"Russian leaders view Syria as our major ally in the Middle East, with whom we have good political, military, and economic ties," says Alexander Golts, a military expert with the online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnal. Mr. Golts suggests that with Vladimir Putin almost certain to return as president in March, foreign policy experiments involving greater cooperation with the West that occurred under President Dmitry Medvedev are probably a thing of the past.
"Putin has a real paranoia about colored revolutions. He reads such [pro-democracy rebellions] as a result of Western conspiracies," he says. "The attitude is, we're not going to be fooled any more."
In his annual press conference Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rebuffed concerns about a reported delivery of Russian ammunition for Syria's armed forces this month by saying: "We don't consider it necessary to explain or justify ourselves, as we are not violating any international agreements or any [UN] Security Council resolutions."
Russia's official arms export corporation, Rosoboronexport, declined to detail the extent of weapons contracts with Syria today. Its press secretary, Vyacheslav Davidenko, merely echoed Mr. Lavrov by insisting that "Russia will do nothing in violation of UN sanctions. If there aren't any, then we are free to supply any goods or services," to Syria, he says.