Russian Military Activity: October 1-8, 2015

Russia's Syrian campaign is part of larger confrontation with the U.S. and NATO.  In addition to expanding the scope of its operations to bolster the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Russia issued an open challenge to NATO through repeated violations of Turkish airspace, the shadowing of U.S. Predator drones in Syria, and the launch of cruise missiles into Syria from the Caspian Sea through Iraqi airspace without warning the U.S. beforehand. Russia accelerated its efforts to court U.S. allies including Jordan and Israel and to pose as an alternative security guarantor in the region, demonstrating Russia's intent to override the US-led coalition effort. Likewise, Russia bolstered its military presence near Afghanistan, where the U.S. is preparing to draw down its forces, by announcing the deployment of attack helicopters to neighboring Tajikistan. In a snap ministerial meeting on October 8, NATO agreed to double the size of its Response Force and announced its preparedness to deploy ground forces to defend Turkey. It remains unclear whether or not this reaction by NATO will noticeably deter Russian aggression in the Middle East or conversely trigger an escalatory response. Meanwhile, Russia's escalated support to Syrian regime operations against rebels and Jabhat al Nusra in Syria show that Russia's main objective in the Middle East is not the anti-ISIS fight, but rather the formation of a Russian-Iranian alignment that will serve its broader aims.