At the official request of the Syrian government, the Russian Air Force (RUAF) began conducting airstrikes against Islamist fighters, and their military assets, in September, 2015. Russia has also deployed special forces and military advisers to Syria, helping organize and train pro-government forces, and carry out operations on the ground.
Some analysts believed that Russia was making a mistake by directly entering the Syrian conflict, with the failures of the Soviet-Afghan War coming to mind. However, President Vladimir Putin, and his military advisers, have perfectly managed and limited their involvement, while still allowing the Syrian Army to score territorial gains.
Despite the Syrian Army’s progress, several key provinces remain under the control of terrorist organizations. A large-scale, Russian ground force would inevitably catalyze progress on the ground.
I recently conducted a small, 24 hour twitter poll, asking Should Russia Deploy Ground Troops to Syria (to Directly Fight Terrorist Groups?). 58% of the 1,653 votes were in favor of a large Russian force being deployed to Syria.
It seems that many people wanted Russia to scale up its involvement, as it would end the Syrian conflict in a shorter period of time – they probably weren’t considering the escalation from a Russian strategic position.
Ultimately, airstrikes and a small, specialized ground force, has proven to be a potent combination, which has successfully decreased the power of Islamist groups in Syria, while limiting Russian causalities.
Author’s Twitter Username: @SulimanM98