Syria wants more Russian troops
Russia’s military presence in Syria should become permanent, President Bashar Assad suggested in an interview with the RIA Novosti news agency on Thursday. He made the comments after meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow the day before.
Assad said he would welcome any Russian proposals to set up new military bases and boost troop numbers in the country, adding that Moscow’s presence in Syria is “a good thing” and does not need to be temporary or limited to just fighting terrorism.
“The war against terror is today’s topic, but it is temporary,” Assad said, adding that “Russia’s military presence in any country should not be based on anything temporary.”
Instead, the Syrian leader pointed out that the issue is about “international balance” and that Russia’s presence in Syria “is important in terms of the balance of power in the world as a country located on the Mediterranean Sea.”
He added that, in his opinion, superpowers today cannot defend themselves or fulfill their proper roles on the world stage if their presence is limited only to their state territories. “They should work outside of [their territories] through their allies in the world or through military bases,” Assad said.
“We believe that if Russia has a desire to expand the bases or increase their number, then this is a technical or logistical issue. If there is such a desire, then we believe that the expansion of the Russian presence in Syria is good,” Assad told RIA.
He noted, however, that the topic of bases has not been discussed by the two sides “from a military point of view” and that announcements on this kind of cooperation are rarely made due to the inherent secrecy of military issues. But he stressed that both Russia and Syria have a common view on the topic in both political and military terms.
Moscow and Damascus have had close ties since the Soviet era. In 2015, Russia sent its military into Syria to help Damascus fight against Islamic State and Western-backed jihadist groups opposing Assad’s government. In 2017, Russia deployed a navy logistics center in the city of Tartus for 49 years, which in the future is expected to be able to host up to eleven Russian warships, including nuclear vessels, at the same time.