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There has been no shortage of scrutiny of what Russian President Vladimir Putin is up to in Syria and why.Russian bombs and missiles are now raining down on an array of armed groups that have been fighting Syrian government forces, which has given the regime the breathing space that Russia's intervention was intended to provide.Thus far at least, ISIS seems to be a low priority for the Russian military, which appears to be attacking mainly other groups opposed to the Assad regime.Russia seems to be playing the same cynical game as Assad: Framing the war as a binary choice between ISIS and a regime that, however flawed, still deserves the support of the world.Russia's intervention in Syria cannot succeed if success is defined as enabling the Assad government to regain control over the bulk of the country's territory. Putin's policy can, at most, establish a relatively secure enclave.The real question, then, is whether Putin sees bolstering the Assad government as an end in itself or as a means to an end.Russia might support such a process; after all, Putin is not known for his sentimentality.
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