Nearly six months ago, Vladimir Putin intervened in Syria's civil war.
Yesterday, he declared mission accomplished.
So, after 167 days of bombing, what exactly has Moscow accomplished?
Well, in addition to killing 1,700 civilians, bombing hospitals, exacerbating Europe's refugee crisis, and keeping Bashar al-Assad's brutal regime afloat, the Kremlin clearly thinks it has established a template in Syria to get what it has always craved: status as a global superpower.
Before the Syria intervention, Putin's Russia was internationally isolated, bogged down in a quagmire in Ukraine, and reeling from Western sanctions.
It was a regional troublemaker that was -- justifiably -- being treated like an international pariah.
Now it has a seat at the big table, alongside the United States, as co-sponsor of the Syrian cease-fire.
And Moscow is seeking to leverage this into more global clout, the lifting of sanctions, a free hand in the former Soviet space, and a revision of the post-Cold War international order.
Syria wasn't an end in itself. It was a means to an end.
Putin's Kremlin has discovered that being a global troublemaker pays dividends.
It has learned that being a big part of the problem also makes you a big part of the solution.
You can call this the politics of blackmail; you can call it geopolitical extortion.
But by whatever name, it appears to be working.
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