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Syria, Russia and Putin's Military Gamble

Syria, Russia and Putin's Military Gamble
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For years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has presented himself as a man with a plan who was not afraid to flex his muscles or his country's military might. Syria is just the latest example.

"We have more military means,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin. “And we will use them — if need be."

But while Putin talks of "we" and "Russia," in the West much of the focus is on the Russian leader himself.

'Putin is Russia'

"Putin specifically, because Putin is Russia these days, believes that Russia has been wrongfully placed in this diminished capacity on the global stage," said Robert Cardillo of the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

And there are fears the Russian leader is just getting started.

"I think that Putin would do practically anything possible in order to re-establish a Russian domination over Eastern Europe, the Baltics and even Western Europe if he could get away with it," said James Woolsey, former CIA director.

Aside from thrusting Russia into the global spotlight, Putin's assertiveness could also boost Russia's military industry and build on sales to Afghanistan and Iraq.

But in places like Syria, there is a considerable risk.

'Strong leader' showing

"If he were to leave in failure,” said John Herbst, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, “that would weaken his legitimacy at home. And right now his legitimacy is based upon showing he's a strong leader."

Current and former officials warn that, from a Western perspective, the damage Russia is doing cannot necessarily be undone.

"Now that they are formalizing their alliance with Iran, Hezbollah and Syria … that makes those states and that foreign terrorist organization much more capable, much more dangerous," said Christopher Harmer of the Institute for the Study of War.

But for Putin, just part of doing business.