President Putin has just announced that he will oppose any new efforts by western governments to impose further sanctions on Syria.
In a clear indication that the Russian led peace process will not involve any measures which weaken the legitimate government of Syria, Putin said,
“As for sanctions against the Syrian leadership, I think the move is totally inappropriate now. It does not help, would not help the negotiation process. It would only hurt or undermine confidence during the process”.
The UN Security Council is expected to vote on the proposals later today. Russia’s virtually assured veto will be a fitting tribute to the late Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin who died last week in New York. Churkin was a man who always stood up for Syria against an onslaught from the west and the Gulf.
Putin went on to say,
“We cannot but rejoice that the Astana process proceeded and ended very positively, the undisputed result of which is the consolidation of the ceasefire and the establishment of a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire”.
In terms of military and civilian aid, Russia has been consistently supportive of Syria. In terms of the long diplomatic game, Russia’s strategy of exhausting the West in the way that Muhammad Ali would wear out his often larger opponents, seems to be working. In doing so Russia has been able not only to ‘float like a butterfly and sting like a bee’, but also to show that Russia now caries the lion’s share of diplomatic weight when it comes to ending the conflict in Syria. This is overtly recognised by Iran, Turkey and Syria itself and tacitly recognised by the United States who declined to participate in the Astana peace talks.
The biggest question that remains is, will Russia be able to force Erdogan to pull Turkish troops out of Syria? For an early answer to this we will have to wait for the Turkish President’s visit to Moscow on the 9th of March.
UPDATE: Russia has officially used its veto to block the US, UK and French backed resolution for additional sanctions on Syria. China joined Russia in opposing the resolution.