Speaking on CTV, Carnegie’s Matthew Rojansky explained that the Russian government may be changing its attitude toward Syria. “I think the Russian perspective is that they are not the ones who have changed. Two other parties have changed,” said Rojansky.  First, the international community has come to Russia in a more supplicant mode, acknowledging Russia as the pivotal party with leverage on Assad. “Once again, Russia has proved the indispensable man, so to speak, in international security,” argued Rojansky.  “The second change, at least in Sergey Lavrov’s, Russia’s foreign minister’s view, is that the Assad regime has failed to listen to Russia’s wise advise and that Assad has misplayed his own hand, and I think Russia is therefore, in some respects, punishing him,” he added.

  • Russia’s Foreign Policy Position: “Russians like to have an independent position,” argued Rojansky. “What they mean by that is that they will not let the West tell them what to do and will not let the Arab League tell them what to do. And they have done that. They have staked out an independent position on Syria.”
  • Financial Stake in Syria: Russia has long-standing financial interests in Syria, including Soviet-era weapons, new arms deals, energy and oil services deals, and the military base at Tartus. All of those things had appeared to be a lost cause as recently as a few months ago, but "now it looks like they might actually be able to extract a deal to keep those,” said Rojansky.
  • Lesson to Syria: “Russia has handled its own protest much better, and that is the message they would like Kofi Annan to deliver,” said Rojansky. “Syria has got to be much smarter, stop killing innocent people, and look at the Russian model."
  • Russia’s Domestic Politics: Before the March 2012 presidential election in Russia, it was extremely important that Putin not seem to accept the notion that a public protest movement could bring down what he views as a legitimate regime, said Rojansky.  “After his reelection, he has kind of got a new lease on life, and he knows that that lease is contingent on his delivering a sense of fresh air, and freedom, and reform,” he added.  Putin’s legitimacy domestically depends on Russia maintaining its great power status, including exercising influence through international instruments, like the UN Security Council. “If Russia finds itself being sidelined, then it chips away at the image of Putin as a great leader, and that is something he cannot afford,” concluded Rojansky.

This intervew originally aired on CTV (Canada).