Moscow's Playbook in Syria

And How Washington Is Playing Along

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, December 15, 2015. Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

Lately, it seems as if Moscow has finally decided to listen to Washington when it comes to Syria. First, on March 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he would “withdraw” his forces from Syria, apparently in response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s lectures on staying out of the Syrian “quagmire.” Ten days later, while hosting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Moscow, Putin made a rare expression of praise for Obama’s “political leadership” on Syria. By the day’s end, Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced no fewer than five areas of supposed cooperation on Syria: Moscow and Washington would “enhance” and “reinforce” the February 27 cease-fire agreement by ending the use of “indiscriminate weapons,” expanding humanitarian access to Syria, compelling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to release political prisoners and detainees, establishing a framework for a political transition, and writing a draft constitution by

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