Syria's victory in dodging a UN resolution it deemed a license for regime change may only escalate its internal conflict into a full-fledged civil war that many analysts believe President Bashar al-Assad cannot ultimately win.
With the collapse of the sole diplomatic effort recognised by Assad's foes - both armed and in a split civilian opposition, the stage is set for deeper diplomatic isolation of Syria and perhaps a new flows of arms and money to Syria's insurgents.
"The worst effect of the veto is that it inflames, the civil war, intensifies it. We're no longer talking about a hypothetical civil war. We're now in the middle of a civil war. It's started," said Nabil Boumonsef, a columnist with Lebanon's an-Nahar daily.
Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Saturday that sought backing for an Arab League proposal to end 11 months of bloodshed in Syria by urging Assad to pull troops from cities and allow a political transition to start.
The defeat of the measure a day after Assad's opponents reported that his forces had killed over 200 people with artillery fire on the city of Homs prompted Western vows to ramp up pressure on Assad until he quits power. By abetting violence, the veto may bolster Damascus's contention that it is fighting an Islamist insurgency funded and directed by foes in Gulf Arab states, but offers no alternate political path out of the greatest crisis Syria has faced in the 49 years of the Assad family's dynastic rule, analysts say.
"This (veto) is obviously an endorsement of the regime's approach to the crisis which, over the last 11 months, has brought the country to the brink," said Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group.
Russia, which sells arms to Syria and maintains a military base, maintained that approving the resolution would have fanned the conflict through its failure to blame opposition groups equally for the bloodshed, which the UN says can no longer track after 5,000 deaths.