Russia’s Desperate Measures

The United States Should be Wary of Moscow in Syria

Issa, 10 years old, carries a mortar shell in a weapons factory of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo, September 7, 2013. Hamid Khatib / Reuters

In recent days, Moscow has drastically increased its military assistance to Syria, sending an estimated 500 Russian troops to an air base in the Syrian port of Latakia, along with warplanes, helicopters, artillery, tanks, an air traffic control tower, and prefabricated housing units for up to 1000 personnel. Although Russia insists that the troops are there for training purposes, there are reports that Russian troops are involved in the fighting. The timing is dramatic, coming as hundreds of thousands of Syrians arrive on Europe’s doorstep clamoring for refuge from a conflict that has killed around 220,000 and displaced millions.

Observers in the West have described Putin’s pivot to Syria as a bold and decisive move, displaying his panache as a forceful leader in world affairs. As Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the New York Times, “The Russians have done a masterful job of changing the subject

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