President Trump of the US and Prime Minister May of the UK seem convinced that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Russia this week might be the perfect opportunity to convince the Putin government to give up its Syrian ally – President Bashar al Assad.

However, it still remains to be seen how the western powers will execute this plan – convincing Russia without any potential gains for the Eurasian giant will be close to impossible. The west will have to incentivise Russia to forsake its friendship with the Assad government.

Even now, the US has indicated that Russia knew of the chemical attack that prompted the US to take action; a Russian drone surveying the aftermath of the chemical attack and a fighter jet (believed to be of Syrian or Russian origin) bombing the hospital afterwards have been used as evidence of President Putin knowing of the attack beforehand. But playing the tried and tested game of lobbing accusations at one another has never made any headway before, and this fact is not likely to change with one visit.

While the UK and US may be optimistic, convincing Russia to stop support an old ally will not be easy. There are strategic interests at play, and President Putin is not likely to give up the Middle East simply because the US and UK asked nicely.

Simply asking Russia to leave will also not yield any of the required results. The Assad regime and rebels fighting his rule have all been supported financially and for acquiring arms by various powers. The conflict is not likely to stop even if Russia pulls out today. The US and the UK will want to keep opposition against Assad intact, and if the west keeps intervening, it is not likely that Russia will back down.

However, with that said, for the Trump administration to state that forcing Assad to leave is no longer an option is no small decision. For this, the new US administration must be commended – attempting to use force has not helped in past conflicts, and the US’ six-year funding to rebels fighting the Assad regime has also been unable to get the results the US wanted.

But attempting to coerce Russia out of the Middle East never worked before, and is not likely to at this point either. The recommendation of Boris Johnson to put more sanctions in place against Russia is also only likely to antagonise. If the western powers are looking for out-of-the-box solutions, then finding a peaceful means to get Russia out is preferable; offering strategic gains elsewhere might just do the trick. The stick has been tried and has broken, the western powers must now try and see whether the carrot works any better.