Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir to discuss options for Syria’s future. Here’s the context:
Realizing that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s badly depleted forces are likely to face defeat sooner or later, either at the hands of the various militants “freedom fighters” vying for control of the country or else at the hands of the US military which we imagine could “accidentally” end up engaging Assad’s forces directly once the air campaign against ISIS picks up, Moscow has gone back and forth between suggesting that it’s willing to negotiate for an “alternative” to Assad and saying that Russia is willing to lend military support to Damascus if it means helping to eradicate “terrorists.” Again we see that both sides are prepared to use ISIS as an excuse to turn what has so far been a thinly-veiled proxy war into an actual confrontation between East and West and although Russia may be willing to “go there” if all options are exhausted, the economic realities of collapsing crude and Western sanctions are all too real which is presumably why the Kremlin entertained Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss next steps for Syria. In the end, it all came down to the fate of Assad and both sides are apparently willing to stand their ground – for now.
In short, the Saudis see “no place for Assad in the future of Syria” while Russia isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel on the embattled strongman. After the meeting, the two diplomats held a joint press conference.
For those interested in more detail on the “friggin’ mess” that served as the backdrop for Tuesday’s presser, see here, but the clip shown below – in which Lavrov calls the Saudis “fucking morons” under his breath at 41:05 in – should suffice as the Cliff’s Notes version.