Censor.NET reports citing Julian Borger, The Guardian diplomatic editor, who says that the firing of cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea has certainly caught western capitals unawares. Springing surprises put Putin at the center of the world stage, the dramatic actor to whom the world is forced to react.
In addition, this has a narcotic affect on Russian domestic opinion, helped by lots of video footage and graphics of missiles blasting off from ships and travelling hundreds of miles to pinpoint supposedly terrorist targets. In a new poll, 72% of Russian respondents declare themselves in favour of the Syrian adventure.
However, wars fought for domestic consumption are, however, inherently unstable. They require constant novelty and reports of new triumphs, which are hard to pull off in the real world. Having rallied supporters in eastern Ukraine to the Novorossiya flag, Putin has put the insurgency on hold amid a rising death toll among Russian soldiers who were not officially supposed to be there. The Ukrainian campaign only solidified NATO and gave it a new sense of purpose.
The war in Syria also threatens to backfire, for all the reasons that the U.S. has sought to stay out. To the Sunni world, Russia looks like it has taken sides, uniting all the disparate rebel groups in a shared hatred of its "occupation", and inspiring jihadis the world over to turn their eyes towards Moscow.
Backing Assad to the bitter end is a strategy that is likely to suck Russia deeper into a war it cannot afford with an economy shrinking 4% a year. Standing by and watching Russia self-harm also carries costs for the west . The bombardment of rebel-held areas around Idlib and Aleppo will boost the outflow of refugees, and put off the prospect of local cease-fires gradually dampening down the wider conflict. The chance of a collision or shootdown between Russian, Turkish, U.S. or other NATO war planes continues to mount, as does the risk of an escalating proxy war.
"Putin's mastery of surprise has put him in the driving seat, but there is little sign so far he knows where he is going," the article reads.