"If you call me Francis, I'll kill you." Stripes, which Tom Nichols of the Naval War College pointed out in class could be said to be Ivan's current nuclear doctrine; anything you do Ivan doesn't like, Ivan talks about the nukes.
There was a test of a Russian Topol-M missile this week, fired from Kaputsin Yar in Southern Russia,that caused a bit of a stir in the Middle East, since it's burning spiral was visible in many places in the Middle East.
The Topol-M is one of Ivan's prides and joys, designed so the story goes, to spin in "boost phase" to avoid said boost phase defenses, then sail on a nice flat trajectory that's harder to track, drop decoys, and then drop at least one 800 kiloton (forty times more powerful than Hiroshima) weapon on its target, that can maybe maneuver too, pretty much anywhere Ivan wants to do that on Earth.
Of course, nuclear armed states like to fire missiles every now and then, like when India fired the Agni, which isn't really a "dwarf" like the Chinese brayed about afterwards, since its aimed at Beijine, both to make sure they work properly, and maybe at least as much, to remind people in general that there exist people who would under the right circumstances "turn the keys:"
"Sir, firing of all 96 Trident D-V II warheads completed. Estimated Russian casualties 30 million. Permission to open the Stoly sir?"
"We have flattened Beijing, permission to have the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces celebrate with a toast of Stoly sir?" Etc.... That's what nuclear deterrence looks like, a willingness to use nuclear weapons that we all pray means no one ever does that, part of the paradox of strategy, really almost its logical conclusion: we demonstrate a willingness to commit massive acts of violence so we don't have to do that and are therefore safer than we would be if we could wage conventional war among the Great Powers.
Like my nuclear weapons inspector uncle Bob from SAC said, "We don't really want to do that, but, you have to be willing and even almost enthusiastic about it so you don't have to, or prevail should deterrence fail."
Putin loves this stuff, which is why he made a video once when Medvedev was supposedly President, of Vladimir flying on a plane putting out fires where he got to "push the button." There's Putin on television saying "This is the button to push?"
Why not get Bashar to go to the South of France now or Switzerland, instead of shelling urban areas?
At times when there are disagreements among nuclear armed states over what to do, like say with Syria and Iran and the U.S. and Russia, it's probably a good time from Ivan's point of view to throw out a reminder that if there's Federal Express, "When you absolutely, positively have to destroy something overnight," there's also Ivan's Express.
Of course, some of the Old School probably would like to fire a Minuteman III from Vandenberg at Kwajelein as a reminder back, "There was an unusual cloud formation in Southern California today that the Air Force insists was not a missile firing," or, better, fire one Trident with four warheads and decoys, and have a missile defense test at Diego Garcia, or even better, fire them towards Ivan at the head of the Gulf and have the Aegis do its work.
That last hypothetical test is potentially a little dangerous of course, if its always a pretty light show when Re-Entry Vehicles come down.
Those are pretty lights to see in Iran, if it'd be even prettier if Standard's were blowing them out of the sky before they hurt any fish in the Gulf.
Of course, if Volodya would just have a little talk with Bashar al Assad so that he would just see that the South of France or Switzerland with no trials, fifty, heck a hundred million, and a no talk rule for ten years with a light French security detail and a caretaker government by that homicidal cousin of his doing such impressive work lately is reasonable, compared to a former opthamologist ordering artillery strikes on urban areas, it would probably be in everyone's interest.