Russian "volunteers"—like those who helped Moscow seize control of Crimea—could soon be arriving in Syria in numbers large enough to make a big difference to the conflict. Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov, chief of the Russian parliament's defense committee, told reporters on Monday that volunteers who had fought in eastern Ukraine will likely "appear in the ranks of the Syrian army as combat participants," reports Reuters, which notes that there have been unconfirmed reports that Russians are already fighting alongside the regime's forces. Analysts suspect that the next step after the arrival of Russian fighters will be a major ground offensive against insurgent groups, some of them US-backed, reports the New York Times.
Such an offensive would require an "unprecedented" degree of cooperation between the Assad regime, Russia, Iran, and groups like Hezbollah, the Times notes. Russia's growing involvement in the conflict has also increased cooperation among Assad's foes, with 41 different insurgent groups—including two US-backed groups, but not ISIS—joining a declaration to attack Russian forces in response to Moscow's aggression and "occupation," the Guardian reports. NATO, meanwhile, has denounced Russia's violation of Turkish airspace on Saturday as dangerous and "irresponsible behavior," with John Kerry saying Turkey could have justifiably shot the Russian jet down, the AP reports. The BBC reports that Turkey says a second violation happened on Sunday. (Read more Russia stories.)