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    Why Russia Supports Assad

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

    Here's the region known as "The Caucasus" / Via Wikimedia Commons

    The North Caucasus include Chechnya / Via Wikimedia Commons

    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.

    Syria and The Caucasus are pretty close to one another

    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.

    For Russia, the threat of terrorism is real and persistent

    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.

    You look at Egypt.

    You look at Libya.

    You look at Iraq.

    You look at Afghanistan.

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

    So let’s say, Assad goes. Let’s say the Alawite regime goes. What then? Are you confident that Russia would be safer?

    Again, remember how close Syria is to Russia and the explosive Caucasus region

    It's not difficult to imagine an increased flow of terrorists and weapons from Syria into the Caucasus.

    You're also hosting the Winter Olympics next February


    So, you're worried about a terrorist threat there.

    ...which is completely understandable, given how close Sochi is to both the Caucasus and Syria

    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.

    ...because it makes it less likely that the US will launch an attack that hurts the Assad regime.

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