As Russia Continues Its Military Op in Ukraine, Syria Shows That a Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed
05:38 GMT 03.04.2022 (Updated: 16:46 GMT 08.01.2023)
Syria was one of a select few countries to vote against the condemnation of Russia at the United Nations General Assembly. Damascus has not joined the West in imposing sanctions on Moscow and is now leading talks that would see the two states trading with each other using their own currencies.
In 2015, when Daesh* was still strong in Syria and various rebel groups were tearing the country apart, Damascus approached Moscow and asked for military assistance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin understood where Syrian pleas for assistance were coming from. At the time, the future of his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad seemed bleak, his control over the country was not guaranteed, and that prompted the Kremlin to give a greenlight to aid Damascus.
Between 2015 and 2017 Russia and Syrian forces managed to stabilise the situation in the war-torn country. Daesh, who lost control over most of its territory, was forced to flee. Many rebel groups there were ultimately destroyed.
Damascus has never forgotten the helping hand extended by Moscow and now, as Russia's military operation in Ukraine has entered its second month, Syria wants to pay it back.
It was one of the few countries that voted against an anti-Russian resolution at the United Nations General Assembly, and it has declined calls to join a number of Western sanctions against the Kremlin.
"Our president expressed his support for Moscow by saying that Russia has come to correct history", said Yara Saleh, a leading Syrian journalist. "In this operation, Russia is not fighting the Ukrainian people. It is defending its principles of justice and humanity. And Syria backs this approach. We want justice to be the leader of the world. Not the United States or the West".
To diminish the influence of Washington Syria is now reportedly leading negotiations with Moscow to start mutual trade in their own currencies, dropping the US dollar.
Similarly, Russia is also holding talks with other players, including India and China, something that has made decision-makers in Washington worried.
Yet, Saleh says it is not only the government that is expressing its support for Moscow. Ordinary Syrians are backing the Kremlin too.
Since the beginning of Russia's special military operation in Ukraine on 24 February, Syrians have staged multiple protests in support of Moscow. The most recent were held last week in the cities of Tartus and Latakia. There have also been demonstrations in the capital
"This support stems from the Syrian people having seen the unjust sanctions the West has slapped on Syria. Syrians know that the West wants to control the world in defiance of their principles of humanity and justice. So people take to the streets to voice their backing of Moscow", explained Saleh.
Their support has not been limited to words alone. In recent weeks it has been reported that hundreds of Syrian military men have been heading to Moscow, where they will be given training before being dispatched to Ukraine, to fight alongside Russians.
Allegedly, 300 such fighters have already reached Ukraine. Thousands of others are still on their way.
Saleh says she cannot verify the accuracy of these reports. She believes that the Russian Army is "strong" and doesn't need the support of external actors. Neither does she believe Western claims that the operation continuing for over a month is due to Moscow's alleged unpreparedness in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance.
"This operation is taking that long simply because the Russian Army doesn't want to hurt civilians. And this is what makes the Russians different from the West", Saleh stated.
* Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries.
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