On the eve of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Russia, the U.S. is urging Moscow to rethink its’ support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. That, and last week’s missile strike on Syria will provide a framework for this week’s talks. 

Even though the missile strike might cause Assad to refrain from using chemical weapons in the future, it almost certainly won't cause him to abandon any of his goals, according to Virginia Tech professor Paul Avey. 

“He has shown a willingness to endure very high costs to defeat his domestic opposition,” said Avey. “Tomahawk missile strikes may change his mind about using chemical weapons, but probably won't alter his broader goals.”


“There is also the perverse incentive some experts point to at times: by setting a red-line of chemical weapon use it creates a situation where Assad can use very (in some ways more) lethal force short of that red-line without fear of strikes.”

“There is the possibility, though, and again I'm sure the Trump administration hopes this one comes to pass, that it demonstrates to Russia that the United States is serious that Russia needs to manage Assad to keep him from creating larger problems. Failure to do this will result in larger U.S. involvement, which presumably Russia doesn't want.”

“This would fit with some of the Trump administration's rhetoric with North Korea and China as well. In both cases, there's a clear desire by the administration for the patron (China for North Korea, Russia for Syria) to do more to manage the situation.”

Avey’s research areas are nuclear politics, U.S. foreign policy, and international relations theory. He teaches world politics, national security, and national security strategy.

 Paul Avey’s Bio

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