Row over Syria policy
The presidents of Russia and the United States met to discuss a policy on Syria at the start of the week. Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad remains the main bone of contention between the two leaders. According to some commentators Putin has pushed through his strategy of including Assad in the fight against the IS terrorists. Others stress that he simply wants to divert attention from the Ukraine conflict and cast Russia as a superpower.
West must not trust Putin on Syria
With his policy in Syria Russian President Putin is pursuing objectives that run counter to the interests of the US and the EU, the conservative daily Financial Times warns: "Russia faces a threat from Islamist terrorism in the Middle East; but Moscow is also seeking to retain its military foothold in Syria. More significantly, Mr Putin wants to turn world attention away from the conflict in Ukraine, which has transformed him into an international pariah; and he wants to distract the attention of Russians at home from a shrinking economy damaged by western sanctions. He is anxious to demonstrate that Russia is a great power that cannot be ignored or isolated."
Fire-raiser now a fire fighter
Putin can cast himself as a troubleshooter because Obama has been unable to bring peace to Syria, the Christian liberal daily Salzburger Nachrichten observes: "Obama's dictum that Syria has no future with President Bashar al-Assad, the source of all evil, is precisely the opposite of Putin's plan according to which only with Assad can even worse chaos be prevented. ... As Assad's protector Putin may have contributed substantially to creating the problems in Syria, but now he can play the role of problem-solver. The fire-raiser has become the fire fighter. Obama is forced to grudgingly accept Putin's reversal of roles because his own Syria strategy failed: he refused to provide the moderate rebels in Assad's state with weapons in time. The project of building up the forces opposing Assad through US training comes too late and is ineffective. And airstrikes alone won't be enough to weaken the terror brigades of the Islamic State."
Fighting IS not a priority for Moscow
Putin is not proposing an alliance against the IS because he wants to end a war, the liberal daily Dennik N comments: "The key question is whether an East-West coalition can help defeat the terrorists of the IS and stop the wave of refugees. The answer is no. Syrian President Assad is not the solution, he is the main cause of all the problems and the one who triggered the war that gave birth to the IS. Unless Assad goes, neither the war nor the wave of refugees will end. Putin knows that just as Obama does. For Moscow the end of the war and the end of Assad's rule in Syria are not priorities. Its priority is to reinstall Putin in a position from which he can play a leading role in the world and do as he pleases with impunity."
Russia's take on Assad prevails
Moscow has won the long row with Washington over the role Assad should play, the liberal business paper Il Sole 24 Ore writes: "As cynical as it may seem, Putin's position is more consistent and more realistic than the American stance. Putin has managed to sell his idea of Assad as the lesser evil. ... In the past weeks Ankara, Canberra, Berlin and London have signalled a change of position and now no longer categorically reject an Assad-led Syria. In so doing they have essentially rewarded Russian interventionism. Nevertheless it is paradoxical that the person who is being cast as the lesser evil is responsible for the most of the civilian casualties of the four-year civil war."