Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has not ruled out support for a strike on Syria, but has warned the West against taking action without UN Security Council backing. In an interview with Associated Press and Russia's state television Channel 1, Putin said before making a decision, he would need concrete proof that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons.
RFI spoke to Petr Topychkanov, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, who says Putin's comments are an about-turn from his previous rhetoric supporting Assad. However, despite Putin’s statements, which have been seen as pivoting and flexible rhetoric, Topychkanov maintained that Russia’s policy toward Syria has not changed.
Topychkanov said that the sticking point remains the evidence and confirmation of the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime or possibly another party, information required by Russia prior to renewed engagement or an alternative course of action. Russia's influence, leadership, and continued support of Assad is a key determinate of the balance of power in the conflict, and as such will prove a major factor in its outcome. The primary juncture on the horizon remains the prospect of a unilateral strike, without UN approval, by the West against regime targets in Syria—this continues to be the main point of concern in relations between Putin's Russia and the West, Topychkanov concluded.