There is perhaps no issue more important, yet less understood, in current international affairs than Russia’s military campaign in Syria. In recent weeks, Moscow’s swift intervention into the region’s messiest conflict has raised all sorts of concerns and speculation. The issues range from possible motives for Putin’s decision and the implications of Russia’s posturing, to what it all might mean for regional security and crippled US-Russia relations.
Indeed, Moscow has moved so quickly, so decisively and so — again — clandestinely that even long-time observers of Russian policy toward Syria were left puzzled. Within a couple of days, Putin went from his UN speech and proposal for cooperation with the United States in tackling the Islamic State (IS) to airstrikes.