- Russian President Vladimir Putin went on a victory lap this week, replacing the US as chief power broker in Syria, and gaining a closer ally in Europe’s backyard.
- This is a far cry from the Putin of 2014, who became an international pariah after promoting civil unrest in Ukraine and annexing Crimea.
- President Donald Trump effectively handed him these victories by pulling out of Syria, diminishing the US interest in Ukraine’s security, and inviting Putin back to the world stage.
- Trump’s Syria withdrawal, in particular, made “Russia look like a major world power on the world stage,” said James Nixey, head of Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia program.
- The European Union, too internally divided to agree on a coherent Russia policy, has also failed to rein in Putin.
Vladimir Putin is on a roll.
This week alone, the Russian president:
- Replaced the US as the chief power broker in Syria.
- Drew a NATO member, and buffer between Russia and Europe, close into his orbit.
- Showed global ambition by hosting all 54 African nations to sign billions in new business deals.
His deal to jointly patrol northeastern Syria with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, made on Tuesday, establishes Russia as a power player in the war-torn country.
Putin is now a bridge between Turkish militants and Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and a guarantor of regional security.