The Obama administration on Tuesday criticized Russia for sending attack helicopters to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime as the bloody conflict worsens amid meddling from foreign powers.
The shipment “will escalate the conflict quite dramatically,” she said at a speaking event with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Brookings Institute.
Foreign meddling on behalf of all sides in Syria has been instrumental in prolonging the conflict by emboldening both sides and making a political settlement more remote. Russia is not likely to be persuaded by Western powers to drop its support of Assad, especially since support for the rebel militias – who have also committed serious crimes – from the West and the Gulf Arab states is unlikely to end in kind.
Russia’s stake in Syria provides Moscow with valuable geo-political influence. The only way they would give that up is if they could be assured that Washington and its allies would not try to exploit a political transition for their own interests, which is virtually an impossibility.
Additionally, Russia’s support of Syria is probably one of the primary reasons the U.S. and its allies have opposed direct military action in the form of bombing campaigns or ground troops against the Assad regime. In that sense, Russian support has prevented a much worse conflict.
The prospect for ending the bloodshed in Syria largely depends upon the foreign powers meddling in its internal politics and whether or not they will give up their own interventionist policies in exchange for an end to intractable violence.
While the U.S. condemned the Russian sale of attack helicopters to the Syrian regime, the Pentagon is currently buying attack helicopters from the very same Russian arms firm selling them to Syria. Senator John Cornyn, in a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday, said he was “deeply troubled that the DoD (Department of Defense) would knowingly do business with a firm that has enabled mass atrocities in Syria.”
What Cornyn doesn’t understand is that the U.S. doesn’t object to mass atrocities and their enablers in principle.