MOSCOW — Recent hopes that the Kremlin would end its support of Syrian strongman Bashar Assad melted quickly, and analysts say Moscow ultimately may change its stance only if Assad ends up cornered.
Russia’s refusal to join the West in calling for Assad’s ouster is rooted both in a sober geopolitical calculus and deep suspicions about Western intentions — as well, perhaps, as a desire to save face after supporting the Syrian leader for so long. Moscow sees little profit in dumping its last ally in the Middle East, and President Vladimir Putin has described calls for a regime change in Syria as a dangerous example of Western meddling in a sovereign country’s affairs.
Putin last week raised new expectations of a Kremlin change of heart when he vaguely talked about “new ideas” in tackling the crisis during a visit to Turkey. But Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov cooled such hopes Sunday when he said Moscow continues to strongly oppose demands for Assad’s resignation.