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The Russian president’s only successes in Europe this year have to do with natural gas exports. One was Germany’s steadfast refusal to cancel the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project despite U.S. pressure and the objections of Poland, the Baltic States and Ukraine. Germany badly needs more Russian gas to attain its environmental goals. The Turkish Stream pipeline, meant to supply Turkey and parts of southern Europe, recently made landfall in Turkey. If the pipelines come on stream in the next few years, they will be one of the few reasons for Russians to be grateful to Putin after he’s gone. But if they’re derailed by sanctions, they, too, will be part of his destructive legacy.
U.S. sanctions, meanwhile, got worse for Russia, and though the Trump administration intends to lift restrictions on Rusal, Russia’s biggest aluminum manufacturer, more punitive measures are likely to follow as a result of the Democrats’ victory in the American midterm elections in November.
Putin - Success - Syria - Gains - US
Putin also has been unable to convert Russian military success in Syria into political gains. Even if the U.S. pulls out its small force, a political settlement in favor of Putin’s ally Bashar Assad would be difficult. A deal wouldn’t be in the interests of Turkey, which also is heavily involved in Syria, and Germany and France, which are expected to cough up the funding for the country’s post-war restoration. Talks will drag on into next year, with uncertain results.
Nor does Putin have a strong grip on Libya and Venezuela, which are strategically important to the Russian oil sector. The Kremlin has made inroads in both, cultivating current and potential strongmen, but the situation in both countries is volatile. Remaining a force there while fighting on all the...
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