Russian President Vladimir Putin's dramatic deployment of soldiers, weapons and aircraft to Syria is aimed at reshaping not just a civil war on the edge of the Mediterranean but Russia's standing in the world community.
Moscow has been isolated for years by sanctions slapped on the country as punishment for its annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Doubling down on his support for the Syrian regime, Putin sent a clear signal there would be no solution to the bloody quagmire without Moscow.
The United Nations General Assembly in New York this week offers an opportunity for world leaders to inject new momentum into international talks on Syria, especially as attendees include United States President Barack Obama and Putin.
A few months ago the Russian leader would have arrived at the UN as a virtual pariah. Now he has a meeting set with Obama tomorrow, and the lingering European conflict will be politely ignored as leaders wait for his suggestions as to how they can edge back from the brink in Syria.
"Putin and Kremlin had a clear goal to overcome international isolation because of Ukraine," said Alexander Golts, military analyst and deputy editor of a news site that was censored hours after Crimea was annexed.
"The idea of an anti-Isis coalition looked like some kind of excellent bridge to overcome isolation, and it appears to have worked."
Last week's military expansion around Russia's Latakia air base captured on satellite pictures is not purely posturing. Russia is keen to hold on to its only air and naval bases in the Mediterranean, averse to letting the regime change sought by the West go ahead and worried about the influence of radical Islamists in Muslim areas.
But by sending a few thousand troops to well-protected bases, where they are not expected to do more than train and support Syrians, Putin has broken out of diplomatic isolation, staked Russia's claim to a strategic presence in the Middle East and made a case that no deal can be done in any international conflict without Russia.
"The Russian goal is to reassert their pivotal role in handling any global crisis," said Jonathan Eyal, international director at the Royal United Services Institute thinktank. "Without Syria, a man known for aggression in Ukraine has to stand up and explain himself. Now everyone appears to have forgotten what happened in Ukraine ... That's quite a turnaround."
The price of this transformation has been the deployment of up to 2000 troops to an airbase in Syria, with 24 warplanes, tanks, helicopters and anti-aircraft complexes. A Russian soldier told news site gazeta.ru that 1700 troops were at the naval base in Tartus and were renovating the pier there.
Western policy over Syria is in such disarray that Russia's brand of ruthless realpolitik has turned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into an unexpected trump card. Even in European capitals, politicians who once called for his ousting are grudgingly starting to argue that the dictator is his country's only grim hope for some kind of stability.
In reality, bolstering Assad will not necessarily resolve two of Europe's top concerns - Isis and the flow of refugees from Syria. Assad has focused his attention largely on fighting other groups, leaving the battle against Isis inside Syria mostly in the hands of Western air power, Kurdish militias and any rebels whose territorial ambitions put them into conflict with the Raqqa-based group.
Nor are all or even most Syrian refugees fleeing Isis. Exact numbers of civilian casualties are hard to pin down, but almost all observers agree that Assad's forces have killed more Syrians than any other group. They have eschewed the publicity that Isis courts, but their barrel bombs have deliberately targeted civilian neighbourhoods, fuelling an exodus.
The wider resolution of the conflict that the West seeks may not be within Russia's grasp. There is no evidence that Moscow has a clearer understanding than Western policymakers of the web of warring factions that have made the war so complicated.
There is concern in Russia too about the estimated 2400 Russians fighting in the ranks of Isis, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
Air strikes failing to deter fighters
• United States intelligence fears nearly 30,000 foreign fighters have travelled to Iraq and Syria since 2011, the New York Times reported.
• The number represents a doubling of last year's assessment and will dismay US war planners.
• US President Barack Obama will chair an international summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week for leaders fighting Isis (Islamic State) and "violent extremism".
• A US Congressional report into foreign fighter flows is expected to paint a bleak picture, suggesting that a year of US-led air strikes has not slowed recruitment.
• Britain is to soften its demand that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad must be immediately removed from power to bring peace to the country. Prime Minister David Cameron was expected to signal the major shift in policy at the United Nations today.
- AFP, Telegraph Group Ltd, Observer