Russia’s apparent escalation in Syria is less dramatic than it seems, but it still represents another depressing development in the ongoing nightmare of the Syrian civil war. While it appears no Russian troops are engaged in fighting, the volume of military cargo delivered from Russia to Syria by sea and air has significantly increased in the last couple of weeks. President Putin did assert that it was “premature” to talk about direct Russian participation in the yet-to-be-built coalition against the various terrorist groups in the country. And even though Putin says it, it might still be true.
Clearly, putting scarce Russians troops on the ground to fight in a hopelessly stagnant civil war is not Moscow’s preferred path. Instead, the recent escalation probably reflects an effort to establish a position of strength from which to bring Moscow back into the center of the diplomacy over Syria. It won’t work, though Russian assistance and weapons to the regime may make the situation in Syria even worse for the population.
This argument is elaborated in the Brookings Order from Chaos blog.