VLADIMIR PUTIN stares out from a poster hanging at Russian army installations throughout Syria. “Russia’s armed forces are the guarantor of world security,” the posters declare. It is a good summary of the thinking behind Russia’s mission, which has never been mainly about Syria. When it intervened in Syria last year, Russia sought to provide TV spectacles for the masses at home, re-establish itself as a global power and force the West into taking account of Russian interests.
So when Mr Putin said in March that “the main part” of Russia’s forces could now leave Syria, their mission having been accomplished, he was partly telling the truth. Russia today hardly looks like the mere “regional power” that Barack Obama once dubbed it. Any path to peace in Syria now runs through Moscow. “Only Russia and the United States of America are in a state to stop the war in Syria, even though they have different political interests and goals,” wrote Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia’s general staff, in a recent article.