Russia’s backing of Syria may seem like an odd choice, but Russia has a very specific strategic motivation. Caspian Report will fill you in.
Russia’s goal is to divert America’s attention away from states of the former Soviet Union by keeping the U.S. busy in the Middle East. This allows Russia to regain dominance over the ex-Soviet countries and to incorporate them into the Russian leaning Eurasian Union. Putin’s superficial involvement in Syria and defiance of America makes Russia appear as a superpower, even though it lacks the actual resources to be one. This appearance scares the ex-Soviet states into falling in line with Putin’s geopolitical ambitions.