( CNN) Reasoning with Vladimir Putin will not construct him support Bashar al-Assad's deviation. The specter of additional economic sanctions against Russia just might.

Indeed, when considering where to begin addressing the myriad problems in Syria, Russia is a good place to start. Syria, of course, is dominated by an authoritarian despot more than willing to slaughter his own population using horrific techniques, including poison gas and barrel bombs.

And Russia, which continues to claim that Assad's government is legitimate, has shored up the brutal regime — putatively in the combat against ISIS, but largely for its own strategic advantage in the region.

Tillerson: Russia-US relations at a low point

Royce: If Assad continues chemical assaults U.S. will respond