US allies see Mideast strategy vacuum that Putin can fill

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LORI HINNANT Associated Press PARIS (AP) — He was the leader on the world stage, visiting troops stationed in a far-flung war zone for the holidays, shoring up alliances and economic deals in the Mideast, requesting a meeting with the German chancellor in his capital, portraying himself and his country as reliable partners in an increasingly uncertain world. Russian President Vladimir Putin has had a busy week, stepping into the aftermath of the American drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Putin's visit Tuesday to Syria was emblematic of a reality that has been playing out in recent months: The U.S. strategic position in the Middle East is a mystery to many of its allies, and Russia is more than ready to fill any vacuum. The shift has, in many ways, left U.S. all
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