(VICE) The partial withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria earlier this month, after a campaign of bombing that began last September in support of the Syrian regime, isn't the end of president Vladimir Putin's involvement in the country. Russia is keeping its Latakia airbase and promising to go back to using force against ceasefire violators. Even so, Putin can take a victory lap. The campaign to shore up president Bashar al-Assad's faltering army has been a success, and it has accomplished another major goal for Moscow: It has shown the world that an immensely expensive, multi-decade program to rebuild Russia's armed forces is working. […]
"From the Russian point of view," said Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Strategic Studies division of CAN and a leading expert on Russia's military, "they see themselves as being surrounded by potentially hostile adversaries and so they see a lot of the modernization as being defensive in nature. The focus now is to build up their capabilities so it's not just Georgia that has to take them seriously, but NATO and China as well."
"The big change," said Gorenburg, "has been a shift to a more mobile response military. We've seen this with the operation in Syria –– up until even last summer most analysts would have said that we didn't think that Russia could really get its military out in an expeditionary kind of mission beyond its immediate neighborhood."
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