For the first time since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a visit to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin. But this time, it was a bit of a surprise, for the US anyway.
Assad flew to Moscow on Tuesday to personally to thank President Putin for Russia’s ongoing military support. The Syrian leader said that Russia’s involvement has stopped “terrorism” from becoming “more widespread and harmful” in Syria.
The Kremlin has stated that it had invited President Assad to visit Moscow, but kept the visit quiet until Wednesday morning when President Assad returned safely to Damascus.
While in Moscow, three rounds of talks were held between Assad and the Russian leadership. The first was a closed meeting between Assad and Putin alone, and the other two included the Russian Foreign and Defense Ministers.
President Putin told Assad that it was his hope that progress on the military front would soon into movement toward a peaceful political solution to the Syrian Civil War.
The Kremlin is likely to use the visit to reinforce its domestic narrative that the intervention in Syria is just and has been effective at fighting the expansion of terrorism throughout the region. Moscow maintains that its intervention in Syria was a common sense move that was designed to roll back international terrorism as a result of what it says is ineffective action from the United States.
Putin has remained hesitant about sending Russian ground forces for fear of an entanglement similar to the Soviet incursion in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Russia has a combined force of around 50 jets and helicopters inside of Syria protected by Russian marines, as well as military advisers working with the Syrian army. Russian officials claim to have flown over 700 sorties against more than 690 targets in Syria since the air campaign began Sept. 30.
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Cover Photo Credit: Alberto Cabello/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)