Ivanov insisted that Moscow is not going to send ground troops to Syria but will only use its air force “in order to support the government Syrian forces in their fight against the Islamic State” in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Ivanov told reporters that Russia decided to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in order to protect its own country from ISIL and similar fighters, not because of “some foreign policy goals or ambitions that our Western partners often accuse us of.”
“We are talking about Russia's national security interests,” Ivanov said, adding that that Moscow is worried about a growing number of Russian recruits going off to fight for ISIL.
Ivanov said thousands of Russians had gone off to fight in Syria so it would be wise for Moscow to “take pre-emptive steps and do it on the distant frontiers instead of facing the issue here and later on.”
Putin's request to send troops to Syria comes after his bilateral meeting with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, where the two were discussing Russia's recent military buildup in Syria.
U.S. officials have said that the Russian military is ramping up its presence in the coastal areas of Syria where Assad has the most support.
Analysts say that Moscow appears to be hedging its bets, hoping to retain its influence with the Assad government while jockeying for a stronger bargaining position in lengthy peace negotiations.
Al Jazeera with The Associated Press