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Don't call Putin a genius

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Vladimir Putin’s global stature appears to be at an all-time high. Some observers call the Russian president the Middle East’s new sheriff, and for good reason. Last week, during a series of meetings with the leaders of Syria, Turkey and Iran in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin took the central role in a major diplomatic push to end Syria’s civil war by winning support from Turkey and Iran to host a Syrian peace congress.

The Sochi summit conspicuously did not include delegates from the United States or the European Union. And while its focus was on the Middle East, it’s clear that Putin has expanded his influence beyond the region. In Europe, he destabilized Ukraine by annexing its Crimean peninsula and supporting separatists in the Donbass region after Ukrainians overthrew their pro-Moscow president in 2014. In Asia, he has developed an increasingly close relationship with China. In the United States, charges of Russian interference in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump have dominated Washington’s political landscape and overshadowed the administration’s legislative agenda.

This is an impressive turn of events for the leader of the economically-anemic remnant of a former superpower. Given that Russia’s economy has a GDP of $1.283 trillion – or barely 7 percent the size of America’s – Putin arguably has played a weak hand brilliantly.

But Putin’s apparent successes may turn out to be failures. The view of the Russian leader as a master tactician overlooks how his achievements risk blowing up in his face.

Consider Ukraine: Russia has historically sought to dominate its southern neighbor and Putin remains loath to allow the country to leave Moscow's orbit and join the West. After Russia annexed Crimea, the Kremlin hoped to use........

© Japan Today