By Brian Whitmore
The Russian media predictably went into overdrive with the chest-thumping this week as the country’s forces returned home from Syria.
On his flagship Vesti Nedeli program, the Kremlin’s chief propagandist Dmitry Kiselyev went so far as to call the Russian intervention a “victory of good over evil” that returned Russia to the ranks of great powers.
There’s also been a deluge of hand wringing from Western pundits about how Vladimir Putin has outfoxed us again and how Russia is always one step ahead of the West.
But the more I think about it, the more I think we need a reality check regarding Putin’s allegedly great victory in Syria.
Yes, Russia was able to prop up the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Yes they were able to prevent the West from establishing no-fly zones and safe havens.
Yes, Moscow has managed to soften to a degree its international isolation.
And yes, they have managed to exacerbate the worst refugee crisis Europe has seen since World War II.
But contrary to the hyperbole on Russian television, 167 days of bombing in Syria have not made Russia a superpower again.
And contrary to the wishful thinking of pro-Kremlin pundits, it has not upended the rules based post-Cold War security architecture.
Putin wants to return to a world where great powers dominate and Moscow and the West divide the world into spheres of influence.
But that world is gone, and a five-and-a-half-month military campaign is not going to bring it back.
All Russia has accomplished in Syria is to prove that it can be an effective global spoiler.
But we knew that already.
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