FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: The Arab Spring at Five

Russia's Line in the Sand on Syria

Why Moscow Wants To Halt the Arab Spring

Syria is often called Russia’s last remaining ally in the Middle East, and Moscow’s continuing refusal to support the United States, the European Union, and the Arab League in condemning the Assad regime certainly appears to support that claim. The reasons cited for Russia’s allegiance to Damascus are many: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are said to have a sort of autocratic solidarity, with Putin afraid that the Arab Spring encourages challenges to his own rule; at the same time, Russia is thought to have major economic interests in Syria, including arms contracts, a Russian-leased naval base, and plans for nuclear energy cooperation.

There are elements of truth in all these assertions -- but they offer only glimpses of the broader picture. Moscow’s position on Syria is shaped even more by the recent experience of Libya, strong doubts concerning the Syrian

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