So apparently Vladimir Putin has decided it's time to freeze the conflict in Syria.
And why not? Creating frozen conflicts has long been a Russian tradition. It's been a tried-and-true method for shoring up Moscow's influence and intimidating its neighbors in the former Soviet Union.
The model is simple: first you instigate a conflict or intervene on one side in an existing civil war;
then you present yourself as a peacekeeper in a war in which you are, in fact, a combatant, if not the instigator;
and finally, you negotiate a settlement that leaves you in control of your own little statelet run by your clients and proxies.
It worked like a charm for the Kremlin in Transdniester. It also worked in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And it is working in the Donbas.
So why not export the model to the Middle East?
Putin's proposal to create so-called safe zones in Syria looks suspiciously like the first step in a de facto partition of the country.
And it's a partition that would establish Moscow as the patron of a statelet run by Bashar al-Assad.
You can call it the Russian Federal District of Assadistan.
That will be Putin's prize for intervening in Syria's civil war, for prolonging the conflict, for causing massive death and destruction, and for propping up Assad's brutal regime.
The world is about to get one more Russian-made frozen conflict.
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