In an interview with BBC World News, Carnegie’s Matthew Rojansky argued that “the Russians are really stuck between a rock and a hard place” as violence continues to mount in Syria. Rojansky noted that the Russian leadership is having difficulty reconciling its principled position against international intervention and its support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime as the death toll grows.

While Russia supports the Annan peace plan, it believes in pressuring both the government and the opposition to lay down their arms. Meanwhile, regime change is still “off the table” because “Russia has major incentives to keep Assad in power.” If Moscow threatens to abandon Assad, it will quickly lose its leverage in Damascus and appear to capitulate to the West, Rojansky concluded.