Naval Partners?

Greece desperately needs a reliable long-term source of revenue. While western investors beat a retreat, state-owned Russian and Chinese companies have gone bargain-hunting. A 30- or 50-year deal that provides Russia’s navy with basing rights at Piraeus might one day make sense for both sides. Over time, the deal could bring Greece’s cash-starved government as much as $200bn.

Greece: Moscow’s new naval partner?

By Ian Bremmer, Financial Times

Why is Russia so adamant in defence of Bashar al-Assad? Much to the consternation of US and European officials, Moscow has blocked efforts within the UN Security Council to further isolate the Syrian regime. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says his government feels burnt by the way Nato used a UN resolution to bomb Libya last year. That is not credible. Mr Lavrov knows precisely how the language of a UN Security Council resolution is crafted – and how it can be interpreted.

No, Moscow protects Mr Assad because it needs his government right where it is. Syria is Russia’s most reliable Middle Eastern partner. In fact, Mr Assad, like his father before him, buys most of Syria’s military hardware from Moscow – taking on considerable debt in the process. Russia forgave about 75 per cent of those obligations in 2006 in exchange for use of Syria’s naval bases at Latakia and Tartus. For Russia, access to a Mediterranean port is of great strategic value: it has invested heavily in both sites, using Latakia as a submarine base, and hopes to add the space and capacity to use Tartus for missile cruisers. The Russians apparently fear that losing Mr Assad could mean losing these valuable Mediterranean ports.

Are they right? We’re likely to find out. Mr Assad has so far survived the increasingly violent challenge to his rule. Defections from his army have been limited. Syria’s business elite has yet to abandon him. But as his regime becomes more isolated, Russian protection and a willingness to………….[access full article]

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