Any hope in Western capitals that Russia might be willing to sever ties with President Bashar Assad and perhaps even support international intervention in Syria following the Houla massacre may be quickly fading away.
Today President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman echoed a top Foreign Ministry official saying that Moscow’s position hasn’t changed, and won’t bend to pressure.
Dmitri Peskov told Interfax that ”Russia’s position is well known, it is balanced, it is absolutely consistent and logical.” He added that Russia believes its position is ”absolutely free from emotions, which are unlikely to be appropriate in such a complex situation.”
US officials are also wary of getting involved militarily in Syria (Secretary Clinton voiced those concerns again today), but they have remained hopeful that Moscow will start to back off from its staunch support of longtime ally Assad.
Yesterday Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov dismissed calls for intervention as “political emotion, rather than analysis and a calculated approach.” He also took a swipe at new French President Francois Hollande, who suggested this week that the time was ripe for military action, when he said: ”The Russian position is not formed on the basis of emotions, which unfortunately have not escaped our respected French partners in the formation of their position.”
There have been signs that Moscow is beginning to distance itself from Assad (Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Assad has made mistakes), but Russia has strategic interests in maintaining its influence in Syria and is wary of supporting any action in the UN Security Council for fear of being duped into supporting military action as was the case with Libya last year.
But it’s not just military action that Russia appears opposed to. Yesterday Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters that ”Our attitude to sanctions, frankly, continues to be negative.” He also shot down suggestions of arming the opposition.