Russia and the West lock horns over Syria
President Putin offered no indication that Russia will support a UN Security Council resolution backed by the US, Britain, and France that would open the door for military intervention.
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"What do you expect? For Russia, Syria means access to the Middle East. There are 80,000 Russian-speakers living there, and the Russian Orthodox Church insists that Russia must act to protect the Christian minority in that country," says Vladimir Yevseyev, an expert with the official Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow.Skip to next paragraph
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Last year then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered Russia's UN envoys to abstain on Resolution 1973, which authorized the use of force to protect civilians in Libya but developed into a rebel drive for regime change backed by NATO airpower. Russia has vowed not to allow any similar resolution about Syria to pass the Security Council.
"Medvedev isn't president anymore, there's another person at the top in Russia now, and that's Putin," says Mr. Yevseyev. "It's senseless to try to pressure Putin; in fact it might lead to the opposite result."
Coming to a compromise?
Foreign Minister Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia might reach a compromise with the West similar to the one that was forged at a meeting of leading powers in Geneva last month. But that deal only saw the light of day after all language calling for Assad's removal or any sort of outside intervention in the conflict was removed from the draft resolution on Russia's demand.
In an otherwise anodyne statement about his "very good" meeting with Putin Tuesday, Mr. Annan hinted at the same outcome. "I would hope that the [Security] Council will continue its discussions and hopefully find language that will pull everybody together for us to move forward on this critical issue," he said.
"In effect, this tells us that all avenues for diplomacy have already been pretty much exhausted," says Sergei Strokan, a foreign policy columnist with the Moscow business daily Kommersant.
IN PICTURES: Conflict in Syria
"It's all about 'red lines' now. For the West, it's any role for Assad in any future Syrian government. For Russia, the red line is any kind of outside intervention, especially based on a Chapter 7 resolution.... Everybody's talking about peace and political solutions, but in fact diplomacy is totally deadlocked," he says.
"Why should Russia be so stubborn, right up to the bitter end? You have to understand that for Moscow this isn't just about Syria. It's about the mechanism for solving such situations. Putin wants to prevent any precedent that might authorize the use of outside force to engineer change in a crumbling authoritarian regime, wherever it may be," Mr. Strokan adds.
"Maybe next time it might be Belarus or, who knows, one day even Russia?"