BRUSSELS - President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Friday added to recent signals that Moscow is slowly distancing itself from the regime of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, its longstanding but now severely weakened ally.
Asserting that Russia's main goal is to avoid chaos, Mr. Putin restated Russia's position that Syria's civil war could be resolved only through talks between the parties involved. But he insisted that "we aren't a defender of the current Syrian leadership" and said Moscow wants "a democratic regime in Syria based on the expression of the people's will."
He made the remarks at a joint news conference in Brussels with European Union leaders at the end of mostly fruitless talks centered on quarrels over energy and trade at the headquarters of the 27-nation bloc.
European nations are themselves divided over what to do about Syria but have increasingly tilted toward providing at least diplomatic support for the opponents of Mr. Assad.
Say what one will about Putin, but he is one smart and ruthless SOB. The USA supported enough assholes in our time.
Seriously, Putin is a fascinating character. Smart, disciplined, ruthless, amoral, patriotic, pragmatic, highly flawed, far more of an opponent to be feared than any of the nearly embalmed old fucks we (I'm 51) grew up with as head of the old USSR. I think some pundit remarked "Now we realize that the problem was never that the Russians were communist, but that the communists were Russian". Bastard plays a zero sum game. Back Syria right up until the logical and optimal time to throw them under the bus (probably with a 9mm round in the head, metaphorically speaking).