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WASHINGTON – Russia’s decision to back embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has presented military, political and economic opportunities that could mean billions of dollars in dividends for Moscow, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

It also could regain for Russia a prominent geopolitical position in Syria by allowing it to fill the political void created by the withdrawal of U.S. influence in the region, according to informed sources.

Moscow, which over the years has supplied the al-Assad regime with billions of dollars in military equipment, feels even more emboldened now that the survival of the regime appears to be emerging and the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization decided not to intervene militarily in Syria’s civil war.

At the same time, Moscow’s show of military force – by positioning its warships in and near the Syrian base at Tartous and by setting up permanent naval patrols off the Syrian coast – displays a strong presence that underscores its backing of its only true ally in the region.

In recent weeks, for example, Moscow has dispatched its Special Forces ship the Ekvator on permanent deployment. At the same time, the Kremlin politically backed the peace efforts of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan’s special mission seeking a ceasefire between the Syrian military and the opposition forces that still get weapons from outside interests.

Sources say weapons are coming from certain Western countries and Saudi Arabia and one or two other of the Gulf Arab States. However, sources say the opposition has been infiltrated by elements of al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood and appears to be somewhat disorganized.

In response to Russia’s assistance, Syria is allowing the Russian giant Gazprom energy company to take over a Croatian energy company’s oil and gas fields in Syria, said to be worth billions of dollars.

Some sources say that this was a price Moscow extracted from Syria for its continued support. At the same time, it gives Syria the ability to announce that it doesn’t have to rely on foreign oil and natural gas companies because of the availability of Russian assistance.

Sources point out that this reflects the approach of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is to become president again on May 7.

In a Q&A in the State Duma in early April, Putin said that Moscow had considerable investments in the Middle East but not for ideological solidarity but to make money and advance its interests. Russian takeover of the lucrative oil and gas site in Syria appears to be the price, paid in full.

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