The Russians, Mr. Chollet noted, have a long record of surprising the United States with tactical moves, going back to their invasion of Afghanistan. But those moves are not always successful in the long run.
Other analysts, however, said that in one respect at least, Russia’s limited operation exposed a fallacy in the president’s argument: that any military involvement in Syria would inevitably lead to deeper engagement.
“Syria doesn’t have to be a slippery slope,” Mr. Tabler said. “Putin actually demonstrated you could intervene, bomb, put troops on the ground and still get out. They effectively changed the situation on the ground, and kept the regime from collapsing.”