Assad: Russian Presence in Syria Counters West
President Bashar al-Assad says Syrians “benefit” from Russia’s continued use of major air and naval bases in his country, as this offsets the Western presence in the region. He was speaking to Zvezda, a television channel operated by Russia’s Defense Ministry, to mark five years since Moscow began actively intervening on Assad’s behalf in Syria’s almost decade-long civil war. “This global military balance needs Russia’s role…,” he said. “We benefit from this.” Russia maintains a large naval base at Tartus, a Syrian port on the Mediterranean coast, and operates the nearby Khmeimim Air Base, from which it has launched numerous air strikes in support of Syrian troops. Assad added that prior to Russia’s invention, he was confronting a “dangerous situation” from rebels supported by Washington and other Western or Western-leaning capitals. He is now seen to have regained much of the territory lost since fighting broke out in March 2011, with most of the remaining rebels located in the northwestern Idlib Province.