Vladimir Putin receives the embrace of Bashar al-Assad at Russia’s Hmeimim Airbase in western Syria, December 11, 2017
Reliant on Russia for his stay in power after almost 11 years of Syria’s conflict, Bashar al-Assad plays up to Vladimir Putin in a cable for New Year.
I offer my warmest heartfelt congratulations to you, wishing the new year would bring progress and success to you and to your people and more prosperity to your country.
We also hope that this year would bring more success to the distinguished relations binding Syria and Russia and to the bilateral cooperation that achieves outstanding progress and leaves positive impacts on the lives of the two peoples.
Moscow has provided essential support to Assad since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011. Its massive intervention with air and ground forces in September 2015, coordinated with Iran, likely prevented Assad’s fall as opposition forces took over much of northwest and southern Syria.
The Kremlin press service said Putin sent a holiday message to Assad that “reaffirmed Russia’s intention to further provide all-round support to friendly Syria in the fight against international terrorism to help achieve a comprehensive political settlement and post-conflict reconstruction”.
However, in a signal of the power relationship, the Russian State outlet TASS headlines, “Syria’s Assad Expresses Hope for Stronger Ties with Russia in Message to Putin”.
Assad made an unexpected visit to Putin in Moscow in September. No explanation was ever given of the reason or of specific topics, including the economic crisis in Assad regime areas or territory outside the regime’s control, uch as Turkish-backed, opposition-held parts of the northwest and US-supported, Kurdish-controlled cantons in the northeast.
Instead, Syrian and Russian State media recited platitudes about fighting “terrorism” and criticizing “foreign forces” such as Turkey and the US.