Greg Scoblete expands on something I mentioned in passing yesterday:

Instead, I will point out another curious concern of Rubin’s – the supposed “extension” of Russian influence. Syria has always been close with Russia – they haven’t suddenly become tight during Assad’s crackdown. Russia is indeed backing Assad’s brutal repression, but that’s not an extension of anything, it’s been Russia’s policy to backstop the regime for years now. It’s not like the Russians are suddenly “influencing” states not already allied with them…

The complaint about the “extension” of Russian influence is all the more strange when one considers Russia’s position in the region as a whole. One of the standard criticisms of the Russian-Chinese double veto of the Syria resolution at the U.N. is that both states are potentially jeopardizing good relations with those Arab states, especially the Gulf monarchies, that strongly object to outside support for Assad. Russia has been attempting to balance its desire to block outside intervention in Syria with maintaining its standing with other Arab states. Indeed, the Russians have been trying to do damage control with the governments of the Arab League in the weeks following the veto.

What we should learn from this is that Russia is acting as the status quo power when it comes to Syria, and it is primarily the Gulf monarchies and, to a much lesser extent, Western governments that are acting as revisionist powers. If we were talking about Bahrain, the roles would be almost entirely reversed. As often seems to happen, when Russia attempts to preserve what influence it has, it is portrayed by Russophobes as trying to expand its influence. If Assad lost power and Navalny et al. wanted to attack Putin’s nationalist bona fides because of that, I suppose they could blame Putin for “losing” Syria for Russia. That would still be rather stupid, since it assumes that it is within Moscow’s power to prop up a client regime no matter what, which is no less absurd in its way than believing that the survival of unfriendly authoritarian regimes is the result of a lack of American resolve.