“All Assad needs now is time. So Assad is the ultimate winner.”

The Kremlin needed this breakthrough, not just to improve the prospects for peace in the Middle East but to bolster its international standing, which explains why President Vladimir Putin’s government apparently pressed the Syrians hard for a deal, Alexander Golts, deputy editor in chief of the liberal online publication Yezhednevny Zhurnal said.

“For the first time in over a decade Putin found himself in something close to an international isolation after the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg earlier this month,” Golts said, a reference in part to the fact that President Obama canceled a one-on-one meeting with the Russian leader.

“That can explain the energy with which the Kremlin clutched at the Syrian chemical weapons straw, acting largely not out of a desire to save [Syrian President Bashar] Assad at any price but to save its plunging international prestige,” he added. “The Kremlin is really going out of its way to make Assad comply and make this plan work because as long as it is working Putin is back on top of things, appearing to save both Assad and President Obama.