George Friedman: Putin’s Syria Retreat Was Favor to US

from John Mauldin

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News that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a Russian air wing home from Syria indicates weakness to some observers. Low oil prices forced Putin to abandon the foreign venture.

Geopolitical expert George Friedman disagrees.

Speaking in a Mauldin Economics video, Friedman says the Russian deployment was part of an elaborate US–Russia negotiation. The real issue is further north.

According to Friedman, the US is in a quandary. It needs a stable Syrian government to contain ISIS, but can’t overtly support the brutal Bashar Assad regime.

Meanwhile, Russia desperately wants Ukraine neutralized and outside NATO or other Western security guarantees. Moscow also wants relief from economic sanctions, though Friedman says the sanctions are minor compared to the oil problem.

This set up a bargain.

Russian air strikes damaged ISIS enough to put Assad back in at least a temporarily stable position. The US got what it wanted without leaving any American fingerprints.

The next step will be quiet US–Russia discussions of a new balance in Ukraine.

A small but successful deployment outside Russia’s normal sphere was a public relations coup for Putin, but carries little military significance. With their goal achieved, the Russians could declare victory and go home.

The operation didn’t solve long-term regional challenges. ISIS still controls much of Syria, but Damascus is safe for now. Both the US and Russia need a Ukraine resolution, and it is now significantly closer.