'The absence of any clear political layout for the Russian government makes them stand in two contradictory positions. One position favors direct geographic expansion, as witnessed with the takeover of Crimea, while the other position attempts to be in line with international law by taking advantage of some of the United Nations regulations in order to legitimize its military interventions, thereby justifying their interference in Syria.
Washington and Moscow only view Syria as a convenient boxing ring, and they definitely do not see eye to eye on any of its affairs. Based on a multitude of intelligence reports, the real political boxing rings that are disconcerting for both nations are the Arctic and Eastern Europe, especially since Russia previously indicated that they are about to install military bases in Belarus, as well as their desire to benefit from the creation of Arctic shipping lanes and from gas exploration in the frigid region.
I am certain, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Assad dynasty is nothing more to the Russian political elite than a playing card that has been burnt up by 80%, and that the Russians are now salvaging the rest of the card in order to completely preserve their political interests not only on Syrian grounds, but on surrounding shores and what is commonly known as the Mediterranean “warm waters” as well.
As expected, Russia has proven through its presence in Syria that it is the only guarantor for Bashar, as he asked for the assistance of the Iranians, which they in turn failed to sustain due to the Syrian opposition stopping them in their tracks. This is why Moscow knows for certain that they are his last option, and that Bashar has no choice but to completely give in to Russia’s demands, effectively depriving him of any free will of his own.
Currently, what the Iranians and Bashar’s regime fear the most is that Russia would abandon Bashar after it has completely secured all of its strategic interests, especially since Tehran no longer trusts a more self-serving, less predictable Moscow. This is exemplified by Moscow ceasing to support the Iranian-backed Houthi militias after refusing to veto the UN Security Council resolution 2216 in Yemen.
All signs currently point to a large, polarizing path in Russian politics, as the facts on the ground prove that Russia is trying to find an exit strategy from the Syrian conflict that maximizes its gains, especially since Russia knows that the Syrian people will not accept Bashar’s presence in any means whatsoever, not to mention that it is financially incapable of sustaining a military venture that has no guaranteed outcome.
However, the most important reason of all is Russia’s desire to strengthen strategic and economic ties with Arab Gulf states that roundly reject the presence of Bashar, who has killed more than 400 thousand Syrian citizens and caused the displacement of another 12 million.
The question now is, how will Russia be able to save face in front of its allies in the event that it is forced to make Bashar leave? More importantly, does Russia even need to save face to begin with?'