Now here’s something odd. Moscow has long claimed that its arms supply to the Assad regime in Damascus is occurring on the basis of contracts signed before the conflict in Syria erupted in 2011.
According to a Reuters report of March 30, 2015, though, Assad told the Russian newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta that Moscow is supplying arms to Syria both on the basis of contracts signed before the conflict began as well as of contracts signed afterward. When asked about this, official Russian sources have either provided evasive answers that neither confirm nor deny what Assad has said, or they just have not responded at all.
The news that Russia and Syria have signed additional arms contracts since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011 does not exactly come as a surprise. What is surprising, though, is that Assad has contradicted Moscow about this.
Why would he do this? He certainly has not pleased Moscow by contradicting it. It is possible, then, that not everything is smooth in the Russian-Syrian relationship.
Perhaps Assad is fearful that the Russian government might intimate to the “moderate Syrian opposition” representatives due to meet Syrian government envoys in Moscow April 6-9 that the Kremlin is willing to push Assad harder to make concessions to them. If so, revealing that Moscow has continued to sign arms agreements with Moscow might be Assad’s way of signaling to all he deems in need of receiving the message that Russia continues to stand firmly behind him. Perhaps Assad hopes that after learning this, some of the Syrian opposition figures who agreed to go to Moscow in April will decide not to attend. (Several Syrian opposition figures refused to attend a similar meeting Moscow hosted this past January because it would not lead to Assad’s removal from power.) Assad, after all, does not want to make concessions to any of his opponents, moderate or otherwise.
Of course, it is also possible that Assad was not thinking in these terms when he revealed that there have been new arms contracts between Russia and Syria. Perhaps he was just being indiscreet.
Either way, he has not endeared himself to Moscow. But Moscow is not likely to stop shipping arms to Damascus just because of what Assad said.. Moscow does not get embarrassed that easily.