‘Russia has consistently shielded the Syrian president – not out of any love for him, but because he represents Russia’s last foothold in the Middle East.’ Illustration by Andrzej Krauze Photograph: Andrzej Krauze
Assad and Isis feed off each other. The Russian logic fuels, rather than reduces, violent Islamic militancy
Putin’s suggestion that the west should embrace Assad is an illusion that will lead to more bloodshed in Syria and won’t solve the refugee crisis. It risks making Syria an even greater hell, if only because alignment with Assad will be met with more meddling by Saudi and Gulf actors who back Sunni Islamic insurgents. It should be rejected with the same kind of disgust that Kissinger’s overtures to the Pol Pot regime inspire to this day.
But Putin’s intentions are best described by the man himself. In a recent interview he was clear about the kind of “political process” he has in mind: “Holding early parliamentary elections and establishing ties with the so-called healthy opposition, involving them in running the country” – all this “in agreement” with Assad. In a nutshell: fake elections and a fake governing coalition, in a war-torn, decomposing country.