The US-Russian relationship in Syria has been a frosty one with its share of risks. Russia's direct intervention in the Syrian civil war began with strikes on anti-Assad militias covertly supported by the West and on the CIA-provided weapons depots that supplied them. Those strikes exposed to the world what had previously been a black program. Russian fighters have routinely harassed US jets and unmanned aerial vehicles and invaded NATO airspace - a pattern that culminated in the downing of a Russian warplane over Turkish soil in mid-2015. Meanwhile, Syrian insurgents have been filmed destroying Russian armour and helicopters using sophisticated US weaponry.
Having reached the six-year anniversary, the death toll is now counted by the hundreds of thousands with a refugee crisis tallied in the millions. The catastrophe in Syria remains a dark stain on the soul of humanity that challenges previously held norms and assumptions.
The direction of events in Syria raises a number of questions about the current diplomacy of the Syrian war which have potential implications far beyond Syria itself. These relate primarily to the intentions of Russia in the Syrian conflict, and also to the stance that the new US Administration will take.
Regarding Russia, the question is what Putin is looking for in Syria - how do the Russians see the endgame?