On April 3, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin — upon winning the war Syria while protecting his beleaguered client, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, from a rebel uprising supported by the U.S. and Sunni Gulf states — had some more good news. US President Donald J. Trump had given instructions to the American military to begin planning for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Although the official decision was announced only on December 21, the Kremlin evidently gambled that Trump might be serious about the withdrawal.
It was only on November 25, 2018 that the West awakened to a new and potentially unsettling threat to world peace, this time in the Sea of Azov. Putin, who had largely frozen his war there in 2015, was now defrosting it. There had been no serious response from the West.