While American politicians (endlessly) debate whether they should establish a no-fly zone in Syria, the Russians have put one in place.
“Turkey used to violate Syrian airspace all the time,” Putin told reporters on December 17. “Let them try and fly there now.” Russia’s most advanced air-defense system is covering the whole country, he said.
As for Syrian airspace, Putin’s language indicates that Russia has established a barrier air defense system along the Turkish border. In effect Russia has closed Syrian airspace to the Turks and anyone else it identifies. The difference between what the US proposed and the Russian version is that the Russian-enforced air defense zone protects the Syrian state, instead of providing a safe haven for the opposition.
Putin said that Russia will participate in international talks today on how to end the Syrian civil war. Asked about the Russian plan for Syria’s future, he said that the Russian plan is similar to that of the US. The plan envisions joint work on the Syrian constitution; the development of instruments of control over Syria's future early elections; conduct of these elections and recognition of their results. In the Russian version of the plan, Bashar al-Asad could run for president again. In the US version, he could not.
Concerning the cost of the Russian expeditionary force, he said, "We haven't started a war. We are conducting specific operations with the use of our Aerospace Forces, Space Forces, air-defense forces, and reconnaissance. We simply re-directed part of the funding that we planned to spend on training and military exercises to our Aerospace Forces in Syria. Something needs to be added there, but this absolutely doesn't have any great significance for the budget."
"We conduct large-scale exercises. Just take the Center or Vostok-2015 exercises alone - thousands of people engaged, thousands relocated from one theater to another, hundreds of aircraft, and so on, and so on. We have simply re-allotted part of this funding there, for conducting the operation in Syria," he said. "You can't think of a better exercise. In principle, we can practice there for quite a long time without significant detriment to our budget," Putin said.
Barack Obama isn't sure what he wants to do. Maybe another red line?