Until early September the Russians were courting the Syrian Government and FSA simultaneously. But when Russian airstrikes began early October, there were reports of FSA being targeted. In Moscow, Russian leaders had a cordial meeting with Assad on October 20; earlier October 11, a gracious tete-a-tete with KSA's Mohamed bin Salman over arms deal to assist the Kingdom's anti-Ansarullah campaign in Yemen and pro FSA-(AQ) activities in Syria; and then there was a call for cooperation with FSA and USA on October 25. But FSA is purportedly having furious tantrums of mistrust, playing hard to cajole accusing Russia of targeting them and assisting Assad. According to Al-Jazeera (a pro-FSA source), Sergei Lavrov wasted no time reassuring the Syrian opposition that Russia is ""ready to give air support to the patriotic opposition, including the so-called Free Syrian Army, but we need to get in contact with the people who will have the authority to represent certain armed groups."" FSA's depth of disarray, its many groups, sub-groups and defections to AQ during the past four years make it difficult for them to present themselves as a reliable and "patriotic" fighting force. As long as the Kremlin is suspicious of FSA commanders having links to ISIL and ANF, events on the ground may remain more favorable for Assad. But if (or when) FSA gets the benefit of the doubt, things could go drastically wrong.
FSA has categorically stated that the Russian leadership must choose between Assad or itself while the awkward Russian diplomacy upholds the dire need for cooperation with the Syrian Government, its opposition and the United States, a very close ally of the Syrian opposition as well as a discreet ally of AQ - the oddest amalgamation ever! When a third party claims it has a common goal with two warring groups harboring opposite ideologies,it leaves you scratching your head.
Defeat of ISIL (which is still a distant dream) will not be enough to re-establish peace and sovereignty in Syria. Neither may it be possible for Russia to continue walking on egg-shells for much longer.
Something real bizarro here that isn't giving too many reasons to feel optimistic.
The following image shows Putin and Medvedev entertaining President Bashar al-Assad with, what looks to be, an insipid dinner.
Source of image: National Post