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Vladimir Putin cited Russian military success in Syria as his reason for scaling back his forces there. But his belief that the intervention delivered him a seat at the top table of world affairs is more likely to have tipped his hand.

Russia’s Syria operation, launched on Sept. 30 last year, made military, diplomatic and domestic political sense for the Kremlin, which was keen to shore up its closest Middle East ally and protect its only naval facility on the Mediterranean. It has largely achieved both aims.

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