Their presence is renowned but rarely witnessed. You hear a lot about their role in the news and from friends who witnessed the tragedies they have caused in the country. Yet regardless of where you stand politically, the mixed feelings they evoke in you as a civilian in Syria are still ambiguous: Russian soldiers.
Perspectives on the Russian soldiers in Al-Waer neighborhood, west of Homs, vary between welcoming them on the one hand, judging by their good treatment of residents compared to the regime’s soldiers and allied Shiite militants, and the absolute rejection of their presence on the other.
Syrian citizens are fleeing from their war-torn homeland, and some of them have chosen Russia as their country of asylum. But life for them here is also a struggle.
Most Syrian residents do not use the word “occupation” to describe the Russian presence in their homeland, and some traders even benefit economically from it.
Recently-uncovered documents have revealed that Russian firms have made major strides in securing economic boons for the immediate postwar period. Despite this, the Kremlin continues to face profound issues in projecting its influence across regime-held Syria, a problem that demands ever-growing resources even as major combat in the country declines.
It is precisely indifference to a distant, foreign and incredibly complex conflict that is key here.
It is well known by now that those sorts of [external] legitimacies function for nothing further than oppressing local voices and crushing and preventing politics, to place themselves as the guardian of the local “under-developed” populations that protects them from each other. As well as the protector of the “external source of legitimacy” from the worrying turbulences of local conflicts. That is precisely what had been done under the Asads and what goes on to be repeated by the likes of al-Baghdadi and Saleh Muslim, and a few others who have not emerged with a comprehensive project yet.