The Putin policy in Syria is clear enough as the encirclement of rebel-held Aleppo proceeds and tens of thousands more Syrians flee toward the Turkish border. It is to entrench the brutal government of Bashar al-Assad by controlling the useful part of Syrian territory, bomb the moderate opposition into submission, block any possibility of Western-instigated regime change, use diplomatic blah-blah in Geneva as cover for changing the facts on the ground and, maybe fifth or sixth down the list, strengthen the Syrian Army to the point it may one day confront the murderous jihadist stronghold of the Islamic State.
The troubling thing is that the Putin policy on Syria has become hard to distinguish from the Obama policy.
Sure, the Obama administration still pays lip service to the notion that Assad is part of the problem and not the solution, and that if the Syrian leader survives through some political transition period he cannot remain beyond that. But these are words. It is President Vladimir Putin and Russia who are “making the weather” in Syria absent any corresponding commitment or articulable policy from President Obama.