Russian interests in Syria

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about why Russia protects Assad. In that post, I referred briefly to Russian investments in Syria outside the military sphere. I came across a recent article in Kommersant that spells out these investments in much greater detail.

The most important sphere is oil and gas exploration and production. Tatneft and Soiuzneftegaz are currently extracting oil in Syria. Tatneft’s contract was concluded in 2003 and its first well was drilled in 2010 in the South Kishma field. Stroitransgaz has build a natural gas pipeline and processing plant and and is now building a second plant near Rakka that will process 1.3 billion cubic meters of gas. The North-Western oil group won a tender in 2008 to build a petroleum  processing plant near Deir-es-Zor. Finally, a Gazprom subsidiary named Georesurs was planning to participate in tenders for oil exploration.

Russian companies are also involved in other energy projects, including plans announced by Rosatom in 2010 to build Syria’s first nuclear power plant and continuing service by Tekhnopromeksport of energy producing facilities it has built in the country.

Russian companies such as Sovintervod and Rusgidro have also participated in Syrian irrigation projects. Rusgidro signed a contract just last month to design an irrigation complex on the Tigris river.

Russian manufacturing companies also play a role in the Syrian economy. Uralmash signed a contract in 2010 to provide drilling equipment for a Syrian petroleum company. In September 2011, Tupolev and Aviastar-SP signed a memorandum to provide three Tu-204SM passenger airplanes and a service center for these planes to Syrian Air. Traktornye Zavody has announced plans for a joint venture with a Syrian company to build agricultural equipment. The Sinara group is building a hotel complex in Latakia. Sitroniks signed a contract in 2008 to build a wireless network for Syria. Finally, Russkie Navigatsionnye Tekhnologii has plans to install GLONASS-based navigation equipment on Syrian vehicles.

The article doesn’t put numbers on all these contracts, though I’ve seen numbers as high as $20 billion. I’m sure that these economic ties are not the only reason for Russia’s continued protection of the Assad regime, but given the importance of the profit motive in Russian foreign policy these days, they must clearly play a role in the Kremlin’s decision-making.