(Economist) Vladimir Putin stares out from a poster hanging at Russian army installations throughout Syria. “Russia’s armed forces are the guarantor of world security,” the posters declare. It is a good summary of the thinking behind Russia’s mission, which has never been mainly about Syria. When it intervened in Syria last year, Russia sought to provide TV spectacles for the masses at home, re-establish itself as a global power and force the West into taking account of Russian interests.
So when Mr Putin said in March that “the main part” of Russia’s forces could now leave Syria, their mission having been accomplished, he was partly telling the truth. […]
Rather than withdrawing his forces, Mr Putin has retrenched. The March announcement was really “a way to reconceptualise the presence as permanent, rather than as part of a specific mission,” says Dmitry Gorenburg, an expert on the Russian armed forces.
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