During his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad earlier on Tuesday, Russia's President Vladimir Putin mentioned that his military campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria is wrapping up, while giving no indication that Russia would scale down its military presence in Syria—something Moscow is unlikely to do
Assad, who arrived at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday and warmly embraced his Russian counterpart, almost resting his head on the Putin's shoulder.
Later, Assad thanked Putin and Russia's top brass for their "sacrifices" and efforts made to "save our country." He added that Damascus is interested in moving forward with a political process after the "victory over the terrorists."
Without Russia's support and heavy airpower, Assad would likely still be battling for political survival, or would have already been possibly deposed.
Many among Assad's opposition, in any case, will say the Russian intervention preserved Assad's rule in Syria while thousands more were killed and tens of thousands more displaced in the civil war, now in its seventh year.
Some also claim that the Russian involvement may have helped put any Assad accountability for human rights abuses out of reach.
The Assad-Putin alliance has gone through several defining events, seemingly leading to a cement-like bond based in the self interests of both leaders, with Putin gaining access to Syria while being able to test Russian weapons within its borders, and Assad getting to keep his head.
A series of defeats suffered by Assad's army in 2015 left his government teetering on the brink of collapse, prompting the Kremlin to intervene militarily to protect its long-time ally.
Weeks after Moscow signed a deal with the Syrian government on August 26, 2015 to deploy its forces, the Russian military refurbished the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's province of Latakia to prepare it for hosting dozens of Russian warplanes.
The operation dubbed "the Syrian Express" saw the delivery of thousands of tons of military equipment and supplies by sea and heavy-lift cargo planes.
The following month, on Sept. 30, Moscow declared the launch of its air campaign in Syria, Russia's first military action outside the former Soviet Union since its 1991 collapse.