THE apparent end of Russia’s military operation in Syria was as dramatic as its beginning nearly six months ago. A lucky gambler, Vladimir Putin knew when to raise the stakes and when to cash in his chips. In September last year he startled the world by ordering Russian air strikes in Syria to prop up the crumbling regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian despot. On March 14th, just as unexpectedly, he ordered the partial withdrawal of Russia’s military forces from Syria.    Continue reading