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Russian Influence in Syrian Crisis Essay

Executive summary

The crisis in Syria has persisted for more than four years. Despite a series of global attempts to end the internal unrest in Syria, little success has been recorded. One of the reasons for the little success has been attributed to the double standard of Russia, which is a member of the United Nation’s Security Council. The Moscow administration has indicated a strong influence over the crisis in Syria. For instance, Russia single-handedly changed the UN resolution of military attack on the Assad’s administration. At the same time, Russia was part of the team that facilitated removal and destruction of the chemical weapons in Syria.

Thus, it is important to review the reasons behind the strong influence which Russia has on the crisis in Syria. The paper examines the historical, economic, political, and ideological relationships between Russia and Syria. Besides, the paper explores the possible reasons for the persistence of the crisis as influenced by the above factors. Through quantitative research, the paper employs secondary data in establishing the influence of Russia on the Syrian crisis.


Research background

The Syrian crisis is in its fourth year, despite several efforts by the international community for reconciliation. Over the four years of the crisis, Russia and Iran have continued to openly support the position of the Syrian government that is led by Assad. For instance, Russia showed its influence in Syria during the planning and organization of the second Geneva conference in the year 2012 (Lea, par. 8). Unlike the United States, which failed to bring all the Syrian rebel factions to the negotiation table, Russia was very successful in accomplishing its role in convincing the Syrian government to attend the peace negotiation. In fact, the Syrian government side was represented by a high ranking team consisting of the powerful Minister of Foreign Affairs called Walid Muallem and other top government officials.

Russia has played a double role of being a facilitator and a wrecker in the Syrian crisis. Russia blocked the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council but is currently part of the team facilitating the removal and destruction of the chemical weapons in Syria (Barry, par. 9). This research proposal will attempt to establish the underlying factors which have made Russia to command a strong influence in the Syrian crisis. The paper will explore the economic, ideological, and political relationship between Russia and Assad’s government.

Statement of significance

Understanding geopolitical, social, and economic relationships between countries is important, especially when handling crisis. For instance, establishing the reasons for the strong influence which Russia has in the Syrian crisis might help the global community to draw a strategic approach towards ending the half decade long war. This paper will attempt to explicitly analyse the factors which have made Russia to command a strong influence in the Syrian crisis.

Research question

Why does Russia have a strong influence position in the Syrian crisis?


  • Null hypothesis: Russia has a strong and legitimate social, political, and economic partnership with the government of Syria without sinister political motives.
  • Alternative hypothesis: Russia has a strong and legitimate social, political, and economic partnership with the government of Syria because of sinister political motives.

Literature review


This part of the paper will examine literature review on the influence of Russia in the Syrian crisis. Specifically, this chapter explores the historical, political, ideological, and economic partnership between Syria and Russia. In addition, the part of the paper relates the literature review to the research topic.

Historical perspective of the bond between between the Syrian and Russian governments

The political influence of Russia in Syria can be traced to the beginning of the newly founded Syrian state, which was established after the end of the Second World War. Russia has been in the forefront through its strategic role of determining the direction and duration the Syrian civil war, which began way back in the year 2011. In the last five to six decades, Syria and Russia have enjoyed a close relationship. In fact, Syria is known to be one of the closest allies of Russia in the Middle Eastern bloc (Barry, par. 7).

Way back in the late 1950s, Syria was the second country after Egypt to proactively acquire military hardware and weapons from the then powerful Soviet Union. This partnership was further strengthened by the Suez War as the Ba’ath Party, which was then the ruling coalition in Syria, influenced the direction of this war. The events in the late nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century were proactive in creating the strong bond of mutual benefits between Syria and Russia. As early as 1893, Russia has established a consulate office in Damascus (Brodsky, par. 4).

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were seventy four Russian Orthodox schools in Syria. Russia was later instrumental in the establishment of the Syrian Communist Party during the mid of 1920s. In 1944, Moscow was the first political administration centre to institute political ties with Syria. Other nations followed the trend much later, after Russia. Later, during the Cold War, Syria became one of the strongest allies of Russia in the bid of Moscow to oppose the western powers such as the US and its allies. In fact, “Syria was awarded more than $294 million between the year 1955 and 1958 by Moscow for military and economic assistance” (Galpin, par. 8). This military tie has persisted to the present time. More than three quarters of the current Syrian military hardware is single-handedly supplied by Russia.

The relationship was cemented by a series of treaties between the Moscow administration and the government of the senior Assad, who ruled Syria for close to four decades. During the revolution in Syria in the late 1960s, Russia declared open support to the Syria to have more allies. The relationship between Syria and Russia was made official in the year 1980 when “Syria signed a twenty-year Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union” (Chaney 409).

In summary, Russia and Syria have had a strong political, social, and an economic history, which is deeply rooted in the more than four decades of close cooperation. The relationship can be traced to the end of the Second World War (Putin, par. 7). Besides, Damascus was the main ally and strategic military base for Russia during the Cold War. At present, the city of Tarsus in Syria hosts the only naval facility of Russia, which serves their interest in the entire Mediterranean region. In fact, the Russian economic and military support to President Assad and his regime is what has kept the Syrian government in authority for the last four years (Lea 23).

Economic and military relationships

As indicated in the comprehensive Congressional Research Service findings in 2008, “Syrian purchased several bullions’ worth of military equipment from the former Soviet Union, including the SS-21 Scarab short-range missiles. The Soviet military sales to Syria in the 1970s and 80S were so extensive. They accounted for 90% of all military arms exports” (Seib, par. 11). From the above report, it is apparent that Russia has remained the main supplier of the military weapons which has sustained the Assad’s government activities during the four years of civil war. In fact, the arms exports in Russia doubled during the Arab Spring. Among the main beneficiaries of these hardware was the government Assad.

Interestingly, Tarsus has become a strategic location for the Russia’s naval facility in the Middle Eastern bloc. The Tarsus naval facility is run by the Russia as its strategic military base within the expansive Mediterranean region. It is believed that “the position of the naval facility serves as a chief motivating factor for Russia to speak out in favour of the Assad regime to maintain stability in the region” (Lea, par. 12). A series of international and local media reported that Russia increased their military activities in the base following the beginning of the Syrian civil war in the year 2012. In addition, Russia has interests in Tadmur airbase and Latakia surveillance base.

These locations are in Syria. Apparently, the above actions indicate strong ties between Syria and Russia, before and even during the Syrian civil war. It would be impossible for Russia to carry out their military activities in Tadmur, Latakia, and Tarsus without the support of the Syrian government (Seib, par. 5).

Ideological relationship and regional positioning

Several global leaders have stated that the Moscow administration is determined to use the Syrian crisis to improve of its legitimacy and global political influence. Reflectively, as one of the main players in the United Nations Security Council, Russia failed to offer political leadership and direction during the proposal of 2011 to adopt direct military actions against the then dictatorial leader Libya. Although this action cannot be directly related to the current crisis in Syria, the Moscow administration sent clear signals to the global community that it can no longer support every resolution that does not serve its underlying ideological interests. As a result of the absenteeism, Libya was thrown into civil unrest which resulted in the death of Gaddaffi, who was a strong ally of Russia. Therefore, it is in order to argue that Russia does not want to lose another strategic ally, which is Syria, to the western bloc (Chaney 398).

The political ideology has inspired the Moscow administration to challenge any resolutions that aims at ending the Assad’s regime. Syria being the last ally of Russia in the Middle East, the Moscow administration is determined to do anything it takes to preserve its ideological intuitions in the Middle East through the regime of President Assad. For instance, the international and local media houses reported that Russia ships tons of military hardware into Syria to sustain the military assault carried out by the current Syrian government. Besides, in the year 2011, China and Russia were the only members of the council who exercised their refusal power to overturn the resolution to impose economic sanctions as a remedy for ending the then two years old conflict. In the year 2012, Russia and China were the only nations who voted down the second resolution to approve international military campaign to end Assad’s administration (Kreutz 68).

The relationship between the literature review and the research topic

From the above literature, it is clear that the current influence which Russia enjoys over the Syrian crisis is dated back to the earlier decades. The two nations have had close economic, political, and military partnerships, with both parties mutually benefiting. As the only remaining viable ally in the Middle Eastern bloc, Russia is determined to defend the government of Assad, as part of its ideological and strategic positioning in the global political arena. The above literature provides the foundation for understanding the possible reasons for the current influence which Russia has over the direction and duration of the Syrian crisis. Since the sources are from reliable and academic backgrounds, it is possible to establish the explicit factors that have made Russia both a wrecker and a supporter of the Syrian crisis.



This part of the paper will review the appropriate method of collecting and analysing data. This research will be conducted using secondary research study approach. Use of the quantitative research approach will facilitate understanding of the reasons behind Russia’s influence in the Syrian crisis. This methodology will help in identification of statistical patterns in the secondary data.

Research approach

The research will be carried out through quantitative research using secondary data. A sense of neutrality will be maintained and the researcher will conduct research as an explorer whose goal is to establish the link between the Syrian crisis and activities of Russia. The quantitative approach was informed by the fact that the research is focused, subjective, dynamic, and discovery oriented. This approach is best suited to gain proper insight into the situation of the case study. Besides, quantitative data analysis will create room for further analysis using different and divergent tools for checking the degree of error in the assumptions (Yin 14).

Maintaining validity and reliability

Validity and reliability determine the accuracy of collecting data in research. In order to achieve validity in the question to be answered within the research topic, it is essential to carry out pre-testing of questions (Yin 19). On the other hand, reliability quantifies the magnitude of consistency of research instruments and the outcome created by the same. The way in which an event is experienced is related to the way in which the person who has experienced this event can give it a perspective. However, in this quantitative study, the researcher will have the opportunity to get the perspective of different secondary data. Utilizing these experiences as a framework from which to develop the study, the work is likely to reflect the unique understanding of the personal experiences in research.

Dependability will be assured by providing clear, detailed, and sequential descriptions of data collection and analysis procedures. It is a quality that relies on the study design being congruent with clear research question, having an explicit explanation of the status, and roles of the researcher. Besides, quality involves providing findings with meaningful parallelism across data sources, specification of basic theoretical constructs and analytical frameworks, and data collection across a range of settings. This study seeks to fulfil these criteria as much as possible. A full effort will be made to accurately and faithfully transcribe data from the secondary sources (Yin 22).

Addressing the research ethics

In order to collect the data necessary for this study, several steps will be taken to ensure that appropriate care is taken during selection of the secondary data sources. The researcher will ensure that secondary data is only collected from academic and other reliable sources, which outline the topic of discussion and any relevant information that the researcher might need before commencing the analysis. The researcher of this study will act as the interlocutor with the sources, giving semi-structured analysis on the basis of the source. As a result, instances of biasness will be minimised during the data analysis process. The researcher will target at least ten reliable sources to obtain the necessary data for the study. This will ensure balanced analysis and provide a variety of views on the topic (Yin 19).

The researcher will have prior training and experience in data collection and analysis at the college level. Credibility will be enhanced by adopting a distinct quantitative approach to gathering data and reporting findings. Transferability of the results will be theoretically possible by gaining a sufficiently large secondary data that will be representative of the research aim, but given that the data will be gathered from secondary sources, transferability may not be likely (Yin 21).

Justification of the method used

Use of the quantitative research approach was necessary in facilitating the understanding of secondary data on the influence of Russia in the Syrian crisis. Attributes of the subjects under study were qualitatively studied through observation, where the researcher collected data using an observation schedule during the secondary data excursion. This approach allowed the researcher to enter observed similarities and differences in data by different researchers. This methodology was helpful in identification of statistical patterns in the data collected. The collected quantitative data were coded and passed through an appropriate tool for data analysis. In the process, cross examination was used to review the influence that Russia enjoys in the Syrian crisis.

Findings, analysis, and discussion

Finding and analysis

According to research by Baetz (2011), it was clear that the veto powers of Russia in the United Nations Security Council were exercised by the Moscow leadership to avert the proposed air strike and UN sanctions in Syria. Interestingly, Russia was the only member of the United Nations Security Council to object to “the publication of the proposal as an official Security Council document” (Baetz, par. 5). Russia stood in the way of the proposed condemnation of the use of excessive force in Syria. In its official statement, the government of Russia stated that “the situation doesn’t present a threat to international peace and security since Syria is a very important country in the Middle East and destabilizing Syria would have repercussions far beyond its borders” (Seib, par. 13).

Brodsky (2012) established that Russia has been skilful in acting as “as both a wrecker and a facilitator; blocking Security Council resolutions, but also assisting in the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons” (Brodsky, par. 11). The government of Russia has used the crisis to strengthen its position in the Middle East political and economic affairs to promote its strategy of being an alternative powerhouse to the western block.Politically speaking, strengthening Assad’s regime is the same as strengthening the position of Russia as the regional superpower (Kreutz 18; Lea 11). Moscow has been in the forefront in supporting the actions of Assad in sustaining the crisis.

For instance, Russia has been accused by the US and NATO of supporting Assad in “starving the rebellious areas of Homs into submission, buying time on the slow-moving dismantlement of chemical weapons, or parading aircraft carriers along the Syrian coast just to remind everyone what an unfortunate idea aerial strike would be” (Barry, par. 7). In addition, Russia has a massive military supply contract with Syria. The contract is estimated at over one and a half billion dollars. The Russia-Syria military contract consists of almost ten percent of the total weapon exported from Russia (Chaney 401).

From the above data, it is apparent that Russia’s influence in the Syrian crisis is more than meet the eye. The strong political history and the need to maintain political influence has inspired Russia to be the lone defender of the position of the Assad’s government.


Evolutionary perspective, diffusion, structural, ethical and neo-evolutionist versions of modernization theory suggested that development of a political strategy is a continuous process that occurred in stages, which assumed the form of societal differentiation patterns and integration to create the current complex society. Reflectively, the stages are made possible by the cultural and structural components of the society that are functional on the periphery of political, social, and economic features. Apparently, in a mid to create a formidable force that may offer alternative political direction, Russia is keen on building a consistent political ideology through it Middle Eastern ally. Russia is determined to ensure that its global political standing is strategic enough as part of a long term goal of establishing an alternative independent political region (Lea 43).

In the realms of social secularisation, the transitional facilities facilitated the institutionalisation of units of the society to create an accepted mode of interaction. The operating mechanisms of these versions lie in the traditional and economic relationships between countries that have political or economic partnerships. Russia is not prepared to lose the big foreign exchange earnings from military hardware export trade with Syria. At present, nearly all of the weapons, which the Syrian government has used to survive the civil war, originate from Russia. Therefore, should Syrian government lose to the opposition, Russia may never get the foreign exchange earnings from the new Damascus administration.

Russia has learned this the hard way from the past experience in 2011, when one of its key allies called Gadaffi lost control of Libya. As a result, the military export trade to Libya was frozen by the new and unfriendly regime (Galpin 29).

As indicated in the dependency theory, the core state is surrounded by other countries that depend on the resources of the core state for wealth and strategic positioning. In the present global economic environment, the dependency theory has remained relevant in the business relationship between the core country and its neighbouring countries. In relation to the Syria-Russian ties, Russia is determined to forge a formidable alliance with Syria since the Damascus administration supports its bid to be the regional leader, in terms of economic and military control. In order to prove its actions towards achieving this, Russia is ready to overturn the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions, even if its position is questionable. The need to retain the political and economic influence within Syria has inspired the unpopular actions by Russia in the Syrian crisis (Kreutz 31). The above discussion confirms that Russia has a strong and legitimate social, political, and economic partnership with the government of Syria without sinister political motives.


The crisis is Syria is likely to continue for a long time if Russia continues to send mixed signals to the international community. Despite the threat of losing its international allies of its position on ending the Syrian civil war, Russia is determined to display a strong political ideology, maintain economic ties, and establish an alternative political power house to counter the European Union and the US.

Though it may appear as an isolated case, Russia has been consistent in opposing the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions by exercising its veto powers. One of the reasons for the little success in ending the Syrian crisis has been attributed to the double standard of Russia, which is a member of the United Nation’s Security Council. The Moscow administration has indicated a strong influence over the crisis in Syria. For instance, Russia single-handedly changed the UN resolution of military attack on the Assad’s administration. Basically, the motives of Russia in the Syrian crisis are to protect its foreign exchange earnings and create an alternative influential powerhouse in the Eastern bloc.

Works Cited

Baetz, Juergen. Medvedev: Syria must not go the same way as Libya. 2011. Web.

Barry, Anya. . 2012. Web.

Brodsky, Mathew. Russia’s show of Syrian force. 2012. Web.

Chaney, Eric. “Democratic Change in the Arab World, Past and Present.” Harvard Review 23.1 (2012): 363-414. Print.

Galpin, Richard. . 2012. Web.

Kreutz, Andrej. Russia in the Middle East: friend or foe, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. Print.

Lea, David. A Political Chronology of the Middle East, London, United Kingdom: Europa Publications, 2011. Print.

Putin, Vladimir. A plea for caution from Russia. 2013. Web.

Seib, Gerald. Russia-China take on expansionary roles. 2013. Web.

Yin, Ronald. Case study research: Design and methods, Beverly Hills, California: Sage, 2003. Print.

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