Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov today discussed questions of a possible Russian deployment of ground troops to Syria, saying that the matter is purely hypothetical at this point because no request has been made, but that if the Assad government, a long-time ally, did request it Moscow would at least “consider” the matter.
The US claims that Russia has deployed troops already to Latakia, but Russia maintains that the handful of troops there are purely defensive and meant to oversee the ongoing delivery of military aid to the Assad government for the purposes of their fight against ISIS.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem touched on the matter as well, saying that he believes that with new Russian weaponry the Syrian military will be fine on its own, but that if the need arises Syria would request Russian troops to help them fight ISIS.
ISIS now controls over half of Syria’s territory, and the government only controls a portion of the remaining half, with other rebel factions, notably al-Qaeda, taking up significant holdings as well. The current focus of the military is mostly the defense of the Latakia coast, as well as the area around the capital city of Damascus. Losing ground elsewhere, however, the question of how long the military can sustain its defense is an open one.
The Syrian government has made a point of avoiding any direct military intervention from its allies in the civil war so far, relying mostly on Shi’ite militias and Hezbollah in particular as auxiliaries. Iran and Russia have both provided advisers, however, and both have a vested interest in seeing the current government, or something comparable, surviving the ISIS onslaught.