Amid the mounting tensions between Russia and the U.S. and NATO over Ukraine, the Syrian regime has aligned itself fully with its ally, Russia, while attacking the U.S. and Europe, which it claims are seeking to undermine Russia's national security. Syrian officials have praised Russia's stance vis-à-vis the West, presenting it as "defending the entire world and the principles of justice and humanity." In addition, senior Syrian journalists wrote articles in the state press proclaiming that Russia's war in Ukraine heralds the end of the unipolar order and the Western hegemony in the world, for the power-balances are shifting in favor of Russia and its allies. Some of the writers called for Russian-Chinese-Iranian-Syrian cooperation against the U.S.
The growing tension between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine has apparently had an impact on the interaction between their forces in Syria. Shortly before the start of the war in Ukraine, both superpowers increased their shows of force in Syria, holding military exercises in the Deir Al-Zor Governorate in the east of the country, where they both have influence zones. Furthermore, Russian jets circled over the Al-Tanf region in southern Syria, near the intersection of the Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian borders, where the U.S. has a major military base.
At the same time, Russia acted to underscore its tight relations with Syria. On February 15, 2022, several days before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu arrived in Syria to oversee largescale Russian naval exercises on the Syrian coast where Russia has two military bases. This move was seen as signaling that Russia regards Syria's security "as a direct continuation of its own national security." Furthermore, on the eve of the war, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad made an official visit to Moscow. He was thus present in the Russian capital when President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk separatist regions, and Syria was one of the first countries to express support for this move.
This report presents expressions of support for Russia by Syrian regime officials and in the regime press.
Syrian President Assad: Russia Is Correcting The Course Of History And Restoring Balance To The World; It Is Fighting Nazism
In a February 25, 2022, phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad commended Russia on its actions, saying: "What happened today is a historic course-correction and a restoration of the global balance, which was lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Western history seeks to march in place, so as to create a state of chaos that only criminals wish for. Russia is now defending not only itself but the [entire] world and the principles of humanity and justice. The Western countries bear the responsibility for the chaos and the bloodshed, which results from their policy that strives to control nations, because they use their despicable methods to support the terrorists in Syria and the Nazis in Ukraine. Syria supports Russia completely, because it recognizes the justness of its position and because Russia is entitled to confront the expansion of NATO, which poses a danger to the whole world and has become a tool for implementing the irresponsible Western policy of destabilizing the world. The enemy facing the Syrian and Russian armies is one and the same: in Syria it is extremism and in Russia it is Nazism. Russia will teach the whole world that countries do not become superpowers only thanks to their military prowess but also because they respect the law, the noble [values of] morality, and the principles of humanity."
Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, who made an official visit to Russia on February 20-23, 2022, said at the February 22 Valdai Forum in Moscow that the Western countries, "have left the world open [to chaos], supported terror, and use force and methods of fraud and pressure. They regard anyone who follows their way as democratic and free and anyone who refuses to succumb to their way as hostile to democracy and freedom."
One day earlier, at a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Mekdad said that "the methods used by the West against Russia are the same methods it used in its terrorist war against Syria… What is happening right now in [both] Syria and Ukraine is [the West] pushing for wars that serve only the Western bodies, who wish to profit at the expense of the children of Syria and of other countries… The Western policy is aimed at keeping the world under its hegemony and maintaining a unipolar world, rather than a multipolar one, so as to subordinate all the peoples of the world to its will…"
Editor Of Syrian Daily Al-Ba'th: Russia Is Defending Its Existence
The Syrian media was also mobilized to express unreserved support for Russia and attack Ukraine, the U.S. and NATO. Bassam Hashem, editor of the state daily Al-Ba'th, called to topple the Ukrainian government in order to bring this country back into the Russian fold. He wrote in a February 23 article: "Russia has likely decided to draw its red lines on its own, and defend its national security against the multidimensional threats – including nuclear and terrorist threats – which the puppet government of [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy and his Neo-Nazi gangs continue to present. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin had no choice but to take the initiative and employ a series of means and tools in addition to the recognition of the two republics of Donbas, because the creeping existential threat represented by the plan for the enlargement of NATO must be stopped. The [Ukrainian] revolutionaries – who subordinated the country's economy to the desires of external forces, and who, under various pretexts, subordinated the state institutions to the U.S. embassy and to those who continue to prepare the ground for punishing the Orthodox Church and are even pushing Ukraine into a war with Russia – must certainly be restrained and curbed by changing the military and political parameters and calculations that have prevailed for years. This must first of all be done by demonstrating a willingness… to guarantee the security of the two republics that have now been recognized, and perhaps even by adopting a policy aimed at changing the regime in Kyiv by increasing the political support for the opposition, which will seize the reins of government through a 'color revolution' – a real one this time – so as to force the opportunistic Western-backed [Ukrainian] government to make peace with its region and especially with Mother Russia."
Senior Syrian Journalist: Russia, China, Iran, Syria Must Unite Against U.S.
'Abd Al-Rahim Ahmad, the former director of Syria's news agency SANA and a columnist for the state daily Al-Thawra, called on Russia, China, Iran and Syria to unite against the U.S. and NATO. He wrote on February 22: "What does the U.S. and NATO expect from Russia, which now seeks to regain the role of the Soviet Union, redraw the political map of the globe and establish a multipolar world, expunging the unipolar [order] that has been dominated by the U.S. for two decades? What do they expect of it, now that NATO has reached its very doorstep and deployed missiles close to its [borders]? Does Biden expect Russia to be convinced by his lies when he says that NATO's expansion toward its borders is not meant to threaten it? What happened yesterday [Russia's recognition of the separatist republics] will no doubt redraw the political map of the world according to the priorities of the Russian-Chinese-Iranian-Syrian axis, whether the U.S. and Europe like it or not…
"The lines of the conflict between the two axes, the Russian one and the American one, have now become very clear. They are drawn in fire in Syria and Ukraine, in the Arabian Gulf and in China's Taiwan Strait. Whoever sees the series of [the exchanges of] visits [made by the leaders] of the Russian-Chinese-Iranian-Syrian axis in the last three months, understands very well that it is working together, in mutual coordination, to strengthen the fronts of the conflict [with the U.S. and its allies].
"The American madness of igniting a war on Russia's borders and pushing NATO, and especially the Europeans, to precede it to the trenches of the Baltic Sea and Black Sea [fronts], compels the Russian axis to put its finger on the trigger – for the battle is one, despite the geographical distance [between the different fronts]. The U.S. is trying to achieve on the doorstep of Russia what it failed to achieve in the Syrian arena, and it will [also] try to do this on the doorsteps of Beijing and of Tehran in the Gulf. Instead of waiting for the U.S. to isolate them, these countries [China and Iran] should unite and confront [the U.S.] together…"
Al-Thawra News Editor: The Power-Balance Has Shifted In Favor Of Russia And Its Allies
Nasser Mundhir, a news editor at the daily Al-Thawra, wrote on February 26 that the era of America's unipolar global hegemony is coming to an end: "The developments in Ukraine in the last few days prove that the U.S. has lost all its leverage over Russia. The Russian response to the Western provocations marks the beginning of the countdown toward the end of the unipolar [era]. The current military, political and economic changes in the global arena will cement the foundations of the new world order and restore balance to the world, after the U.S., and its military arm, NATO, compromised the security and stability of the nations and after their destructive policy started to endanger the entire world…
"The Ukrainian regime now finds itself alone in the fray, after it refused to heed all the Russian calls to comply with the Minsk agreements, and it has started to beg for dialogue and negotiations. But it is ignoring the fact that the rules of the game changed after it obeyed the West's commands, and now Russia alone will determine the terms and rules of any new negotiation. These terms will be more than a Ukrainian [pledge to] drop its NATO bid and accept the new reality in Donbas that has been enforced by the military operation. Russia will not allow Ukraine to be an American and Western knife at its throat, as stressed by [the Russian] officials, who have already warned NATO of crossing [Russia's] red lines. The West may now recalculate its course, after it realizes that the balance of power has shifted in favor of Russia and its allies in the international arena…"
Syrian Journalist: Russia's War In Ukraine Will Impact Burning Issues In Arab World
Syrian poet and journalist Hanadi Al-Saleh wrote on the online daily Raialyoum.com that Russia's military operation in Ukraine would impact the conflicts in the Arab world, especially in Syria and Yemen, She wrote on February 25: "The U.S. will learn only by force that this world will not continue to dance to its tune. The Russian slap in the face burned Biden's cheek, rocked the unipolar [world order] and will eventually erase every trace of [this order]. NATO, under the leadership of the U.S., pushes nations to stage coups in their countries and select leaders who are NATO allies. Then it fans the flames of internal strife around the world, under the heading of 'color revolutions,' as it did in the blood-soaked [Arab] Spring in the Middle East, or under various other headings. When global forces intervene, NATO turns its back and leaves [these countries] to their inevitable fate. The U.S. is floundering, and is watching the erosion if its allies in Kyiv.
"This is not a full-blown war but a reorganizing of the world under the leadership of the Russian Czar. It will have positive effects on burning issues in the Arab arena – first and foremost on NATO's flight from the Marib [Province in southwestern Yemen], which the Sanaa forces [i.e., the Houthis] entered today – and on many other secret [issues]. This is especially true now that Russia has deployed new supersonic missiles as a first message to the U.S. and its allies [namely,] that after the war in Ukraine there will be a war in Syria, in the northern Euphrates [region], to extricate it from the claws of the Americans and of the Syrian Democratic Forces, and [also] that in Yemen things have begun shifting in favor of the Yemeni [Houthi] forces that will [eventually] defeat Israel [as well].
"The Russian Czar is redrawing the balances on the world map, while defending the security of his country. Without justifying Putin's next move, [let me say that] he will devour all of eastern Ukraine and will not stop. So this is actually the beginning of the end of America's leading role in Europe."
Escalation Between U.S. And Russia In Syria Against Backdrop Of Ukraine War
The growing tension between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine has also exacerbated the existing tension between them in the Syrian arena. Russia recently stepped up its propaganda against the U.S. in the context of Syria, claiming that American intelligence is planning to activate extremist sleeper cells in Syria that will attack the Syrian, Russian, and Iranian forces. Furthermore, on February 15, 2022, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu arrived in Syria to oversee large-scale Russian military exercises on the Syrian coast where Russia has two military bases. The Syrian Al-Watan daily, which is affiliated with the regime, stated that the Russian Khmeimim airbase near Latakia has become this country's outpost in the event of war with the West.
Even before the Russian military campaign in Ukraine began, Syria's Al-Ba'th Media network reported that the U.S. had proposed that Russia should withdraw from Syria in return for an American guarantee that Ukraine would be a Russian satellite state and would not be admitted to NATO, and that Russia could reconfigure the Ukrainian government according to its wishes. According to the report, Russia rejected this offer and informed the U.S. that it stands by its demands concerning Ukraine and also by its alliance with the Syrian regime.
At the same time, there was a discernible increase in the struggle between the U.S. and Russia on Syrian soil. On February 18, forces of the anti-ISIS international coalition, led by the U.S., together with the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),which are backed by the coalition, held joint military exercises in the eastern Deir Al-Zor Governorate, which partly controlled by the U.S. and partly by Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces. The U.S. forces have also brought more Bradley armored vehicles into northeastern Syria and presented them on the international coalition's media in order to underscore their determination to maintain their presence there. Apparently in response, on February 19 the Russian forces held a live-fire air exercise over several villages in the eastern Deir Al-Zor area. The pro-Syrian regime daily Al-Watan described these exercises as "an effort to consolidate the Russian forces' control of the Omar oil field area," where a base of the international coalition is located. Moreover, on February 20 it was reported that large Russian patrol aircraft and fighter jets had circled over Al-Tanf in southern Syria, where another coalition base is situated.
Despite this, both the Syrian regime media and the media associated with the Syrian opposition assess that the situation will not escalate into an open confrontation between the two countries on Syrian soil. Al-Watan speculated that what is happening between the U.S. and Russia there will not go beyond an "exchange of messages" and "shows of force" to become a strategic conflict between them regarding Syria. The Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily, which supports the Syrian regime, reported that so far there have been no signs of clashes between the two sides in Syria, but that the level of coordination between them may decrease, especially in the east of the country.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 26, 2022.
 Twitter.com/Presidency_Sy, February 25, 2022.
 Sana.sy, arabic.sputnilnews.com, February 22, 2022.
 Sana.sy, February 21, 2022.
 I.e., the regime established in Ukraine after the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
 This refers to a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church that operates in Ukraine, including in the separatist republics.
 The term "color revolution" has been used to describe various protest movements seeking change of government, especially in several countries of the former Soviet Union. These movements have been characterized by mostly non-violent protest and calls for democracy, liberalism and national independence.
 Al-Ba'th (Syria), February 23, 2022.
 Facebook.com/%D8%B5%D8%AD%D9%8A%D9%81%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AB%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%A3%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%8A%D9%86-111674936889475, February 22, 2022.
 Facebook.com/%D8%B5%D8%AD%D9%8A%D9%81%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AB%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%A3%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%8A%D9%86-111674936889475, February 26, 2022.
 Raialyoum.com, February 25, 2022.
 Arabic.sputniknews.com, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 15, 2022.
 Al-Watan (Syria), February 16, 2022.
 Facebook.com/baathnewsnetwork, February 16, 2022.
 Almodon.com, February 19, 2022.
 Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 25, 2022.
 Al-Watan (Syria), February 22, 2022.
 Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), February 20, 2022. It should be noted that an area with a radius of 55 km around the base has been designated by the U.S. as a deconfliction zone which forces of the Syrian regime and its allies, including Russia, may not enter.
 Al-Watan (Syria), February 22, 2022.
 Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 25, 2022.