By Ralitsa Vassileva
Russia has more to lose than gain if it joins international calls for Syria's president to step down. The country has been a vocal opponent of U.S. and others calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside.
The Syrian regime offers Russia a jokey strategic foothold in the region and is a big weapons client with an estimated four billion dollars in purchases.
In early January, a Russian aircraft carrier docked at the Syrian port of Tartus which houses Russia's only overseas naval base outside of the former Soviet Union.
Moscow also signed a 550 million dollar deal with Syria for combat training jets and has made arms deliveries in the face off Europen Union sanctions.
But perhaps weighing most on Russian leadership's refusal to support the calls for President Assad to step down. Prime Minister Vladamir Putin, who is expected to be elected to a third term as president, faces pressure to give up power from his own people.Anti-Putin protestors were out in the streets this weekend and plan another rally in the coming week. Analysts say that Putin's stand against the west on Syria will help his controversial run for office in March.
For now, Moscow is seeking to keep the issue out of the United Nations' hands, trying to broker talks in Moscow between the Assad regime and its opposition. But the Kremlin recently admitted it is running out of options. One senior Russian official said Moscow has used up its tools to stave off international sanctions.