Recently on Thursday, 16 March, Syrian President Bashar Al- Assad expressed his approval of any plans Russia may propose to establish new military bases and increase the number of troops in Syria also indicating that he believes that Russia should maintain a permanent military presence in the country. By intervening in the Syrian Civil War in 2015, Russia played a critical role in aiding Assad’s victory by effectively securing his leadership despite the western push to oust him. Assad who visited the Kremlin to meet with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday has expressed his support for Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. Furthermore, in an interview with Russia’s state news agency RIA, Assad acknowledged the territories that Russia has claimed in Ukraine and affirmed that Syria recognizes them.
President Bashar Al- Assad also stated that Syria would welcome proposals from Russia to establish new military bases and will increase the number of Russian troops in the country and he emphasized that this presence need not be temporary. Assad explained that he believes expanding Russia’s presence in Syria is beneficial and that a country’s military presence should not be temporary. He also said, “we consider it as a technical or logistic matter if Russia wishes to expand or increase their bases”. During his presidency, Syria has been embroiled in a complex conflict that began with peaceful protests in 2011 and escalated into a multi-faceted war that has left the Middle Eastern country divided and entangled with foreign interests. However, with the support of Russia and Iran, Assad has managed to reunite much of his state, due in part to the unwavering commitment of his allies to his survival. Russia currently maintains the Hmeimim air base which is used for air strikes in support of Assad and the Tartus naval facility its only naval presence in the Mediterranean which has been in operation since the Soviet era.
In January, Russia’s defence ministry announced that Russia and Syria have restored the al-Jarrah military air base in northern Syria for joint use. The small base east of Aleppo had been recaptured from Islamic State fighters in 2017. During his visit to Moscow, Assad expressed gratitude to Putin for Russia’s assistance after a devastating earthquake and commended the Kremlin leader for supporting Syrian unity. Assad also reaffirmed Syria’s support for Russia regarding the conflict in Ukraine, declaring that Syria recognizes the territories Russia has taken over as Russian. According to a transcript from the Kremlin, Assad reiterated his support for Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine during his meeting with Putin. While acknowledging the west’s condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory, Assad argued that these territories have always been historically Russian. Russia has claimed about a fifth of Ukraine’s land as its own and Ukraine is determined to expel every last Russian soldier from its territory. Assad also mentioned that Russia and Syria plan to sign an economic cooperation agreement in the coming weeks.