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Why Russia Supports Assad

Syria's brutal dictator has an ally in Russia. Here's one reason why.

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Chechnya, which is part of Russia, has seen violent conflict between the Russian government and the Chechen separatist movement / Via Wikimedia Commons

The First Chechen War began in 1994 as Russian forces entered the area to try and oust rebels from control. A 1996 ceasefire ended the devastating war, with thousands of Russian troops killed, an estimated 17,000 Chechen troops killed or missing, at least 161 Russian civilians killed in related terrorist attacks, and between 50,000-100,000 Chechen civilians killed in the war.

A Second Chechen War involving Russia started in 1999, after a radical Islamist group invaded nearby Dagestan. Though the battle phase ended in 2000, since then, terrorist attacks have routinely killed civilians in Russia.


The conditions in Chechnya have given rise to extremism and terrorism / Via Wikimedia Commons

This includes a devastating attack in September 2004, when Islamist Chechen separatists took over a school in neighboring North Ossetia.

More than 1,100 people were held hostage, and in the ensuing standoff, more than 334 hostages were killed – including 186 children.

So, imagine you're Russia.

This incredibly helpful analysis comes from Matthew Rojansky of the Kennan Institute.


You want stable countries in the Middle East who will be a bulwark against Islamism, weapons trafficking, and the spread of jihadi terrorists.


And you probably aren't comfortable that those countries will be stable partners agaisnt Islamism, weapons trafficking, or the spread of terrorism.


So you want Syria to be stable. Uncertainty isn't good for you in this case.

That's why Russia has made the calculation that their best option in Syria is to support Assad.