Under the banner of fighting international terrorism, President Vladimir Putin has reversed the fortunes of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which were rapidly losing ground last year to moderate and Islamist rebel forces in the country’s five-year-old crisis. Government forces are now on the offensive, and on Tuesday, they scored their most significant victory yet, seizing the strategic town of Sheikh Miskeen from rebels who are backed by a U.S.-led coalition.
According to analysts and officials here, the Russian government believes it has won those dividends at a relatively low cost to the country’s budget, with minimal loss of life to its soldiers and with largely supportive public opinion of the war effort.
“The operation is considered here to be quite successful,” said Evgeny Buzhinsky, a retired lieutenant general and senior vice president of the Russian Center for Policy Studies in Moscow. It could probably continue for one year or longer, he said, “but it will depend on the success on the ground.”