December 20, 2012
Vladimir Putin has signalled that he is not concerned about the fate of President Bashar al-Assad, insisting that Russia wants only stability in Syria. But he gave no sign of a policy shift that would help galvanise international action to help end the country’s deepening crisis.
“We are not that preoccupied with the fate of Assad’s regime,” the Russian president told a press conference. “We understand what’s going on there and that his family has been in power for 40 years. Without a doubt, change is demanded. We’re worried about something else – what happens next. We don’t simply want for today’s opposition, having come to power, to start fighting with the current authorities, who then become the opposition, and this continues for ever.”
Putin’s remarks appear to confirm a growing feeling that Moscow now accepts that Assad’s days are numbered, even if that has no immediate practical effect. Russia remains the Syrian regime’s last significant ally and has shielded it from punitive UN sanctions.