With breaking (but not surprising) news that Russian has launched its first airstrikes in Syria, its worth talking about Putin’s goal –
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia suddenly escalated the stakes in his contest with the West over influence in the Middle East on Wednesday, as Russian pilots carried out their first airstrikes in Syria.
Russian warplanes dropped bombs near the central city of Homs, according to American officials in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to make a public statement. Moscow informed American officials in advance, they said.
The attack came hours after Mr. Putin pushed a measure through the upper house of Parliament approving the use of Russian military forces abroad.
Russian officials and analysts portrayed the move as an attempt both to fight Islamic State militants and to try to ensure the survival of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Russia’s main ally in the Middle East. But Homs is not under the control of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The larger question is: should Assad stay or be overthrown? Obama wants him out but I tend to think with Assad gone, that’s one more large ISIS stronghold to be taken and the entire region is lost. Of course, Assad murders his own people. I don’t know which side is right here.