"Russia intends to escalate its military operations in Aleppo City and Damascus within the coming days in order to demonstrate its force projection capabilities and bolster flagging public appeal for its involvement in the conflict. Russia deployed its lone aircraft carrier - the Admiral Kuznetsov – to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea on or around October 17. The Kuznetsov is also carrying a contingent of Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB fighter jets that Russian sources claim are equipped with precision-guided munitions, as well as Ka-52 attack helicopters armed with long-range anti-tank guided missiles.[i] The Kuznetsov is escorted by a battle group that includes as many as three submarines likely equipped with Kalibr long-range cruise missiles. The Kuznetsov reached the Mediterranean Sea on November 1 and is expected to arrive off the Syrian Coast in the coming days, where it will be joined by an additional frigate armed with Kalibr cruise missiles from the Black Sea Fleet.[ii] Once the battle group arrives, it will likely not remain idle. Russia will likely use these new assets to support pro-regime ground operations in Aleppo City or Damascus in an attempt to improve domestic support for its military intervention in the Syrian Civil War through a showcase of its naval and air capabilities. A recent poll by the Levada Center indicated that support for the intervention has begun to slip since 2015.[iii] Russians now doubt the Syrian Civil War as a route to improving Russia’s international image or finding common ground with the West.[iv] Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely attempt to reinvigorate these sentiments through a high-profile demonstration of military might and effectiveness." ISW
ISW is, of course, a Kaganesque neocon think tank, but some of their work is pretty good.
It is not at all clear to me that Russian public support for the expeditionary effort in Syria is flagging. Is it?
Russian air operations in Syria have been largely suspended the last couple of weeks. One explanatory theory is that Putin is being careful to not provide propaganda points to the Clinton campaign in the form of civilian casualties just before the US election.
Additional aerial firepower will be useful to the Russian command in Syria but I remain convinced that the R+6 ground troop strength is too small for achieving a decisive result in the western Syria region that is likely to become the de facto area of Syrian government control.
The evolving and emerging Russian Army does not have a lot of recent combat experience and little at all in expeditionary operation and logistics. I continue to think that a force of two MRD equivalents made up of volunteers would be advisable as reinforcements in Syria. pl