EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Russians are determined to reacquire some of the status once enjoyed by the Soviet Union of yore. They believe Western carelessness is to blame for the rise of Islamic State, and are using the Syrian theater to demonstrate their strategic capability.
Russia’s status in the Middle East has changed remarkably in recent years. Some go so far as to argue, with some justification, that it has become the most powerful superpower in the region, or at least within the context of the Syrian conflict. The main reason for this has been Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ability to invest significant resources in the region, coupled with his willingness to take significant risk.