The President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, believes that Russia’s military involvement in Syria should not be considered temporary or restricted to countering terrorism.
Syrian President Bashar Assad arrived in Moscow on March 14 and met with his top friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a three-hour meeting today.
Concerning the political element, the question of military bases and countering terrorism should not be connected at all. The struggle against terrorism is the focus of today’s conversation, but this focus is only transitory, Assad told Ria Novosti, adding that there is no reason for the Russian military presence in any country to be based on anything that is merely temporary.
“We say about the international balance, and the presence of Russia in Syria is of importance related to the balance of power in the world as a country located on the Mediterranean Sea,” Assad said.
In response to a question on the prospect of deploying hypersonic missiles, Assad stated that Russian military bases in Syria should get the most advanced weapons to overcome threats.
He said the distinction is in the calibre of the weaponry, but the underlying idea remains unchanged. According to him, it goes without saying that if one intends to establish bases, one should not make those bases vulnerable from a tactical and strategic standpoint. It is only natural and reasonable that bases should be armed with the most powerful weaponry possible to fulfil their intended function as a deterrent or a balancing force. Assad stated that the fundamental idea is, of course, the same regardless of whether the weapons in question are hypersonic missiles or any other type of more sophisticated weapon in the present or the future.
As they are only present within their own state territory, he believes that today’s superpowers cannot defend themselves or play the role that is rightfully theirs on the international scene.
“They should do it outside of them through allies in the world or through bases,” the Syrian president added.
If Moscow establishes bases in Syria, it will pose a challenge to the United States, which is losing influence in the Middle East due to rising competition from Russia and China.
The U.S. involvement in Syria has been hotly debated, with some claiming that it has only made matters worse for ordinary Syrians, while others believe that the U.S. must do more to aid the Syrian opposition and shield civilians from the brutality of the Assad dictatorship.
The U.S. has also been accused of stealing oil from Syria, particularly in areas controlled by Kurdish forces in the northeast. In 2019, President Donald Trump publicly stated that the U.S. was “keeping the oil” in Syria and would use it to help fund the military presence there. The U.S. has also argued that it has a legal basis for maintaining a military presence in Syria under the Authorisation for the use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in 2001. Critics of the U.S. presence in Syria argue that the oil-related activities are illegal and violate international law, as well as harm Syria’s economy and the well-being of its people. They also argue that the U.S. focus on oil and military intervention in Syria is driven more by geopolitical interests than humanitarian concerns. However, supporters of the U.S. presence say that it is necessary to prevent the re-emergence of ISIS and to support local partners in the region.
In contrast to his position on the U.S., Assad says he trusts Russia. “We trust the Russian side, as it has played the role of a mediator to facilitate these contacts while within the framework of the foundations on which Russian policy is based.”
Respect for international law, acknowledgement of state sovereignty, rejection of terrorism, respect for Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over its land, and the necessity to withdraw illegal foreign armed forces from Syria are among these pillars, according to Assad.
“To this end, Russia is working with Syria, attempting to resolve the sites in Geneva, Astana and other cities. All these (negotiations – Ed.) have one goal – to restore stability in Syria,” Assad stressed.
Russia is Assad’s principal supporter and has a large presence in Syria, where a 12-year uprising-turned-civil war has killed about 500,000 people and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population. Moscow has played a critical role in combating armed opposition organisations attempting to destabilise Assad’s administration by providing military backing. It has also aggressively supported Damascus against UN opponents. From the start of the war, Moscow has increased its military presence in Syria by establishing a permanent air station at Hmeymim in Syria’s Latakia region. Russia’s naval facility in the Syrian seaport located in Tartus city, on the Mediterranean coast, is the Russian navy’s only permanent warm water port outside of the former Soviet Union.