Sensing a political vacuum on the global stage — one created by the weakness, dithering and vacillation of President Obama and Secretary Kerry — the Russian leader is seizing the moment to become the dominant world leader.
Consider the moves Putin has made in recent days. He has:
- hosted the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia
- insisted Obama and U.S. has no evidence of chemical weapons being used by the Assad regime
- called Kerry a liar
- moved Russian warships into the Med
- promised to resupply Assad in case of war with the U.S.
- granted former-NSA contractor Edward Snowden asylum in Russia and refused to extradite him to the U.S.
Now Putin has seized on what may have been an off-the-cuff stumble by Secretary Kerry to throw a monkey wrench into the Obama war plans. Rather than leading, the White House and State Department find themselves responding to the Kremlin.
Obama looks like a war-monger. Putin is playing the hero, offering a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis.
Obama wanted a Congressional vote to use military force in Syria. Now Putin has turned the tables and has Obama and his team on defense, changing their plays, not quite sure how to proceed, and looking even weaker, vacillating all the more.
“In what looks like an off-the-cuff blunder, Secretary of State John Kerry might have accidentally given Russian President Vladmir Putin the opportunity to muddy the international diplomatic waters and buy his friends in Syria some time,” notes one news analysis. “During a press briefing on Monday, Kerry said that Assad could avoid American air strikes by giving up all his chemical weapons within a week. Within hours, the State Department was forced to walk Kerry’s new red line back with the claim that he was making a “rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used.”
“It seems, then, reasonable to conclude that Kerry spoke out of turn,” notes the story. “Kerry was not authorized to offer Syria an ‘out’ or a new ultimatum. But Kerry’s hypothetical hyperbole appears to have already backfired. In an obvious desire to make Kerry pay for his flub and throw a wrench in Obama’s determination to go to war with Syria, Putin has seized upon Kerry’s hypothetical and called on Syria to accept Kerry’s offer and turn over all of its chemical weapons. No one believes Assad would ever willingly give up his chemical weapons, but should he agree to an offer the Obama administration did not mean to make, it could stall American action for weeks and even months. Syria is already warming to the idea. This complication could be a major blow to all of the Obama administration’s prepared plans to punish Assad for using the weapons and to change the balance of power in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Public opposition to Obama’s war is already surging. Weeks or months from now, after the torturous international diplomatic process that no one believes would end with Assad giving up the chemical weapons that keep him in power winds down, it is doubtful Congress or the American public would be ready to stomach a renewed push for war.”
The Washington Post is now reporting that “President Obama on Monday called a Russian proposal for Syria to turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors in order to avoid a military strike a ‘potentially positive development,’ that could represent a ‘significant breakthrough,’ but he said he remains skeptical the Syrian government would follow through on its obligations based on its recent track record.”
“Between the statements that we saw from the Russians — the statement today from the Syrians — this represents a potentially positive development,” Obama said in an interview with NBC News, according to a transcript provided by the network. “We are going to run this to ground. [Secretary of State] John Kerry will be talking to his Russian counterpart. We’re going to make sure that we see how serious these proposals are.”
The Post noted that “deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken told reporters Monday that the United States ‘would welcome a decision and action by Syria to give up its chemical weapons.’ But he expressed skepticism that Syria would do so. In response to the Russian proposal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delayed a Senate test vote authorizing military force in Syria that was planned for Wednesday. Hours earlier, in London, Secretary of State John F. Kerry sketched out a transfer-of-control scenario similar to the Russian proposal, then dismissed it, after being asked by a reporter whether there was anything that Assad could do to avoid an attack. ‘Sure, he could turn over every bit of his weapons to the international community within the next week, without delay,’ Kerry said. ‘But he isn’t about to.’ Kerry also sparked criticism by commenting that any U.S. strike would be “an unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.’”
- Syria says it accepted Russian weapons proposal
- Putin: Syria chemical arms handover will work only if US calls off strike
- NYT: Russian Proposal Could Offer Obama Escape From Bind
- CNN: A U.S. official called Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks in Britain on Monday a “major goof,” saying Kerry “clearly went off script here.”
- On Syria Goof, Kerry Claims He Meant to Do That
- Administration Changes Russian Proposal’s Origin Story
- Russian Parliament Gloats as Putin Checkmates Obama Over Syria
- Putin Didn’t Save Obama, He Beat Him — With the Russian proposal on Syrian chemical weapons, the United States is being escorted out of the Middle East.
- ‘Putin shipping Assad more weapons to crush rebels’
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