Why Russia Won’t Yield on Syria
UN Special Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan is in Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin aimed at intensifying pressure on the Syrian regime through UN Security Council sanctions, but Russia expert Dimitri Simes says that while Russia might at some point get fed up with Bashar al-Assad and see that his government is losing ground, it isn’t “as opposed to the Damascus regime as the Obama administration and many other governments.” Putin is generally committed to “maintaining the sovereignty of existing states,” especially since “most of the regimes that were changed after the Cold War were the regimes that were friendly to Russia,” says Simes. Additionally, says Simes, Putin “is more skeptical of U.S. and Western intentions, particularly U.S. intentions,” than former president [Dmitry] Medvedev, who had forged a good relationship with President Obama.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has indicated that Russia is not going to change its position about sanctions. Why is Moscow so supportive of the regime of Bashar al-Assad?
I don’t think they’re that supportive of the Damascus regime. A better way to put it is that they’re not as opposed to the Damascus regime as the Obama administration and many other governments. Clearly, Russia has a rather different view of Assad. I don’t think you can say Assad is a Moscow client. He certainly was not taking guidance from Moscow. He also for a number of months has stopped paying his bills, so he’s not a reliable customer. He also is an embarrassment in terms of Russian relations, not only with the United States, but with most Arab countries and with Israel, a country economically more important to Russia than Syria.