Russia the Whipping Boy

Last week, I wrote about how Russian support for Syria has provided the Obama administration with expedient domestic and international cover for their preferred nonintervention policy. Russia expert Dimitri Simes concurred with that sentiment in a recent interview with the Council on Foreign Relations.

At a certain point, Russians may say to themselves that the game is all over in Syria, or at least almost over. They would not want to be the last ones to be committed to this man who is not viewed in Moscow as the same kind of villain he’s viewed as in Washington, but he’s not quite a hero either. At some point they may decide to give up on him and to start looking for bringing about regime change. They’re not quite there yet. Movement in that direction is driven by opposition successes on the ground, not by public pressure from the Obama administration. Also, Russians think the Obama administration is a little hypocritical, because as they have told Washington, [if] it is so committed to removing Assad, they certainly can do it the way it was done in Iraq, the way it was done during the liberation of Kosovo from Serbia, without Security Council blessing. The Russians are saying it would be a mistake, they would criticize it, but they would not resist it militarily, and it would not be a defining issue in the Russian-American relationship. Russian officials believe the Obama administration really does not want to intervene in Syria, but they’re using Russia as a whipping boy, to blame on Russia what the Obama administration does not quite want to do itself.

The part in bold is particularly revealing. It’ll be interesting to see if Russia, ostensibly aware of the political benefits reaped by the Obama administration, continues its current course of action.

(Thanks to Lionel Beehner for passing this along).

For more of his musings on international politics, follow William on Twitter.


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