No, Russia’s Syria Policy Isn’t Going to Change

May 23, 2013
Assad and Putin. Source: Sergei Zhukov/AFP/Getty Images

Drawing on some of the material first translated and published at The Interpreter, I’ve made another attempt to explain why, in spite of the United States’ dogged efforts, the Kremlin is not abandoning its position on Syria — if anything, it’s digging in further. My column at NOW Lebanon this week:

The United States pretends to believe that Russia is a credible partner in resolving the Syrian crisis. Russia cannot believe its luck and carries on as before, but with a greater sense of impunity.

According to The New Times (an independent Russian journal), when Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Moscow earlier this month and was first forced to wait two hours to meet with a bored and fidgety Vladimir Putin, he really had only one pressing matter to discuss: the imminent transfer of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Bashar al-Assad. Damascus had already deposited $100 million of $900 million to Vnesheconombank (VEB), a Russian state-owned financial institution now known for issuing refunds, in partial satisfaction of a 2010 contract for the sophisticated air defense system. The New Times quoted an unnamed London source as saying: “The main discussion [between Kerry and Putin] naturally took place in the closed portion of the talks. The Russians let the Americans know that the contracts for the S-300s and other weapons would be fulfilled.”

Whole thing available here.