Relations between Syria and the Soviet Union
During the 1970s and 1980s the Soviet Union, along with Czechoslovakia and Romania were active in developing Syria's infrastructure. Syrian refinery workers underwent training in Romania and the Soviet Union continued to lend assistance for power plant projects, including the US $97 million Tishrin plant, a joint venture undertaken by the Soviet Union's Technopromexport and Syria's Milihouse.
Relations between Syria and post-Soviet Russia
Syria, having been the Soviet Union's main strategic ally in the Middle East throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, came much lower down in Moscow's list of foreign policy priorities during the 1990s, according to Andrei Murtazin of RIA Novosti.
The projects developed between Syria and the Soviet Union created large sums of debt (as much as US $12 billion), which affected the relationship between Putin's Russia and Syria. Relations remained sour until Putin and Bashar al-Assad met in 2005, after which they improved dramatically. Military considerations and the Russian naval base at Tartous played a large part in these deepening relations. However on the back of this came the advent of Russian oil exploration throughout Syria, as well as Russian oil companies such as Tatneft and Stroytransgaz building gas processing plants, oil refineries and petrochemical complexes within Syrian territory. The Moscow Times reported that Russian's investment in Syrian infrastructure, energy and tourism amounted to US $19.4 billion in 2009.
According to comments made by Ali Hamra of the Syrian daily Al Watan in 2010, Syrian are interested in attracting Russian companies into large economic project, likely to include the development of Syrian oil and gas fields as well as construction projects in fields such as power generation, sea ports and the renovation of Syria's industrial infrastructure. Russian oil and gas companies were also reported to be interested in partnering with the Syrian government in constructing additional refinery capacity.
Impact of Unrest 2011-12
When the EU imposed sanctions on President Assad's Syrian regime in 2011, Russia stood to benefit from the consequent changes to world oil markets and a boost in the market value of Russia's "Urals crude". As Syria's heavy grade crudes are of of a similar grade to the Urals crude, the Russian crude was viewed as an alternative source of supply following constraints on exports of Syrian oil.
Russia was also reported to be continuing to supply the Syrian regime with shipments of gas oil in early 2012. According to trading and shipping sources, at least four tankers were making voyages to Syria from the Black Sea.
- “Syria: Balance of Payments” US Library of Congress, retrieved 13 March 2012.
- “Moscow set to resume its influence with Damascus” RIA Novosti, 10 May 2010.
- “Russia and Syria: It's All Business” Transnational Crisis Project, 1 December 2011.
- "Why Russia is backing Syria" Guardian, 2 December 2011.
- “Russia and Syria: Welcoming Russia” Forward Syria, retrieved 14 Feburary 2012.
- “Analysis: Russian oil the winner from Syria, Iran sanctions” Reuters, 15 December 2011.
- “Fri, 2 Mar 2012 Syria” Al Jazeera Blogs, 12 March 2012.