This editorial from The Christian Science Monitor is very confused:
Mr. Putin’s foreign policy consists mainly of seeking practical interests for Russia. The S-300s will prevent “some hotheads” (namely, the West) from setting up a no-fly zone in Syria, as one Russian official put it. They will help maintain access for the Russian Navy to the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean.
Most of all, if the Assad regime survives, that will help Iran in its desire for influence in the region and keep the United States tied down in solving Middle East problems [bold mine-DL]. The US will then be less focused on Russia and its growing dictatorship and meddling with its neighbors.
According to this convoluted reasoning, a Russian move that presumably makes U.S./Western military intervention in Syria less likely is intended to ensure that the U.S. remains “tied down” in the problems of the region so that the U.S. will pay less attention to Russia. Ah, those dastardly Russians and their cunning plans to keep America out of unnecessary wars! What will they think of next? It goes without saying that Russia is following through on arms sales contracts to Syria for its own pecuniary benefit. It requires a fairly paranoid view of the world to assume that Russia acts as it does on Syria as part of an elaborate plot to keep America preoccupied in the Near East. Western governments, including the U.S., have been going out of their way to make Syria’s conflict their problem.
Apparently China is a partner in this baroque scheme:
[China] has supported Moscow’s policy toward Syria as one way to prevent the US from focusing more on China and its aggressive attempt to usurp American influence in Asia.
This makes no sense. Russian and Chinese opposition to Western intervention provides the U.S. with an excuse to stay out of the Syrian conflict if it wants one, which means that the U.S. could focus more of its attention elsewhere. If China’s Syria position is dictated by wanting to distract Washington from its regional ambitions, why would it cooperate in opposing Western intervention in Syria? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been enormously costly for the U.S., and Chinese firms have done very well in both places, so why wouldn’t China welcome another opportunity to keep the U.S. distracted in a new war in Syria? If the U.S. gets bogged down in yet another conflict in a predominantly Muslim country, that would likely divert American attention and resources away from East Asia and Russia’s periphery.
The editorial concludes by insisting that the U.S. “must somehow convince Putin not to send the S-300 missiles,” but conveniently fails to suggest how this could be done without giving Russia some positive incentive to agree to this. The editorial says that the U.S. “need not militarily intervene in Syria,” but for some reason considers the delivery of anti-aircraft missiles to be so intolerable that it must be stopped. Why? To what end? Despite the fact that this is the core demand of the editorial, we never really find out.