Next at the U.N.: Clues from Putin

Vladimir Putin is the man to watch on the global stage these days. The assertive Russian president casts himself as a peacemaker even as he plays a troublemaker.

From cyberspace to the Middle East, he has reset large parts of the international agenda and kept the White House and its allies off balance as he trades compliments with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Putin "wants to restore Russia's influence in the world to what it was in the Soviet times," said Cliff Kupchan, a Russia expert at the Eurasia Group consultancy.

So Putin's speech Friday at the United Nations General Assembly will be closely watched for possible clues to his plans and aspirations.

Putin's military intervention in Syria has upended the balance of power in the bloody civil war. It has saved the embattled president, Bashar Assad, who President Obama said had to go, and put Russia increasingly in control of Syria's future.

Putin now is trying to wrest from Washington its role as mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to talks in Moscow next month. Both have accepted. The White House is on the sidelines.

Despite a battered economy, Putin has stepped in where U.S. policy has failed. That helps explain Putin's decision to annex Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Such moves made him a pariah in the West, but sent his popularity soaring back home.

Tribune News Service