In profit and loss calculations, the Assad regime is unlikely to rank amongst the winners when the Russian war in Ukraine comes to an end—especially if Russia continues to perform badly in the war and, in time, emerges from the conflict militarily exhausted, economically distressed, and politically isolated.
Of course, the decline in the status of the Assad regime’s most prominent ally will have a negative impact on the position of the regime itself, especially since Russia will be busy licking its wounds. This will make Russia less committed to defending Assad if his regime is targeted politically or personally in the international arena, or even militarily on the current battle fronts. At the same time, this regime is not a valuable asset that can be bartered with the West, which continues to deal with the situation in Syria very indifferently—except as a humanitarian crisis and a marginal arena for Russia’s conflict.
Russia’s exit from Ukraine, without achieving the goals it has announced, will break the country’s global axis. This result will provoke the West to continue punishing Russia in other arenas, notably Syria, after Russian forces remaining have become just an extension of the defeated forces in Europe.
Given the very serious consequences for his country’s standing in Europe and the international community, it is hard to imagine Putin leaving Ukraine without achieving most (or some) of his stated goals—no matter how much his country suffers losses, which are expected to be enormous, at all levels.
Such a costly victory, if it were to be achieved, would require Moscow focusing its efforts within Russian borders to recover from the war’s impacts and address its consequences. Already, Western and global sanctions are not expected to be lifted for several years,, even if Russia were to leave Ukraine tomorrow. In the event of a Russian victory, it is distinctly possible that the West will redouble its pressure to remove Russia from Syria, as a prelude to ending Russian influence in the Middle East. That is, such an action would respond to Russia’s victory in the Ukraine war in Syria and the Middle East.
If the Ukraine war takes the direction of the Syrian conflict—that is, prolongation without a resolution in sight—the dangerous and chaotic Syrian arena may also play host to mutual tensions between Russia and the West. The West will grow bolder to confront Russia in this arena because of Syria’s geographical distance from Europe, and the low likelihood of confronting Russia directly. This would lead to a third world war, which the West currently holds out as justification for not engaging more militarily in Ukraine.
One possible impact of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, regardless of its consequences, is to place Israel in a comfortable position, giving it free rein in Syria, as Russia focuses on its new concerns in the Ukraine war.
The war’s direct impact has been insane price hikes that Syrian citizens witness on a daily basis, with the total absence of some products. The war has cast a long economic shadow over even the world’s most powerful economies, let alone the already fragile Syrian economy, which has been suffering from accumulated crises for several years. The regime has treated these developments as an opportunity to blame its economic failure on the war in Ukraine. But it is expected that the U.S. and the West in general will commit to punishing the Assad regime economically for its open support for Putin’s war in Ukraine, as the case of the regime in Belarus—just a puppet for Putin, which inevitably receives its share of the punishment directed at Putin.
The obvious alternative to Russian support that will be dear in the coming period is Iran, which also operates under Western sanctions. In the meantime, the future of Iran’s relationship with the Assad regime—and the entire region—may be determined by the nuclear deal being currently discussed.
Needless to say, the Ukraine war has set back the regime’s plans and ambition of returning to the Arab League and achieving greater Arab openness, which means that an economic breakthrough has evaporated from the Arab world—after the Biden administration returned to bare its fangs after the Ukrainian war, in the face of attempts at normalization with the Assad regime.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.