A much quoted article of the Moscow Times says the following:

Russia is preparing to send Marines to defend its naval base in Syria amid continued unrest in the Arab state, Interfax reported Monday, citing a Navy source.  The information confirms reports in Russian and Western media Friday.

No, in fact it does not, as shown by the very next sentence:

Two large troop transport vessels and a rescue tugboat will defend Russian citizens and infrastructure in the port city of Tartus and also evacuate equipment if necessary, the source said.

Russian Naval Infantry
Two large troop transport vessels and a rescue tugboat are not at all equivalent to Friday’s “one Motor-Rifle Division, one Airborne Division and one Spetsnaz Brigade”.  In fact, what these ship will be carrying are Russian Naval Infantry units, a very different kind of force.

Russian sources are quite clear that these units would be tasked with defending Russian personnel and infrastructure in Tartus.  They will not intervene in the civil war or deter and/or repel a NATO attack.

An RT article provides all the needed clarifications:

“The crews of the Nikolay Filchenkov, Ceasar Kunikov and SB-15 tugboat – together with the marine units they carry – are capable of protecting security of Russian citizens and evacuating a part of the property of the logistics base,” a source at the Russian Navy General Staff told Interfax-AVN on Monday.  But according to an officer stationed with the Black Sea Fleet, the Nikolay Filchenkov and Ceasar Kunikov are still sitting in dock in Sevastopol. Moreover, the crew is said to be on “regular service duty” and are under no emergency orders. He pointed out, however, that Russian naval ships must be prepared to dispatch anywhere in the world in 12 hours notice.

So, to summarize, should these forces ever be sent to Syria, it would be only to defend Russian interests, nothing more.
I hope that this chorus of “the Russians are coming!” (interpreted in unison by both opponents and supporters of such an option) will not be sung again.
The Saker
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