Why Russia is so loyal to Syria

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad talk as they meet in Moscow's Kremlin, 19 December 2006.

The international community is continuing to hammer out an agreement for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons and avoid a U.S. air strike. The deal was brokered by Russia, Syria's biggest protecter. How is Russia invested in Syria?

Syria was one of the Soviet Union's big allies during the Cold War. Russia still has a Navy installation there. But the Carnegie Endowment's Andrew Weiss says the base isn't much of an investment.

"It's really, basically, a glorified gas station that can handle four or five ships, max."

It is a pretty strategically placed gas station, though. The Woodrow Wilson Center's Matthew Rojanksy says Russia's stake in Syria is about geostrategy more than economics. That's a change from two years ago, Rojansky says, when Russia was still hoping to recoup billions of dollars Syria owes it from arms and infrastructure deals.

"I think all bets are off on whether that is going to be paid now, and I think what's changed dramatically is the relative importance of those debts versus other interests and equities that Russia has at stake in Syria."

Rojansky says Russia could still stand to benefit financially, if its efforts to avoid a U.S. strike sow good will ahead of the many rebuilding contracts that come at the end of civil war.


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