Russia is digging in for the long haul in Syria. Whereas two months ago Russian officials insisted the Kremlin’s military adventure in the shattered Arab republic would last no longer than a few months, the Defense Ministry is gradually surging its force strength in the country.

Analysts told Defense News that the gradual expansion of Russia’s air contingent reflects that Russia’s ultimate goal in Syria — to forestall the demise of President Bashar Assad, or at least his Alawite government — is proving harder to reach than initially anticipated.

“Some kind of enlargement of the Russian contingent was almost inevitable from the beginning, but the pace of enlargement is a matter of interpretation … many experts said that from the beginning it was not enough,” said Ruslan Pukhov, a member of the Defense Ministry’s public advisory board. […]