Russia’s position on Syria’s civil war has been criticized so devastatingly in the Western media and proven wrong by so many political analyses so convincingly that it might appear useless and impolitic to re-open the issue. Yet Russia’s allegedly self-defeating position has turned out to be remarkably defensible. By adopting a contrarian stance, Russia has managed to score more than a few points in the complex diplomatic maneuvering around this protracted humanitarian disaster. It may, therefore, be useful to re-examine the combination of interests and ambitions that shapes the Russian course in order to gain some foresight on its change following the probable collapse of the al-Assad regime. This is without any intention to wax lyrical about President Vladimir Putin’s wisdom in charting this course—but with the aim of assessing the impact of this discord on the presently indeterminate fate of Russian-U.S. relations.
PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 248
by Pavel K. Baev