It’s been a mixed year for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin may look like a winner after an abrupt U.S. decision to pull out of Syria. But Russia’s leader faces massive challenges in Syria and elsewhere, and he hasn’t moved an inch closer toward throwing off the Western sanctions that have emaciated Russia’s economy.

The Russian military campaign in Syria has achieved the Kremlin objective of shoring up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s rule at a relatively modest cost and made Moscow an essential player in the Middle East. However, Syria lies in ruins after nearly eight years of fighting.

Even though the hasty pullout ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump could further bolster Moscow’s clout in Syria, it leaves Russia pitted against Turkey.

FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, holds binoculars while watching a military exercises on training ground
FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, holds binoculars while watching a military exercises on training ground “Telemba”, about 80 kilometers (50 miles ) north of the city of Chita during the military exercises Vostok 2018 in Eastern Siberia, Russia . (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, arrives to attend a laying ceremony in Kursk, 426 kilometers (266 miles) south of Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)
FILE – In this file photo taken on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, arrives to attend a laying ceremony in Kursk, 426 kilometers (266 miles) south of Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, March 6, 2018 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to employees of Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE – In this Tuesday, March 6, 2018 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to employees of Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Monday, July 16, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hand with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of the press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Monday, July 16, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hand with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of the press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on a board of military helicopter during their flight to attend a military exercises on training ground
FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on a board of military helicopter during their flight to attend a military exercises on training ground “Telemba”, about 80 kilometers (50 miles ) north of the city of Chita during the military exercises Vostok 2018 in Eastern Siberia, Russia. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
In this photo taken on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018 and released by Kremlin press service on Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin rests during a mini-break in the Siberian Tyva region, Russia. (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
In this photo taken on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018 and released by Kremlin press service on Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin rests during a mini-break in the Siberian Tyva region, Russia. (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump, right, walk past Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, as they gather for the group photo at the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. ( (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
FILE – In this Nov. 30, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump, right, walk past Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, left, as they gather for the group photo at the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. ( (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Source: The Associated Press