What’s Vladimir Putin up to?

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Over the past few months, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been unusually active on multiple fronts. He has expanded his military operations in the Middle East in support of Syrian President Assad, boosted troop strength on the Ukrainian border and conducted a major purge and restructuring of the Russian government. He has also accused Ukraine of terrorist activity in Crimea, which he seized in 2014.

Recent Actions
Here are some of Putin’s recent actions:

Putin is increasing tensions along the Ukraine border: After several months of quiet, a series of events and actions have raised concerns about the potential for Russian aggression. Putin has claimed that Ukrainian forces made an incursion into Crimea. Ukraine has denied this, and suggested that the apparent scuffle was between two Russian units that were reportedly under the influence. Putin has also increased troop strength around the region. European ceasefire observers have noted an increase in ceasefire violations and heavier weapons on the Russian-controlled lines, a violation of the Minsk agreement. The Russians have upgraded their air defense systems by placing the state-of-the-art S-400 anti-air missile batteries in Crimea. We note that forces in Donetsk and Luhansk, the contested areas in Ukraine, have been put on high alert.

Military support for Syria has increased: Russian air assets have been bombing rebel positions near Aleppo in recent weeks. Surprisingly, Russia began limited air operations from Hamadan Air Base in Iran. It seems that Iran was open to giving Russia a place for air operations but felt Putin was touting it to the world to signal Russia’s widening influence in the region.
Iran apparently did not anticipate the publicity that would come from granting Russia permission to use the facility and it was revoked last week.
After all, Iran does not want to be seen as being dominated by an outside power.

There has been a rather widespread purge: Most recently, Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s longtime chief of staff, was relieved of his duties and demoted to a staff role involving the environment and transportation. This move was something of a stunner
as Ivanov was considered for the president’s position when Putin traded places with Dmitry Medvedev in 2008


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