Syria still Russia’s main concern
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Western media outlets have recently run a series of commentaries and analyses claiming that Russia is gradually changing its stance on Syria. To prove their claims, they keep citing remarks made by Russian officials over the past few weeks, especially Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual end-of-year press conference, in which he said that Moscow is not concerned about the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but the main priority for Russia is to protect Syria from foreign military intervention and the possibility of terrorists groups’ rise to power. 
Following Putin’s remarks, some pundits began saying that the United States and Russia have made a secret deal to allow Assad to fall and thus pave the way for a transition of power to a new coalition. This is an unlikely scenario since the U.S. has little to give to Russia in return for such a compromise. 
During his press conference, Putin also emphasized that Moscow will never let Syria experience the fate of Libya because such a scenario would engulf the entire Middle East in chaos. 
Thus, such an agreement will probably not be made, at least for the time being, although the Russians may become more inclined to making some sort of a deal with the U.S. in the future, especially if the situation on the ground gets out of control and Russia cannot keep Assad in power. 
Russia has repeatedly stressed the need for a political solution in Syria, and Putin’s recent remarks showed that Moscow is still very opposed to any foreign military intervention. Russia’s support for Assad is not due to the fact that it has close relations with the ruling family of Syria, but rather, it is supporting him because it views Assad’s government as legitimate, and Moscow feels responsible to defend the sovereignty of such a state according to international law. 
Mahmoud Shouri is an expert on Russian politics based in Tehran.

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