But one of my friends, a well-known investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Joe Lauria, in his June 18 article for Daily News, claimed that Russia’s main motivation in backing the brutal Syrian regime is quite different. He wrote: “[A] clearer image of Russia’s stance comes into focus when put in the context of Moscow’s 30-year struggle against encroachment into its sphere of influence by militant Islam. The support at times given these groups by the US and Gulf Arab nations has opened a three-decade rift with Russia that began in Afghanistan and has run across the Northern Caucasus to the Balkans and now into Syria.
“Russia is opposed to regime change in Syria not only on principle, but because the likely new regime would be headed by an Islamist government inimical to Russian interests, analysts and diplomats say.”
In a July 9 piece for The New York Times, Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, repeated the same arguments: “Many in the West believe that Russia’s support for Syria stems from Moscow’s desire to profit from selling arms to Bashar al-Assad’s government and maintain its naval facility at the Syrian port of Tartus. But these speculations are superficial and misguided. The real reason that Russia is resisting strong international action against the Assad regime is that it fears the spread of Islamic radicalism and the erosion of its superpower status in a world where Western nations are increasingly undertaking unilateral military interventions.”
So, both Lauria and Pukhov expect us to believe that Russia’s support for the Syrian regime is not because of its hundred-year-old tradition of anti-Western policies but a quasi-Islamist regime that could replace the sectarian-nationalist anti-American Syrian regime.
But isn’t Russia a geopolitical partner of the Shia-based Islamist Iranian regime, which threatens the US and Israel and which has supported Hamas and Hezbollah for years?
Why, then, does Russia not have any concerns about Iran’s Islamist policies? When the issue is geopolitical competition, religion is just a word -- not more than that.
It is no secret that Russia sees the Arab uprisings as a geopolitical game that is actually backed by the US and its allies, with which I also totally agree. As I have written many times before, this soft policy of the US, called “The Greater Middle East Initiative,” was activated in 2002 by former President Bush in response to the events of Sept. 11.
Remarks made by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to the Middle East in 2007 explain how Russia sees US efforts in the region. He said, “I do not understand why some of our partners see themselves as cleverer and more civilized and think that they have the right to impose their standards on others.”
Let’s recall the geopolitical game and colorful revolutions and regime changes in Central Asia several years ago. Didn’t Russia see the US and EU as responsible for this geopolitical shift? Didn’t they see George Soros, who backs and funds programs and dissidents in Central and Eastern Europe, as an extension of the CIA in the region?
Well, we should be honest and say yes!
It is 100 percent fact that Russia still sees the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa as a result of US policies, and that’s why it does not support change in the region.
Recall that one of the leading anti-American rogue states, Libya, had excellent relations with Russia from the Muammar Gaddafi took the power in 1969 until his fall in 2011.
Do you remember that Hosni Mubarak, the overthrown president of Egypt, was trained at the Soviet General Staff’s Frunze Military Academy in Moscow and the Soviet air force academy in Kant, Kyrgyzstan?
Why does Russia really support Syria? Because Russia is quite sure that the next step will be in Iran, Russia’s biggest ally in the Middle East. Russia is also worried the uprisings may trigger similar events in Russia and other countries in Central Asia as well.
Russia has backed Syria and Iran not only because of economic interests but because these countries have the capacity to challenge US interests and influence in the Middle East.
What about China? Well, it is most definitely playing the same geopolitical game. Who is the biggest investor in Iran? China. In order to control China’s energy resources, the US has no other choice but to control Iran as well.
*Aydoğan Vatandaş is an investigative reporter based in New York.