Governments and Pundits were stunned last September when Russia sent an expeditionary force into Syria. The immediate goal seemed to be to safeguard the survival of the beleaguered Bashar Assad regime and Russian naval assets in the port of Tartus. But it soon became clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin had other major strategic goals.
On the face of it, Putin was challenging Western sanctions and NATO military moves after Russia’s occupation of Crimea and its military support for the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. But Russia’s interest in Syria goes much deeper. It is driven by a burning desire to reinstate its Middle Eastern presence and influence, after an absence of three decades, and the great power status it lost with the crumbling of the Soviet empire. READ MORE