Russian military aircrafts ascend shortly after taking off, part of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, at Hmeymim airbase, Syria, March 16, 2016.
Vadim Grishankin / Reuters

Vladimir Putin is clearly full of surprises. With great fanfare, Russia has begun at least a partial pullout from Syria. Back at their Russian bases, some of the pilots have been treated to welcome home fanfares with big bands and bunting. Putin has claimed a decisive victory, and the Russian populace is eating it up. Russia’s sleight of hand has proved costly not only to the Syrian people, but also to U.S., European, and Gulf-based interests.

Of course, we’ve seen this movie before—in Ukraine. After waging successful hybrid warfare and thoroughly upstaging both Kiev and Washington,

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