Russia and the US Role in the Syrian Conflict


One of the occurrences that have captured the attention of the world over the last couple of years is the Syrian Civil War that broke in 2011. The phenomenon has affected the country in various ways in terms of their economic, political, and social development (Rodgers par.1).

International relations experts argue that the civil war has the potential to cause more problems to the Asian republic, if the various intervention measures by the United Nations Security Council are pushed through (Hashemi and Postel 100).

However, the country has managed to avoid the effects of the proposed resolutions through the help of Russia, which has been its close ally since 1950’s. The biggest help that Syria has received from Russia during this period has been in the form of military training, weaponry, and intelligence (Hashemi and Postel 100).

According to Russia, the United States has been one of the biggest forces behind the civil war in Syria through their bid to stimulate a democratic system of governance in the country. The United States has faced a number of accusations for funding and providing military training to various opposition groups in the country as part of their agenda (Wilson 8).

President Bashar Assad has occasionally made public the desire of his government to continue getting support from Russia against the western forces. The deadly conflict has led to very many people fleeing the country in search of more peaceful environments (Rodgers par.3). The Syrian conflict has created a new perspective about the various interests of the United States, with many people questioning the credibility of its foreign policy.


Syria is one of the countries that were swept along by the Arab Spring, which was a series of protests within Islamic states that were seeking a political revolution with regard to the systems of governance in place at the time (Ortiz 21). The Syrian government responded to their own situation by launching numerous crackdowns on the various protesters (Rosenberg and MacFarquhar par.1).

According to international relations experts, the unrest created by this response triggered the development of movements powered by military training that staged greater opposition against the government. Most of the people that formed these opposition groups were defectors from the county’s army (Hashemi and Postel 109).

The phenomenon started to attract the attention of the world when the uprising grew into a rebellion powered by powerful and deadly arms. The situation escalated into a civil war following the emergence of the free Syrian army in 2011 (Rodgers par.3).

Reports indicate that some of the other cliques developed from the people that opted out of this group to pursue their own motivations against the government. The organization and implementation strategies used by these militant groups against the leadership of President Assad caught the attention of the United States and other Western forces that wanted the leader to be ousted from power (Thompson par. 1).

One of the opposition factions that have been closely linked to the interests of the United States in the Syrian conflict is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (Hashemi and Postel 113). Although reports indicate that the relationship between the United States and this group collapsed because of its extremist tendencies, their motivation towards the desire to change the country’s leadership has not changed in any way (Ortiz 28).

Motivations behind Russia’s controversial position

Over the course of the conflict, the United States has developed a bitter rivalry with Russia because of its continued support of President Assad’s regime. According to the western forces, Russia has portrayed a lot of selfish tendencies that are driven by the economic benefits it reaps from its relationship with Syria (Hashemi and Postel 119).

In the context of the conflict, they believe that Russia has continued to support President Assad because his government is its top client for its weapons (Rosenberg and MacFarquhar par.4). Therefore, Russia does not consider the proposed political revolution in the country as a good thing for them economically.

Another factor that could have motivated Russia to support the regime of President Assad was the fact that their main military facility was based in Tartus, Syria (Ortiz 64). International relations experts argue that Russia possibly felt that it had an ethical obligation towards Syria by supporting them because they had hosted their facility.

Probably, it would have passed as an act of betrayal against Syria if Russia chose to support the western forces and use that facility as a tool to fight the government that had been good to them for such a long time.

The third motivation behind Russia’s position in the conflict, as pointed out by the United States and other Western forces was the fact that some of their nationals had volunteered to fight in the Syrian conflict as part of the opposition (Ortiz 70). The Russian government felt that the involvement of its people in the war would cause some threats back home in case they made a return, thus the reason they supported Syria.

The ensuing power battle

According to international relations experts, an ensuing power battle is the most likely next phase of the Syrian conflict, as Russia and the United States continue to disagree on the right way forward for the Asian republic (Rosenberg and MacFarquhar par.3).

According to the United States Secretary of State John Kerry, the possible future development of the conflict will be that Russia will become a target if it fails to support any resolution that will help Syria become a more unified community that embraces democracy (Wilson 10).

Reports indicate that Russia’s side of the bargain is that they support transition in Syria, but on condition that President Assad is given an opportunity to be part of the change process. A proposed political agreement would see the current president be allowed to remain in power for a little more time before relinquishing power through a democratic process that will involve a free and fair election (Hashemi and Postel 124).

However, the western forces that include the United States argue that making President Assad part of Syria’s future would be a blind move because some of his tyrant ideologies would pollute the transition process (Rosenberg and MacFarquhar par.5). They believe that Syria can only have a healthy rebirth without any form of involvement by any leader in the current regime.

Contrary to what Russia believes about the ideal solution to the crisis in Syria, the United States still holds on its proposal that a political solution to the conflict is only achievable through military powered intervention (Wilson 13). Recently, Russia offered to work with the United States in order to counter the effect brought about by ISIL.

However, the western forces have received this move with mixed reactions because Russia is not willing to cooperate in dealing with the main source of the problem, which is President Assad (Thompson par.2). Conflict resolution experts argue that the lack of a common ground between Russia and the United States over President Assad could be a major factor in the possibility of this conflict lasting longer than most people may project.

However, it is important to note and appreciate the fact that both parties are strongly against any form of extremism, which has been a stumbling block in the efforts to create a secular government in Syria over the years (Ortiz 36). Experts believe that this is a positive element of the conflict that could be intelligently exploited to come up with an amicable solution that will see Syria redeem its self from the prolonged period of unrest.

Apart from the need to eliminate extremist groups, both parties have also agreed on the importance of ensuring that the next Syrian leader will be chosen by the people (Hashemi and Postel 121). This is also another positive development in the conflict because it forms a good basis for using transition as a solution to the crisis.

The ensuing battle between Russia and the United States over their position in the context of this conflict could possibly have other interests beyond the stability in Syria. This has been evidenced in the numerous statements made by both parties with regard to the importance of having a more stable, secure, and democratic Syria.

In 2011, Russia stated that it did not see the need for the United Nations to engage its self in the Syrian situation because it did not pose any meaningful threat to regional stability (Rosenberg and MacFarquhar par.6). Russia felt that it would be of greater importance to the Middle East if Syria was left to handle its own situation without the interference of external forces rather than allow them to destabilize the whole region in the name of stimulating an inevitable political revolution (Thompson par.4).

In addition, Russia argued that it was necessary to appreciate the efforts that President Assad was already making to help Syria have a smooth transition to a more democratic system of governance (Ortiz 41). On the other hand, the United States felt that a military response was the best way to address the prevailing problem in the country, as the rest of the world would have something to learn with regard to upholding democracy (Hashemi and Postel 136). As the oldest democracy in the world, the United States has always placed the promotion of democracy across the world as one of the main agendas that characterize its foreign policy.

In the context of the Syrian conflict, the interests of the United States could have been geared towards creating a global impression about their desire to have governments where the leaders are chosen by the people, there is strict adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights (Wilson 16).

However, the United States came under strong criticism over their credibility of its foreign policy, especially on the issue of human rights protection. First of all, they considered the use of violence as the best way to solve the Syrian crisis. In a real sense, this does not qualify as promotion of human rights, but a gross violation of the same. Second, the United States is criticized a lot for its lack of leadership in such situations as the one in Syria owing to its experience in past situations (Wilson 20).

Some international relations experts believe that the United States should be leading the line in coming up with a peaceful way of solving the crisis despite huge opposition from Russia. Although it has from the onset been rooting for a political deal that will not involve President Assad, the United States had not done enough to convince the world that its foreign policy is not biased and motivated by other hidden interests that the world is unaware of about.

As a world leader, there are many expectations that the United States has to shoulder and ensure that it does everything in its power to deliver (Wilson 21). Without a doubt, the United States has good intentions for the people of Syria. However, it has a bigger work to do in convincing Russia to change its position if it hopes that the world will believe its intentions in this crisis are genuine.

Many critics of the manner in which the United States and Russia have conducted themselves over the course of this crisis, argue that the two parties have taken advantage of the situation to play each others victim at the expense of the Syrians.

For example, it is unfortunate that the United States forces had to be called by Turkish authorities to provide extra enforcement, as the government felt the sovereignty of its people was under the threat of being compromised. In a conflict that involved just a single country, the selfish antics of both Russia and the United States have also dragged Turkey into the mess (Wilson 23).

Despite numerous statements by President Barrack Obama about the desire by the United States not to turn the Syrian crisis about them and Russia, many observers argue that the situation is slowly moving towards experiencing such a development (Wilson 24).

The two countries have invested heavy weaponry into the war, a phenomenon that has led many people into believing that all the three major parties involved will end up hurt and no amicable solution will be reached any time soon.


Russia and the United States have been the major players in the development of the Syrian conflict. The two parties have agreed on a lot of things concerning the crisis, but have failed to agree on the best way of dealing with President Assad.

According to the United States, he has failed the people of Syria and needs to understand that his time is overdue because the Syrians are looking for a new beginning without him. This position has led to various questions over the legitimacy of America’s foreign policy.

On the other hand, Russia believes that he is the right man to lead Syria and demands that the western forces should keep off the affairs of the country because it is under reliable care. President Assad is a key denominator in the Syrian crisis, which has slowly turned into a power fight between Russia and the United States.

Although the latter believes that a political agreement that does not involve the president is the best solution to the crisis, Russia believes that at least he deserves to be part of the deal. With the current state of affairs, a military intervention will be the most effective solution to the crisis because the Syrians are ready to embrace democracy without the involvement of President Assad and the selfish economic interests of Russia.

Works Cited

Hashemi, Nader, and Danny, Postel. The Syria Dilemma. New York: MIT Press, 2013. Print.

Ortiz, Alex. The Syrian Conflict and its Grave Origins: From Civil Uprising to War. New York: Lap Lambert Academic Publishing, 2014. Print.

Rodgers, Lucy. Syria: The Story of the Conflict. 2015. Web.

Rosenberg, Matthew, and Neil, MacFarquhar. U.S. and Russia find Common Goals on Syria, if not Assad 2015. Web.

Thompson, Mark. U.S. and Russia Sending Weapons to Syria Best-Suited for Shooting at Each Other 2015. Web.

Wilson, David. The Arab Spring: Comparing U.S. Reactions in Libya and Syria. New York: U.S. Army War College, 2015. Print.

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