Putin is the one man who can end the war with a phone call, Hammond said. REUTERS/Sergei Chirikov
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Vladimir Putin cited Russian military success in Syria as his reason for scaling back his forces there.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.Putin is famously inscrutable and unpredictable, and his decision to draw down in Syria was no exception.Russian officials say recent events show how Moscow has, once again, come to matter.They point out that it was Russia, along with the United States, which co-brokered the current cessation of hostilities in Syria, however fragile. John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, flew to Moscow in December to discuss Syria with Putin, and has recently spoken almost daily to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Kremlin and White House statements confirm.Even Putin's critics have recognized the clout Syria has gifted the Russian leader. Putin has shown no particular fondness for the Syrian leader but appears to see little point in replacing him with someone who might turn out to be even worse and does not believe Syria is ready for Western-style democracy anyway.
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