10/15/2012 12:06 pm ET Updated Dec 15, 2012

The Post-Cold War Cold Peace: Chalk One for the Russians

Let's face it: as things stand now, the Russians have outmaneuvered the West on Syria. The Turks, though exchanging tit for tat artillery fire with the Syrians along the border and intercepting a Syrian passenger plane en route from Moscow to Damascus, may not want to get involved in a war with Damascus. Certainly the Turkish public does not want it. The U.S. administration does not want to get more proactive on the side of the Turks, especially in this preelection period, when calm is hoped for, though not always attained, in the Middle East.

Actually, the Russians have gathered together a formidable axis with which to contest the Western aim in Syria, which is to remove Bashar al Assad from power: the fellow veto-wielder in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), China, which has joined with the Russians in stymieing repeated UNSC attempts to end the conflict in Syria and bring about a change of regime. The Russians also have certain regional power backing for their Syrian policy of support to the Bashar al Assad regime: Shia Iran definitely; Shia Hezbollah definitely; and Shia Iraq, to some extent. The Russians have an objective ally in these Shia elements with which they seem to believe they can use to counter the Sunni powers (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc.).

The Syrian end-game is not here yet, and prediction is dangerous. Turkey, with its new awareness of the major regional role it wishes to play, is the wild card. In the meantime, the massacres go on, the regime has consolidated its position in Damascus, and the opposition is beginning to show signs of weakening. Talk is afoot of a possible compromise that would leave some figures of the regime intact, though not Bashar. On verra.