Syria's Response to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Syria's Stance on Russia's Invasion:
- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad referred to the Russian invasion as a “correction of history and restoration of balance which was lost in the world after the breakup of the Soviet Union.”
- Al-Assad added that Russia is right to confront NATO expansionism.
Role of Syrian Mercenaries:
- According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), over 40,000 Syrians have registered to fight on behalf of Russia in Ukraine.
- As of March 14, no registered Syrian had left the country yet.
- Many Syrians decided to sign up as they were desperate for money. Close to 90% of the Syrian population lives in poverty.
- One former Syrian soldier who enlisted to fight in Ukraine explained, "The situation [in Syria] is extremely dire. There is no electricity, heating, or household gas.”
- Russia is rumored to have offered between $1,100 and $3,000 a month to foreign fighters. Soldiers will also be compensated $7,700 for any injuries, and their families will receive $16,500 if they are killed in combat. In Syria, soldiers earn between $15 and $35 a month.
- Russia began recruitment in Syria through the Wagner Group, a private military contractor, and various Russian-backed Syrian army forces like the Fifth Corps.
- The practicality of potential Syrian fighters is being questioned. Although Syrian fighters are familiar with urban warfare, the unfamiliar language and harsh weather conditions could render them inadequate.
- In 2015, Russia launched a military operation in Syria aimed at combating militant and terrorist parties, such as the Islamic State.
- The military intervention was approved by Assad’s regime. Approximately 63,000 Russian military forces were deployed to Syria.
- Putin was a strong supporter of the Assad regime and believed the only solution to civil war was “strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism.”
- The Syrian civil war is estimated to have killed nearly half a million people and displaced tens of millions.
- During a 2021 visit to Russia, al-Assad thanked Putin for providing humanitarian assistance and military counterterrorism support. Putin acknowledged that the main problem in Syria was the presence of foreign forces who undermined international law.
- Currently, Russia has two military bases in Syria: the Khmeimim Air Base in the south-east city of Latakia and a naval facility in the south-east city of Tartus. Apart from a military alliance, Syria awarded Russian companies oil exploration contracts. In addition, since March 2020, the Kremlin has supplied 100,000 tonnes of wheat to Syria as humanitarian aid.