Russia’s intervention in Syria was ostensibly aimed at furthering its foreign policy aim of attacking “terrorism.” Russia has made much, for example, of its intent to crush the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), an enemy both of Assad and of western powers like Britain and the United States.

But many experts think another goal of Putin’s was to shore up his ally Assad and prevent him losing power.

For example, a 2016 report from the Atlantic Council said that “Initial Russian Defense Ministry combat reports claimed that ISIS was the only target.

“Yet analysis of open source and social media intelligence (OSSMINT) quickly revealed that the ministry’s claims were deceptive, and that the Russian strikes were not primarily targeting ISIS.