Russia’s Payback Will Be Syria’s Reconstruction Money – Foreign Policy
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad inspect a military parade during their visit to the Russian air base in Hmeimim in the northwestern Syrian province of Latakia on Dec. 11, 2017.
MIKHAIL KIMENTYEV/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
But international donors—and Bashar al-Assad—aren’t playing along yet.
Almost four years later, with rebels having mostly abandoned calls for regime change and losing large swaths of their enclaves, Russia has achieved most of its short- and medium-term goals in Syria. A growing number of signs suggest Moscow is now shifting focus to another objective: The Kremlin would like Syria to provide it a financial windfall.
Russian analysts say Moscow had originally envisaged a sect-based power-sharing arrangement, modeled on Lebanon, between the Syrian government and several opposition groups as the political panacea for the conflict. But Russia could neither convince the regime nor the rebels to compromise and abandoned the plan. Now it has reduced its ambitions and is focused on using its leverage with Assad to agree on a constitutional committee whose members have been appointed by the regime, the opposition, and representatives of Syrian civil society.
Max Suckov, a Russia analyst, said Moscow would achieve little more in terms of a political settlement. “Russia is not very hopeful about a political settlement which satisfies all Syrian actors,” he said. “I think Russia has accepted that Syria will continue to be a centralized state, but that certainly makes it difficult to convince the EU to pay for reconstruction.”