Think back to September 2015. Before the invasion of Ukraine last week, that was the last time Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated a risky, large-scale military operation - and it was in Syria.

There are countless differences between Moscow’s ongoing attack on Ukraine and its six-year-old military intervention in Syria which turned the tide of the war for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But the two are inextricably linked now more than ever. In Syria, Russia has tested and refined cutting-edge weapons and secured air and naval bases on the Mediterranean, all of which are proving key for Ukraine, say analysts.

Perhaps most importantly, they say, Russia’s powerplay in Syria has set the tone for a more aggressive, adventurous foreign policy, initially in the Middle East and now unfolding in Ukraine.

“In Damascus, Moscow is defending its influence on the global stage,” defence analyst Ruslan Trad, co-founder of conflict and military history journal De Re Militari, told Middle East Eye.  

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