Russia’s deepening role in the Syrian conflict continues to damage its relations with the West, as the brutal Moscow-backed Syrian offensive on Aleppo shows no signs of abating. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled a planned visit to Paris after his French counterpart Francois Hollande called Russian airstrikes in Syria “war crimes.” That followed Moscow’s veto of a French-backed U.N. Security Council draft resolution condemning the violence in Aleppo.
Putin, whose visit was initially planned to inaugurate the opening of a Russian cultural center in Paris, reacted to Hollande’s comments that the trip would be downgraded to “a working visit based on Syria,” and that he would only meet with the Russian president to discuss Moscow’s involvement in the Syrian war. That, coupled with the Russian veto, has sparked a chill in ties between Moscow and Paris. As Putin sees it, France has become Washington’s puppet. “Knowing our position, and not discussing it with us, they didn’t chuck in the resolution so it would pass. But to get the veto. What for? To exacerbate the situation and to whip up anti-Russian hysteria in media under their control, and to deceive their own citizens,” Putin said.
Putin’s spat with Hollande is in line with Moscow’s deteriorating relations with the West, sparked initially by its annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine and exacerbated by its backing of the Syrian regime. “The Russian president is not ready to play by Western rules,” says Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “He is ready for negotiations, but only on his own terms, which are unacceptable to the West.”