For the past week Syrian and pro-Syrian Lebanese media have been publishing articles estimating that Syria is facing a new stage in Russia's military involvement in the country, and that Russia is expected to escalate its participation in the Syria war with ground troops and an unprecedented expansion of its aerial campaign.
These reports follow statements by President Putin on November 20, 2015 in a talk with commanders and officials from the Russian defense ministry, in which he said that the results of the Syria offensive "are still not enough to clear Syria of armed and terrorist groups and defend Russia from a possible terrorist attack. There is much work ahead of us. I hope that the next stages [of the offensive] will take place with the same quality and professionalism and will lead to results."
The Russian decision to escalate its activity is likely motivated by the approach of January 1, 2016, on which, according to agreements reached during the last Vienna conference, Syrian regime and opposition representatives are to meet for negotiations under the auspices of the UN, concurrent to a ceasefire between them.
It seems that Russia and its allies - Syria and Iran - are trying to maximize their achievements against the Syrian rebels on the ground in order to collect bargaining chips in anticipation of the negotiations, especially considering that, so far, the Russian aerial campaign has not made substantial achievements.
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