During closed-door meetings in the past years, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad often told Russian officials that he had decided to fight until his last breath instead of fleeing like former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych— who quickly fled his country and sought refuge in Russia in 2014.
In other words, Moscow is indebted to al-Assad for the fact that he stayed in his palace and fought, just as he is indebted to Russia for its military intervention to save his regime.
However, it never crossed the Syrian president’s mind that fate would bring him together with President Volodymyr Zelensky — the successor of the Russian-backed Yankovic — under one roof and around a table with the leaders of influential countries at an Arab summit held in a major Arab country.
There is an overlap between al-Assad and Zelensky.
Decision to stay and fight
The first decided to stay and fight in a way that surprised even his allies in Tehran and Moscow. They believed he would leave his palace and go into exile in Iran, Russia, or an Arab country. However, he chose to stay, which encouraged the intervention of Iran — and then Russia — to defend their interests and influence.
On his part, Zelensky also surprised his allies in America and the West by deciding to stay and fight. At the beginning of the Russian war in Ukraine in 2022, there was much talk that America and its allies offered Zelensky exile, but he stated that he wanted weapons — not a ticket out.
We also heard Western officials saying that had it not been for Zelensky’s decision to stay in Kyiv and fight, America and its allies would not have been able to support him militarily, exhaust Russia, and deliver messages to China, which has its eyes on Taiwan.
It was the will of years, fate, and ingenious calculations to put al-Assad and Zelensky under one roof. A strange paradox indeed.