministry confirmed that this “one state” was the United Kingdom, and Russia’s UN representative, Vassily Nebenzia, told the UN Security Council that, “At the local hospital, no-one with symptoms of sarin or chlorine poisoning had been admitted. No bodies of people who had died from being poisoned were found, and the medical staff and residents had no information about where they might have been buried,” according to BBC.

In the Syrian civil war, Russia views stability as being “far more important than freedom and democracy,” Clayton Traver, a social studies teacher at PHS, said in an interview. “Bashar-Al Assad is keeping Syria from [Islamist] fundamentalist groups such as the Taliban,”

When asked how the United States should move forward, Traver noted that, “It’s probably best for Assad to step down and [allow] for another autocratic ruler to take his place. However, I think that is not feasible.”

“Our position is the chemical weapons and purposeful destruction of their (Syria’s) own civilians [cause us to] support moderate rebels in the conflict,” Travers added. “[However], the length of the conflict as well as the funneling of funds from Russia and the US [to both sides of the conflict] results in fewer moderate rebels left. [The Russians] think our effort to support the rebels are quite dangerous.”