The Real Test for Obama on Russia | Freedom House

The Real Test for Obama on Russia

The American Interest

by David J. Kramer
President, Freedom House

Compared to the G8 meeting in June in Northern Ireland, when he seemed isolated on the issue of Syria, Vladimir Putin seemed to have lots of company in opposing any possible U.S. military action at last week’s G20 meeting in St. Petersburg. Reasonable people can have legitimate differences over what should be done in Syria after Assad’s use of chemical weapons, but before one aligns with Putin on this issue—or accepts at face value his latest proposal on international oversight of Syria’s chemical weapons—it is important to understand that the Russian leader doesn’t merely oppose use of force against his like-minded Syrian colleague.

After all, Putin is providing not only political backing and promises to block any resolutions at the UN; he is supporting and arming Assad and enabling that regime to carry out the slaughter of the Syrian people. Moreover, Putin has ordered Russian naval assets to the Mediterranean to offer support and provide intelligence to Assad. In other words, Putin is certainly on diametrically opposite sides from just about every other member of the G8, and perhaps even the G20 as well. Putin is in league with Iran and Hezbollah. Other leaders may not support military action against Syria, but at least they’re not arming the murderous Syrian regime. And yet the Obama Administration’s inept handling of the whole issue has inadvertently enabled Putin to adopt the patina of statesman, especially now with the latest proposal being worked out with the oh-so-trustworthy Syrian regime. How unfortunate.

This comes against the backdrop of an overall worsening in U.S.-Russian relations and in the personal dynamics between Obama and Putin. Obama did the right thing in canceling his trip to Moscow ahead of the G20 for a bilateral meeting with Putin; he did even better by meeting with nine Russian civil society activists instead after the G20 ended. Giving Putin a little of his own treatment while signaling support for Russia’s beleaguered civil society was a long overdue correction in the U.S. approach toward Putin.

- See more at: http://www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=1488#sthash.4266z...

Compared to the G8 meeting in June in Northern Ireland, when he seemed isolated on the issue of Syria, Vladimir Putin seemed to have lots of company in opposing any possible U.S. military action at last week’s G20 meeting in St. Petersburg. Reasonable people can have legitimate differences over what should be done in Syria after Assad’s use of chemical weapons, but before one aligns with Putin on this issue—or accepts at face value his latest proposal on international oversight of Syria’s chemical weapons—it is important to understand that the Russian leader doesn’t merely oppose use of force against his like-minded Syrian colleague.

After all, Putin is providing not only political backing and promises to block any resolutions at the UN; he is supporting and arming Assad and enabling that regime to carry out the slaughter of the Syrian people. Moreover, Putin has ordered Russian naval assets to the Mediterranean to offer support and provide intelligence to Assad. In other words, Putin is certainly on diametrically opposite sides from just about every other member of the G8, and perhaps even the G20 as well. Putin is in league with Iran and Hezbollah. Other leaders may not support military action against Syria, but at least they’re not arming the murderous Syrian regime. And yet the Obama Administration’s inept handling of the whole issue has inadvertently enabled Putin to adopt the patina of statesman, especially now with the latest proposal being worked out with the oh-so-trustworthy Syrian regime. How unfortunate.

This comes against the backdrop of an overall worsening in U.S.-Russian relations and in the personal dynamics between Obama and Putin. Obama did the right thing in canceling his trip to Moscow ahead of the G20 for a bilateral meeting with Putin; he did even better by meeting with nine Russian civil society activists instead after the G20 ended. Giving Putin a little of his own treatment while signaling support for Russia’s beleaguered civil society was a long overdue correction in the U.S. approach toward Putin.

- See more at: http://www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=1488#sthash.4266z...

Compared to the G8 meeting in June in Northern Ireland, when he seemed isolated on the issue of Syria, Vladimir Putin seemed to have lots of company in opposing any possible U.S. military action at last week’s G20 meeting in St. Petersburg. Reasonable people can have legitimate differences over what should be done in Syria after Assad’s use of chemical weapons, but before one aligns with Putin on this issue—or accepts at face value his latest proposal on international oversight of Syria’s chemical weapons—it is important to understand that the Russian leader doesn’t merely oppose use of force against his like-minded Syrian colleague.

After all, Putin is providing not only political backing and promises to block any resolutions at the UN; he is supporting and arming Assad and enabling that regime to carry out the slaughter of the Syrian people. Moreover, Putin has ordered Russian naval assets to the Mediterranean to offer support and provide intelligence to Assad. In other words, Putin is certainly on diametrically opposite sides from just about every other member of the G8, and perhaps even the G20 as well. Putin is in league with Iran and Hezbollah. Other leaders may not support military action against Syria, but at least they’re not arming the murderous Syrian regime. And yet the Obama Administration’s inept handling of the whole issue has inadvertently enabled Putin to adopt the patina of statesman, especially now with the latest proposal being worked out with the oh-so-trustworthy Syrian regime. How unfortunate.

This comes against the backdrop of an overall worsening in U.S.-Russian relations and in the personal dynamics between Obama and Putin. Obama did the right thing in canceling his trip to Moscow ahead of the G20 for a bilateral meeting with Putin; he did even better by meeting with nine Russian civil society activists instead after the G20 ended. Giving Putin a little of his own treatment while signaling support for Russia’s beleaguered civil society was a long overdue correction in the U.S. approach toward Putin.

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