December 14, 2012
This is huge. After years and years of providing generous support and political cover to the Assad regime, Russia is finally admitting that it simply can’t do much to keep its close ally in power. Clearly, this is a bad omen for Assad, but Russia’s resignation here highlights just how impotent the ex-superpower remains in a part of the world that is of vital interest to it. Beyond its leverage on the Security Council, Russia simply lacks the ability to influence events on the ground in Syria.
Rest assured, this lesson will not be lost on other countries in the region. And from the Kremlin we should expect an attempt to distract attention abroad and at home from the spectacle of Russian impotence. For President Putin, whose appeal and prestige at home has always been tied to perceptions that he has been leading Russia back to the center of world politics, the failure in Syria is a domestic as well as a foreign policy setback.
I’d feel better about this if I thought the outcome in Syria would turn out well for us, however.