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Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS/Getty Images

As the U.S. carries out a sudden, near-total withdrawal from Syria, Russia is rushing into the breach.

Why it matters: The hasty U.S. exit from Syria makes it certain the outcome there will bear Vladimir Putin’s imprint. Russia entered Syria in 2015 to help dictator Bashar al-Assad regain his grip on the country, and Russia has steadily gained influence in the wider Middle East.

Driving the news: Facing a Turkish offensive and abandoned by their American allies, Kurdish forces moved quickly to cut a deal with Assad and his patron, Putin. But the arrival of Syrian troops in northeast Syria set up a potential collision with Turkey.

  • "This would simply be unacceptable,” Alexander Lavrentyev, Russia’s envoy for Syria, said today. “And therefore we will not allow it, of course.”
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry says it now has troops along the front lines keeping Turkish and Syrian forces apart.

The big picture: Turkey wants to force Kurdish forces from its border region and resettle Syrian refugees there. Assad wants to regain control over all of Syria. The Kurds want protection from Turkey and a say in their political future.

  • All three depend to some extent on Russia, which has relationships with all the key players and a military presence in Syria, says Rob Malley, CEO of International Crisis Group and a former Obama administration official. 
  • “It’s hard to see a party other than Russia at this point that could play the role of orchestrating a settlement," he says.

Go deeper: Trump's step back from the border turns into a sprint from Syria

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.