People have forgotten what the Cold War was, but the Obama administration seems to have revived it so as to solve her foreign policy problems. Obama has said he wanted to bomb Syria .. to attack Assad .. Russia vetoed the idea .. The current circumstance in Syria is a substantial escalation. So, while a naive view might be leaving it to Russia to deal with, a realist might play a 'game' (cf Big Game or The Great Game) with Russia so as to not lose political capital, but also not spending too much on it .. a cold war position in which only the locals are divided and lose .. but not surrounding states .. like with Korea or Vietnam or Hungary or Czechoslovakia. Historically, Great Britain had played the Great Game against Russia, using states as pawns.
In the cold war, there were three super powers who fought each other through allies, not directly. Soviet Union, China and US.
In Korea, China funded North Korea to take out the rest of Korea. US/UN intervened, but were losing. President Truman brought in Douglas MacArthur who made real gains, but threatened to keep going into China. Truman sacked him. It was declared an unfinished war and has had a cease fire, not peace, since 1950. The US built the South of Korea.
In Vietnam, the US had funded the communists in WW2 against Japan. The communists evicted the French. The UN created a North/South demarcation, but China and Russia funded the North. The US sent observers under Kennedy, but Johnson inflated that to war. After '68, the South had almost won the war, but in allowing the US to withdraw while China kept funding the North, Vietnam became 'unified' by the North, creating a refugee crisis in which over 50% who fled by boat died by drowning.
In Hungary, an uprising by freedom fighters was crushed by soviet tanks. In Czechoslovakia Alexander Dubček, then first Secretary of the Czech Communist Party told the Soviet leader he was closer to London than Moscow and tanks invaded his land and he was replaced as PM. He ran for government after the Velvet Revolution when the Soviet Union went belly up, but he was killed in a car accident.
A cold war forces smaller nations to turn to help from a regional super power .. making the calamity of a refugee crisis less likely.
In cold war terms, Russia could support Assad, and the US could conditionally support anti assad forces that follow certain behaviours. So stopping the tortures, beheading etc if they want US help .. they have to promote stability, schooling, health care etc ..
No one without super power support will last long. By being enemies in Syria, Russia and the US undercut ISIL.