Ken Roth in Foreign Policy:
Vladimir Putin’s rescue plan for Bashar al-Assad provides plenty of cause for alarm. Russia is reinforcing a man — and a regime — whose forces have indiscriminately and deliberately attacked civilians in opposition-held areas. Airstrikes alone have killed an estimated 20,000 civilians and are a major reason why 4 million Syrians have fled their country.
There are undoubtedly complicated reasons behind Putin’s move. He may be acting in part so his home audience — and the West — sees Russia as an important global player. Complicating life for Washington probably has its appeal for him, as well. But above all, Putin seems actually to believe that his support for Assad is the best way to curb the self-proclaimed Islamic State and other extremist groups. Yet now that Russian troops are operating in Syria, Putin has some important incentives to recognize that reining in the Syrian military’s attacks on civilians is essential to his goals.
The Kremlin has been disturbingly indifferent to that slaughter.