On Wednesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed legislation that ratifies an earlier deal that Russia had made with the Syrian government. This legislation effectively allows Russia continued access to the Khmeimim airbase in the southeast of the city of Latakia Governorate for a period of up to 50 years, with the option of signing 25 year extensions as need be.
The original deal had laid out the terms in which Russia may operate this airbase, and Putins approval of this agreement came just shortly after both chambers of the Russian Parliament agreed to back the bill earlier this month.
Since September 2015, the Khmeimim airbase has been the primary point from which Russia’s military has operated in Syria. This earlier intervention had politically and militarily committed Russia to the defense of one of its closest Middle Eastern allies, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in his struggle against a western backed uprising that has since put the country in a deep state of civil war.
Soon after the earlier Russian military intervention, the tide of the Syrian Civil War drastically altered its path from what had been an imminent deposition of president Assad by rebel forces. Currently, the Assad regime has not only been successful in repressing the western backed rebels, but it has also done a great deal in smiting the common enemy of all parties involved — the now quickly deteriorating Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The continued Russian commitment to its Syrian ally has significantly undermined the original western goal of usurping the Assad regime and replacing it with a pro-western government. The long existing and recently reinvigorated alliance between Russia and Syria, and the poorly executed, prolonged and indecisive western intervention in this conflict has enabled Russia to gain more concrete control over this country, and lost the western bloc what could have been another strategic and valuable regional asset.