President Obama has a long-term and serious aversion to American missile defense and an almost equally serious desire to befriend Russia. The Administration's first "reset" included withdrawing hard-won permission for missile defense radars from Poland and The Czech Republic, dumping missile defense and America's allies in favor of better relations with Moscow. The American concession to Russian interests was followed by the tightening of Russian screws on its domestic political and economic opposition along with continued Russian support for Iran and Syria in the UN.
A new "reset" is in the works. This time it involves the President giving Russia sensitive data that would allow the Russians to counter better what are considered the best of America's missile defense interceptors. The potential for the degradation of our capabilities is matched by concern that the information Russia receives could be shared with China, Iran or North Korea.
But while President Obama may think the Cold War is over and the Russians are our friends, look at Syria. Look at Syria anyhow, and consider Libya.
Prompted by the (credible) threat of massacres in Libya, the West jumped to oust Gaddafi – don't let them tell you it was about doctors, farmers and teachers rising up and over throwing their government. The doctors and teachers were there, of course, and so were al Qaeda operatives, but the intelligence, aerial bombing, weapons and Special Forces (some Western and some Jordanian) were not Libyan. They were NATO and friends.
Prompted by actual massacres in Syria, the Syrian uprising receives an Arab League delegation headed by Sudan's Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, the former head of Sudan's military intelligence service, who created the janjaweed militias that have been pillaging, raping and starving the people of Darfur. He works for Omar al-Bashir, the "president" of Sudan who is under indictment for genocide by the International Criminal Court. The terms of the Arab League delegation's visit were negotiated with Assad, and the killing continued right under its windows.
The UN Security Council blessed the Libya operation (The US Congress was not asked about the deployment of US military assets or troops, which is another matter entirely), but the same body is stymied over Syria.
Why? Oil is one answer, and Russia and China are the other.
Gaddafi was granted re-entry to the civilized/Western world in 2003 when he gave up his non-conventional weapons to the British and Americans, and paid reparations for the Lockerbie bombing. Italy, with a (short) colonial history in Libya, quickly took the lion's share of good oil leases and other economic benefits. When the uprising began and Gaddafi made threats that would look like war crimes if he carried them out, the French and British believed overthrowing the regime would endear them to an appreciative new government – economic benefits to follow, no doubt. They were aided by American UN Ambassador Susan Rice's political theory, "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P), which grew out of earlier international indifference to the genocide in Rwanda. Libya would be its first application. The confluence of oil and high-minded political philosophy made short work of opposition to the war.
Russia was largely uninterested in Libya while the uprising was happening, but in retrospect, the ouster of Gaddafi is understood to be a victory for the West. Russia is the patron of Syria and China the patron of Iran; the nexus of Iran and Syria is what, among other things, allows Hezbollah in Lebanon to flourish. To the extent that Hezbollah threatens US interests – in South America, where it is well-entrenched, and even in the US and Canada – Russia is content. China is interested in Iranian energy. Neither is interested in another Western success in the Middle East.
The problems for the West engendered by the so-called "Arab Spring" are irrelevant because they do not come at Russian or Chinese expense – they are what in New Orleans are called lanyap, an extra benefit you didn't pay for. Western success in Syria is directly proportional to Russian, Chinese and Iranian losses.
Russian warships docked in the Syrian port of Tartus in October as part of a long-planned mission, but the ships arrived just as Russia and China were blocking a British-French measure in the UN Security Council to establish "targeted measures" against Assad. In December, Russia delivered supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria, making any Western movement toward Syria by sea enormously more problematic.
R2P takes a back seat when the people you might want to protect are being killed by people who are themselves protected by Russian military advisors and/or troops on Russian warships.
So while the Libyan revolution reaped the benefit of Western interest in oil and general Russian lack of interest in Libya, the Syrian people pay the price of a United States unwilling to cross its Russian friends on an issue of Russian interest (the longevity of the Assad regime) on behalf of a country without even any oil.