عنوان مقاله [English]
This paper aims to explain Russia’s motives for its engagement in the Syrian crisis. The question is as to why Russia intervened in the Syrian crisis in favor of the Syrian government. The hypothesis is that the prospect of losing sphere of influence in the Middle East prompted Russia to intervene in the Syrian crisis backing the Syrian government. Regarding theoretical framework, Geopolitical territoriality has been used as the conceptual framework to address the abovementioned question. Since 1991, developments in geopolitical areas, particularly in the Middle East, have been to a certain point to Russia's detriment since allies and friends have fallen one after another in the Middle East; Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003. Shortly afterward, the implementation of the Greater Middle East Plan jeopardized the position of authoritarian rulers. The Arab uprisings also exacerbated this trend. Henceforth, Russia's sphere of influence diminished significantly. During the Arab uprisings, Muammar Gaddafi's government was overthrown in Libya, and Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria was teetering on the brink of collapse. Syria, being part of the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union since its inception, is Russia's last stronghold in the Middle East. Russia’s leaders have believed that with the fall of authoritarians in the Middle East, being mostly Russian friends, either pro-Western governments or extremists will come to power, both of which will thwart Russia's interests in the region. If Bashar al-Assad's government had collapsed, Russia would have been reduced to a marginal power in the Middle East. Accordingly, Russia intervened in the Syrian conflict in order to preserve its sphere of influence in the Middle East.
The Syrian crisis has turned Syria into a battlefield on which the regional and global power rivalries have been fought. Russia is one of the most important and influential extra-regional powers. At the outset of the crisis, Russian officials’ positions were close to that of Western and Arab countries. To the extent that they threatened Bashar-al-Asad with a harsh reply in the case he did not accept the reforms; however, shortly thereafter Russia’s approach changed. The first step of this shift of Russia’s approach to the Syrian crisis was its veto on the UN Security Council draft resolution presented by Western countries. Having been passed, international pressure on the Syria government would have been augmented significantly. Moreover, Russian officials played a positive role in the inter-Syrian talks of national reconciliation, seeking to bring closer the positions of opposing factions. Equally, Moscow in coordination with Iran and China put forward much needed economic assistance to the Syrian government, preventing its imminent collapse. Nevertheless, the most important dimension of Russia’s involvement in the Syrian crisis has been direct military interventions and aerial bombardment against opposition and extremist-held areas. Consequently, Russia’s air operations that had started in mid-September 2015 changed the balance of power in the battleground in favor of theSyrian army which succeeded in retaking areas previously held by oppositions and extremists.
The paper aims to answer the following question: why did Russia intervene in the Syrian crisis? The main research hypothesis posits that prospect of losing sphere of influence in the Middle East prompted Moscow to intervene in the Syrian crisis in support of the Syrian government. An analytical method has been used to investigate the research question.