What is Russian President Vladimir Putin up to now? On Monday he announced that he is instructing his armed forces to start pulling out of Syria.
Has he achieved what he wanted? Has he run out of money? Has he given Assad enough breathing space? Has he delivered more weapons to Assad? Has he embarrassed the U.S. enough?
Either world leaders don’t know yet, because they still seem to be pondering Vladimir Putin‘s announcement.Perhaps they just can’t believe how he has beaten them at their own game. Russians are master chess players.
It was only five months ago that he ordered the Russian military operation/occupation to strengthen Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s hold on Syria. Obama and other Western leaders apparently did not foresee that, but he pulled it off, achieved what he wanted, and now it is time to appear to pull back.
Putin announced his next move in a meeting in the Kremlin with his defense and foreign ministers. Taking a leaf out of G.W. Bush’s book, Putin said the mission has been accomplished, all objectives fulfilled. He said he wants a new emphasis on diplomatic efforts to broker a peace deal in Syria.
Of course he does – he has achieved what he wanted.
So, does this mean Putin is pulling out , to leave Assad to his own devices?
No, not a chance!
Does it mean the end of Russian military influence in Syria?
Not only no, but hell no!
Putin did not set a deadline for Russian troop withdrawals, unlike his key adversary Barack Obama has repeatedly. Putin has important interests in the port of Tartous and at the Hmeymim airbase in Syria’s Latakia province. Russian forces will remain in those key installations. Putin will not desert Russia’s key bases in the region. Securing those bases has to be one of the main reasons he moved into Syria in the first place.
During his meeting with his ministers, Putin said “The effective work of our military created the conditions for the start of the peace process. I believe that the task put before the defense ministry and Russian armed forces has, on the whole, been fulfilled. With the participation of the Russian military, the Syrian armed forces and patriotic Syrian forces have been able to achieve a fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism and have taken the initiative in almost all respects.”
Obama, Kerry and the UN may think this is the path to peace in Syria, but nothing much has changed. Vladimir Putin is a wily adversary to the West, and this move has helped him to secure his bases in the Middle East as well as poking his finger in the West’s eye. It is really not much different to what he did in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea, after NATO tried to steal Ukraine away from him.
Now, thanks to some inept foreign policy and a lot of Western dithering, Putin is portraying himself “the peacemaker.”
Putin: 2, The West : 0.