“Russia’s cooperation on Syria is in part a distraction for its activities against Ukraine and part of a “grand plan” to win unspecified concessions from the international community in the Ukraine conflict,” Defense News quotes Vincent Stewart, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. and Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, as saying.

According to Stuart, the Russian military has been using stepped-up snap exercises at home to rattle Europe and intentionally blur the lines between training and rehearsals for activity outside its borders.

“The recent snap exercises have been realistic, they have been threatening, they have shown a level of sophistication that I have not seen in 20 or so years,” Stewart said.