If not for Vladimir Putin, there probably wouldn't be a Bashar al-Assad.
At least not still in power. At least not with the ability to commit atrocities against his own people.
If not for Putin, tens of thousands -- if not hundreds of thousands -- of people may not have died in Syria's civil war.
Because Putin has been saving Assad's bacon for years.
Back in 2013, after the Ghouta chemical-weapons attack, Putin helped prevent Western military action against Assad by brokering an agreement to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control.
We learned this week how well that all worked out.
In late 2015, when it looked like Assad was about to fall to rebel forces, Putin gave him a new lease on life with Russia's military intervention in Syria's civil war.
As a result, the war continued and more death and destruction ensued.
Putin gave Assad the vital airpower he needed for his brutal siege of Aleppo.
Moscow has insisted that that any peace settlement in Syria keep Assad in power.
And against the preponderance of evidence, Putin's regime continues to insist that Assad was not responsible for this week's chemical-weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun.
You can tell a lot about a man from the friends he keeps.
Putin has supported, propped up, and defended Assad. He owns him.
Assad now is Putin's creature.
And that makes Putin's regime an accomplice to war crimes.
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