I don’t see why so many Western commentators and analysts are up in arms over Russia’s move into Syria. (Actually, I do: From Ukraine to Iran to Syria, Moscow has been more active in geopolitics than it has been for nearly 25 years.) Moscow’s move into Syria can only be seen as a gift to the West, in terms of strategy and geopolitics. Think of it this way:
Russia has no military experience whatsoever outside of its borders. The Russian military did a ruthlessly good job of stamping out secessionist movements in the Caucasus, and its internal security bureaucracy has done a great job of stifling dissent and shaping the narrative that Moscow wants to be highlighted. Yet Russia’s success outside of its borders has been paltry, at best.
Intervention in Ukraine has brought widespread, global condemnation upon Russia, and economic sanctions to boot.
The Russians in Syria are going to be ruthlessly slaughtered and exploited by the myriad of factions in the region. Not only is Russia backing the wrong horse (Assad), it is backing it up with hardware and personnel that have no experience with the region. Russia has produced an insular intellectual class over the past 15 or 20 years, and this is going to play out badly for its Syrian intervention.
The West, which has an awful lot of experience playing factions off on each other in the Near East, will most likely take advantage of Russian ignorance (to the detriment of Syrian society as whole) and as a result the world will see a Russian military outsmarted, outgunned, and outmanned by an insurgency with no official support from the outside world. The Russians are going to get bloodied in Syria. I don’t see why Western hawks are so keen on making Russia “pay” for its excursion on the global diplomatic stage.