Russia’s military operation in Syria isn’t likely to be short, The New York Times reports.
Along with already-positioned military hardware that includes tanks, aircraft, and ships off of Syria’s coast, Moscow has also begun to move in supplies and resources that are clearly intended for a lengthy stay, rather than a quick intervention.
“Russia is not only bringing some of its most advanced hardware to the fight, it has also deployed large field kitchens and even dancers and singers to entertain the troops – all signs that Moscow is settling in for the long haul,” The Times reports, citing American analysts.
This level of support indicates that Russia may be planning to support a forward-deployed force for some time.
“They brought the whole package,” Jeffrey White, a defense analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Times. “It showed me they could deploy a decent-sized expeditionary force.”
Russia started carrying out airstrikes against rebels opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on September 30. While Russia claimed the airstrikes were aimed at ISIS, most of them have instead targeted Syrian rebels that are threatening the Assad heartland in northwestern Syria.
With this Russian air support, the Syrian military has conducted campaigns aimed at retaking land from rebel forces from Hama to Aleppo. As such, the Kremlin’s attacks have largely struck at rebels based around Hama and Idlib, with additional strikes targeting Aleppo.
Russia’s choice of targets brings it closer to a potential proxy war with the US, as well as the US allies of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. A number of the rebels that Russia has been bombing have received training and arms either through the CIA or US-aligned countries in the region.
These US-backed rebels have caused serious damage to the Assad regime’s forces through their use of antitank missiles. In response, Russia has increased its own strikes as it continues to step up its military support for Assad.