Another option would be to create a sham target in Syria to conduct geopolitical bargaining with a trump card in hand. Russia would agree to withdraw from Syria if the West recognized the new geopolitical status quo in Europe.
This is roughly how the driving motives and logic of Russia’s foreign-policy behavior can be reconstructed. In hindsight, it is obvious that over the last four years the Kremlin underestimated the West’s ability to stand up to it while also overestimating its own power. Having said that, there is not the slightest sign that Moscow is ready to conduct a strategic reassessment of the situation or, let alone, stand down. The Russian leadership intends to stick with the policy of strategic patience and wait until a new window of opportunity opens so that it can achieve its goals.
Valeriy Solovey is a professor of the Moscow State Institute for International Relations who regularly appears on opposition-minded media in Russia.