Russia in Syria: A Pipe Too Far?
This paper examines Russia’s decision to be militarily involved in Syria. Fresh out of the annexation of Crimea and a clandestine campaign in eastern Ukraine in 2014, Putin launched another foreign policy venture propping up the Assad regime. It has been suggested that Putin’s motivations behind this decision ranged from attempting to distract the public from economic woes to securing Russia from extremist terrorist threats. However, this paper argues that these do not fully account for Putin’s decision. Firstly, Putin’s grip on power in Russia is tight and there has been little threat to his standing from public disaffection. Secondly, Russia’s military strikes have not targeted extremist elements in Syria and the action has only increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks. We, therefore, must look to Russia’s geopolitical motives and economy. This paper argues that Russia is using Syria as a stage to improve its international image, secure its economy, and cement itself as a great power -all under the cover of national security. Central and Eastern Europe’s (CEE) attempts to diversify their energy supplies threatened both Russia’s political dominance of the region and intensified its economic woes. As Russia has gained control of construction and energy rights in Syria, CEE states have no other energy transit routes to explore, thus securing Russian domination. Additionally, Russia hopes to challenge US hegemony in international relations in pursuit of a multi-polar world. Finally, the Syrian campaign has made it harder for Western governments to reject increased Russian involvement in international relations and to maintain economic sanctions since they appear to be working towards the same objectives.