Elite Russian marine troops, many of which are veterans of Putin’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, have deployed to Syria and are already battling against rebels that oppose Assad’s regime.
Two tank landing ships, aircraft, and combat troops from the 810th Marine Brigade arrived in the vicinity of the port city of Latakia, and are presumably setting up an airfield for larger operations.
The Russians intend to defend Assad, one of their crucial Middle Eastern chess pieces, from ISIS and other militant groups like the Western-backed Free Syrian Army types.
Putin’s move comes on the heels of the Syrian government now losing total control of a second province, Idlib, to the Nusra Front. The first province to be abandoned was Raqqa to the Islamic State.
Russia has long supported Assad’s fight with weapons and equipment, yet the Syrian regime continues to slowly bleed out.
This new dynamic in the Syrian war raises some interesting questions going forward.
Is Russia’s new direct involvement too late to a lost cause?
How will the already complex airspace over Syria be deconflicted to avoid sparking a global incident between super powers? The Western Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve has several multinational aircraft in the sky on a constant basis. Syrian jets still patrol the skies, and even Israel conducts air operations in Syria occasionally. Now add to that the notoriously belligerent Russian fighter jet and bomber pilots, and you have yourself a powder keg waiting to blow.
Is it possible that advanced Russian anti air weaponry will turn the sky into a futile fly-and-die situation, like Ukraine, that will severely inhibit the Western coalition’s current air ambitions?
I think that it’s unlikely that Russia and the Western alliance will go to all-out war over Syria, but I do think that things will get very interesting when Russian troops start dying at the end of American delivered TOW Missile wires.