Why Russia won’t help on Syria

Samuel Charap writes: With all the high-level diplomatic visits to Moscow and accompanying news headlines, a casual observer might easily conclude that Russia holds the key to resolving the Syrian crisis. But as the latest round of failed talks this weekend — this time between Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League envoy on Syria — conclusively demonstrate, Russia will not be part of the solution on Syria.

Senior Russian officials have made that clear for months, but some members of the international community, perhaps until recently, just didn’t believe them.

This confusion could stem from the frequent reporting on the ties that bound Russia to President Bashar al-Assad’s Syria — military, religious, intelligence-sharing and so on. These factors certainly play some role in Moscow’s approach. But they do not explain why the Kremlin has issued three U.N. Security Council vetoes, bent over backward to water down the Geneva Communiqué calling for a peaceful transition of authority, and fastidiously avoided joining the call for Assad to step down. Moscow did not take these steps because of its interests in Syria or because it backs Assad — indeed, as early as the summer of 2011, Russia’s president at the time, Dmitri Medvedev, warned that barring immediate reforms, “a sad fate awaits him.”

Rather, the tragedy in Syria has brought to the surface a fundamental divergence between Russia’s approach to international intervention and that of much of the rest of the international community, particularly the United States and the European Union. Moscow does not believe the U.N. Security Council should be in the business of endorsing the removal of a sitting government. [Continue reading…]

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