Putin pulls the strings in Ukraine and Syria – leaving western powers flat-footed

As Russia hots up its war in Syria, the Kremlin has moved to de-escalate the war in Ukraine in a bid to quietly undermine Europe’s resolve on economic sanctions

Kremlinology has always been an inexact science, but it is surely no coincidence that as Moscow moved to intensify its new war in Syria on Thursday, its proxies were moving to rapidly de-escalate the old one in Ukraine.

As Russian jets pounded rebel positions in Syria to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad, in Ukraine Russian-backed separatist rebel leaders were agreeing to pull back their heavy weapons while predicting “the end of the war” was in sight.

Not for the first time in recent years Vladimir Putin’s preparedness to act – to use force in the prosecution of his strategic goals first in Crimea, then in Syria – has left western powers looking reactive and flat-footed.

In Syria, Mr Putin’s strategy now looks increasingly clear. Russian strikes have not targeted Islamic State positions as promised, but instead focussed on attacking the non-isil rebel elements that this year have posed the greatest threat to regime forces.

For now the West condemns Russia’s unilateral action, but perhaps Mr Putin already foresees the day when the opportunity to defeat Isil – with Russia as the indispensable power-broker – forces western powers to take a more pragmatic approach.

Full article: Putin pulls the strings in Ukraine and Syria – leaving western powers flat-footed (The Telegraph)

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