In late March, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus to discuss the ongoing battle for Idlib as well as Russian humanitarian assistance to Syria. Following Shoigu’s visit, the Russian navy delivered medical assistance, including equipment to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak in Syria, whose health system has been decimated from almost a decade of civil war. Moscow's actions might appear at first glance to be an act of altruism, but the Kremlin’s support for Assad is in fact part of a well-thought-out plan to advance Russian interests in the region.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and a decade of economic stagnation, President Vladimir Putin has embarked on a strategy of Russian resurgence. He hopes to use his brand of authoritarianism to project his reliability as a supportive ally and promote the perception of Russia as a player on the world stage equal in stature to the United States.