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The Political Economy of Russian Intervention in Syria: Between Regime Consolidation and Gas Pipeline Security

Conflict
Foreign Policy
Policy Analysis
Political Economy
Security
Energy
David Maher
University of Salford
Moritz Pieper
University of Salford
David Maher
University of Salford

Abstract

This paper examines the political economy of Russia’s military intervention in Syria. In contrast to the limited scholarship available, this paper does not focus solely on the political motivations behind the Russian intervention. According to most interpretations, Russia's support for the Assad government is to be explained by conceptions of systemic stability in the region. Adopting an International Political Economy approach to the study of international security, this paper instead investigates emerging claims that Russia’s intervention in Syria is underpinned by an economic motive. This emerging perspective foregrounds the construction of a multi-billion dollar Iran-Iraq-Syrian gas pipeline as a critical factor influencing Russian involvement in Syria. This narrative gained traction in 2015, following the publication of Orenstein's and Romer's article in Foreign Affairs that highlighted economic motives linking gas pipeline security to future power transitions in Syria. Investigating the validity of this emerging perspective, this research employs process-tracing methods – which employs qualitative interviews with a range of state officials, combined with disaggregate-level conflict data to triangulate evidence – in order to provide a more nuanced analysis of the (political and economic) mechanisms that have guided Russia’s intervention in Syria's armed conflict.