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Putin’s Foreign Policy

The Quest to Restore Russia’s Rightful Place

Bad old days: during an attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, August 1991. Dima Tanin / AFP / GETTY IMAGES

In February, Moscow and Washington issued a joint statement announcing the terms of a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria—a truce agreed to by major world powers, regional players, and most of the participants in the Syrian civil war. Given the fierce mutual recriminations that have become typical of U.S.-Russian relations in recent years, the tone of the statement suggested a surprising degree of common cause. “The United States of America and the Russian Federation . . . [are] seeking to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis with full respect for the fundamental role of the United Nations,” the statement began. It went on to declare that the two countries are “fully determined to provide their strongest support to end the Syrian conflict.”

What is even more surprising is that the truce has mostly held, according to the UN, even though many experts predicted its rapid failure. Indeed, when

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