With Russian-supplied weaponry, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime continues to spill blood onto the streets as it cracks down on the popular uprising that began last March. To date, over 5,400 people have been killed, according to U.N. estimates.
While the U.S. is backing a U.N. draft resolution calling for Assad to step down, Russia has come out as a staunch Syrian ally, supplying Assad with arms and ammunitions and undermining an E.U. embargo.
Syria is one of Russia's top five clients, said Ruslan Pukhov, director of Russian defense industry and arms trade think tank CAST, in an interview with Reuters. Russia already concluded with Syria contracts for $4 billion and has $2 billion more potential contracts on the way.
Russian newspaper the Daily Kommersant reported that the Kremlin recently signed a $550 billion contract with Syria for 36 Yak-130 fighter jets.
It is clear that Russia intends to keep Assad in power, not in the least because of its economic ties with the Syrian dictator, representing an estimated 10 percent of its $700 billion in arms exports in 2011.
Syria has long been a strategic ally for Russia in the Middle East, having agreed in 1971 to the establishment of a naval base by the former Soviet superpower in the Mediterranean port city of Tartus, which remains operational to this day.
With Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expecting to return to the presidency after Russia's upcoming elections this year, it seems a parallel resurgence of Russian militarism may accompany him.
[Putin] sees many parallels between himself and Assad, said the former head of Russia's National Strategy Institute, Stanislav Belkovsky, in an interview with BBC News. It is a question of personal sympathy, and a feeling of possibly sharing the same fate.