A Russian naval flotilla, including an aircraft carrier, left the Syrian port of Tartus Monday after a six-day call, described by the Russian government as a routine stop. In an email interview, Mark N. Katz, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University, discussed Russia-Syria relations.
WPR: How committed is Russia to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and how deep are its contacts with other political actors in Syria?
Mark N. Katz: Moscow had especially close relations with President Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez -- who ruled from 1970 until his death in 2000 -- during the Cold War era. Russia retreated from the Middle East under then-President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, but current Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad, who both rose to power at almost the same time, have acted to reinvigorate Russian-Syrian military and economic ties.