As Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet in Geneva to discuss the Syrian crisis, President Obama hopes the talk yield a “concrete result.” Such an outcome is highly unlikely.
It is difficult to imagine that Russian President Putin—his strongest supporter– sincerely aims at disarming Assad. Putin’s proposal earlier this week to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control is more likely a tactic to delay a military strike. Assad probably agreed because he understands this. Russia itself does not comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
One of many reasons for Putin’s support is the Kremlin’s ‘s own role in providing billions of dollars worth of arms to Syria. But even more to the point, many analysts cite evidence that Russia–and prior to that the Soviet Union– provided Syria with technology that allowed them produce chemical weapons—the very weapons that were unleashed on August 21.
Putin’s proposal also secures Russia’s role as an indispensable actor in this conflict—a country without which key global decisions cannot be made. This is far more valuable to Putin than even arms contracts.
This week, on the anniversary of 9/11, Putin published a “plea for caution” on Syria in the New York Times. Ironically, he called for action against terrorism in the same publication in November 1999. “No government can stand idly by when terrorism strikes,” he wrote. Clearly, he wants the West to do just that in Syria.
Anna Borshchevskaya is Communications Director at the American Islamic Congress.