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Was Syria intervention worth it for Russia?

While Moscow's military involvement in the Syria crisis has led to an increasingly important role for Russia in regional and global politics, critics wonder whether or not the costs will outweigh the benefits.
Sergei Bainetov (R), deputy chief of the Russian Armed Forces' flight safety service, and Nikolai Primak, Chairman of the Air Accident Investigation Commission, attend a news conference, dedicated to the crash of SU-24 fighter-bomber, a Russian warplane shot down by Turkey in November, in Moscow, Russia, December 21, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov - RTX1ZMGZ
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Notwithstanding conventional arguments that Russia’s intervention in Syria has sharply increased its influence in the Middle East, Moscow may ultimately find that its gains do not outweigh its losses from the venture. Much will depend on whether, when and how Syria’s civil war ends.

It is unsurprising that many would expect — or perhaps even fear — greater Russian influence in the region in the immediate aftermath of Moscow’s first attacks in Syria. After all, Russia’s airstrikes in Syria are its first combat deployment away from its borders in decades. President Vladimir Putin’s decision to assume a direct military role in defending the Syrian government was decisive and even bold. Nevertheless, history has often demonstrated that these initial reactions fail to consider real-world complexities and long-term consequences. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 is a good example of this. After the “shock and awe” of Washington’s rapid defeat of Iraqi forces subsided, the challenges for US policy only grew and America’s regional reputation sagged.

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