Russia’s Greatest Problem in Syria: Its Ally, President Assad
Sergey V. Lavrov, the foreign minister, opened a two-day meeting at the Valdai Discussion Club, perhaps Russia’s most prestigious international foreign policy forum, with a rosy assessment of the Russian-led effort to unite the fractious Syrian parties in negotiations to end the war. The Syrian government expressed zero interest.

In a speech, one of Mr. Assad’s closest advisers, Bouthaina Shaaban, omitted all mention of a negotiated settlement. Instead, she said repeatedly that Damascus would soon declare a “final victory” that she said had been delayed by American and Turkish aid to the opposition.

Russia expressed overt frustration. Even the Valdai position paper put out beforehand chided the Syrian position, saying that “part of the government elite may have greater hopes for military victory than the dividends that negotiations would eventually pay.”