While so far Russia’s only boots on the ground in Syria have been those protecting their own naval and air bases, Russia’s former Deputy FM Andrei Fyodorov has claimed that there have been discussions among the military leadership, and with President Vladimir Putin, about sending special forces.
There appears to be a significant split on the matter among Russia’s military and political leaders, with some believing the deployment is needed to turn the side of the Syrian War more decisively in favor of the Assad government.
On the other hand, many believe that escalating the Russian involvement to include a ground component would do serious harm to the negotiation process aimed at unifying the government with moderate rebels, and would also lead to further disputes with the US.
The US, of course, has its own ground troops in Syria, embedded with the Kurdish YPG. The addition of a Russian component on the ground, embedded with the Syrian military would just further cement Syria as a proxy war between the US and Russia.
Ground troops would also be a politically touchy subject within Russia, even if it was a small one, as Russia has generally avoided such deployments since their failed occupation of Afghanistan.