Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country would continue to block any effort at the United Nations to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out of power, but that Moscow would accept the departure of its longtime Middle East ally if that is what Syrians want. Speaking two days after U.N. cease-fire monitors came under fire on the way to the scene of the latest civilian massacre, Lavrov said the situation in Syria was "getting more alarming," and he reiterated his call for an international conference on supporting envoy Kofi Annan's failing peace plan. With international pressure mounting to end the killing, is Russia preparing to cut Assad loose, or is it just trying to buy him more time?
Russia's support for Assad is faltering: This won't change anything immediately, says Rick Moran at The American Thinker, but it's a start. The Syrian National Council won't negotiate with the regime until Assad is gone, and Russia knows he's not going to "simply give up power and go into exile." Still, the fact that Moscow is finally willing to talk regime change "is a psychological blow to the Assad regime" because it means "their bulwark against the rest of the world" is crumbling.
"Russia says it won't oppose Assad departure"
But what does Moscow want in exchange for dumping Assad? Russia knows that the cease-fire "ruse" it supported has failed, says Tariq Alhomayed at the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, and that it's Assad's fault. Moscow also knows it can't save the tyrant now, so it's signaling to Saudi Arabia and others backing the opposition that it has "opened negotiations on the future of Assad." The question now is, what is Russia's price going to be for abandoning Assad?
"Has Lavrov bidden farewell to Assad?"
Russia is no peacemaker: The last thing Syria needs is a "Russian-brokered transition," says Michael Weiss at Britain's Telegraph. Just ask Chechnya and Georgia, where Vladimir Putin's Kremlin has installed "undisguised and thoroughly corrupt" puppets to do his bidding. In Syria, that might translate to brushing aside Assad and replacing him with his "more sadistic brother," Maher, so Putin could "declare a 'cosmetic' transition in effect." You'd have to be pretty cynical to call that peacemaking.
"Putin the peacemaker for Syria? That's not how it's worked out in Chechnya and Georgia"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 10 things you need to know today: December 18, 2014
- Hey, bosses: Stop giving bonuses to your employees
- Why torture doesn't work: A definitive guide
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Dick Cheney's America is an ugly place
- What is Jebonomics?
- The liberation of Barack Obama
- The Hobbit: A disappointing set of movies, but a worthy set of prequels
Subscribe to the Week