Its first and foremost aim is to establish Russia's place on the world stage once again. I’m afraid we have to keep going back to Soviet times because there are so many parallels between now and then, when there was trouble in the Middle East. We always knew that the Americans supported the Israelis and Soviet Union’s supported the Arabs. So there is a historical reason for Putin wanting to support Assad in Syria.
But it's far more about showing the West what Russia can do and actually the West has been quite impressed with what they've done. It shows again how Putin doesn't believe in compromise and that he’s happy with confrontation.
Protestors against Syrian action at the Russian Embassy in London (Photo: Alisdare Hickson)
For example, when Russian actions really started in Syria in September 2015, there was no discussion behind the scenes. They just went in. And it was a shock to everyone that suddenly their planes were flying and bombing. Even Turkey took offence and shot down the Russian plane in November last year, souring Turkish-Russian relations. Although they’re cosying up to each other once again.
Further down the list but no less important is the fear of militant Islam because there are a lot of Muslims in Russia. And the Russians have suffered from terrorism. Not just in Chechnya but there have been bombs in Moscow and so on. So they have reason to fear strident, militant Islam. And so that comes into the picture for what they're doing in Syria.