It seems that thanks to the Syrian issue, and the recent proposals to the control over the chemical weapons in this country in particular, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has been gaining more weight on the international arena and strives to pass as a peacemaker. As The New York Times notes in the article “As Obama Pauses Action, Putin Takes Center Stage,” Putin has lately achieved a number of goals, mainly thanks to Washington. “He has handed a diplomatic lifeline to his longtime ally in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad, who not long ago appeared at risk of losing power and who President Obama twice said must step down. He has stopped Mr. Obama from going around the United Nations Security Council, where Russia holds a veto, to assert American priorities unilaterally,” the newspaper says.
The New York Times’ columnist Maureen Dowd writes that the Russian president had coldly brushed back Obama on Snowden and Syria, and recently called John Kerry a liar. “Now, when it is clear Obama cannot convince Congress, the American public, his own wife, the world, Liz Cheney or even Donald ‘Shock and Awe’ Rumsfeld to bomb Syria – just a teensy-weensy bit – Pooty-Poot (as Bush called him) rides, shirtless, to the rescue, offering him a face-saving way out? If it were a movie, we would know it was a trick. We cannot trust the soulless Putin – his Botox has given the former KGB officer even more of a poker face – or the heartless Bashar al-Assad. By Tuesday, Putin the Peacemaker was already setting conditions,” writes Dowd.
Conservative analyst Ben Shapiro writes on the website breibart.com: “President Obama desperately grasped the olive branch… Thus, the Russians and Syrians have bartered a way out of Assad’s current predicament. Assad remains in power. His regime remains intact. He called the American bluff and won, and will be emboldened, as will his handlers in Tehran. The al-Qaeda opposition remains intact, too, perhaps slightly emboldened by Obama’s bluster. Putin seizes global leadership on foreign policy. Meanwhile, Obama claims victory, and his media lackeys genuflect before his brilliance.”
Meanwhile, Peggy Noonan at the conservative Wall Street Journal marks that Russian offer is really “absurd” and Obama must know it.
“Bashar Assad is not going to give up all his hidden weapons in wartime, in the middle of a conflict so bitter and severe that his forces this morning reportedly bombed parts of Damascus, the city in which he lives. In such conditions his weapons could not be fully accounted for, packed up, transported or relinquished, even if he wanted to. But it will take time – weeks, months – for the absurdity to become obvious,” Noonan writes.
Thomas Lifson of the magazine American Thinker shares a similar opinion. “Never mind that actually securing all those weapons would be a massive task in even a peaceful country; in civil war-torn Syria, it is almost impossible. Assad and Putin can nonetheless defang Obama by slow-walking the process. In the meantime, Russia becomes the principal guarantor of peace in the Middle East and the mullahs of Iran continue their nuclear program aimed at changing the Middle East game completely. In substantive terms, this is an enormous victory for Putin and a defeat for Obama,” Lifson says.
“Putin did not save Obama, he beat him,” sums up Lee Smith on the website of a conservative magazine Weekly Standard. “If your foreign policy has to be rescued by a dictator, you are doing it wrong,” says a headline on the liberal slate.com website.
But it seems that Putin is not going to stop there and intends to exert direct influence on American public, just as he appealed to Ukrainians by promoting the Customs Union in a television interview. This is evidenced by the article published in The New York Times with a warning to the United States concerning the strike on Syria.
“The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders,” emphasized the Russian president.
Putin welcomed President Obama’s interest in continuing the dialog with Russia on Syria. But at the same time he noted that he was alarmed by Obama’s attempt to stress the exceptionality of the American nation. “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal,” says Putin closing his article.
By the way, one of the readers under the nickname uncle_from_us commented on Putin’s words “We are defending not the Syrian government, but international law” on the website of the Echo of Moscow radio station in the following way: “If international law allows using weapons of mass destruction against your own people, to hell with such law! As soon as a dictator is put on the spot, he starts yelling about observance of international law.”
President Putin’s address to Americans appeared on the day when the Syrian crisis was to be discussed in Geneva by the heads of Russian and American foreign ministries. Their conversations revolved around the Russian proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under the control of international observers. It is said that negotiations between Kerry and Lavrov in one of the hotels in Geneva might last up to three days.
Meanwhile, ambassadors of the P5 to the UN met in New York to discuss the abovementioned Russian plan and a possible resolution that would put Syria within strict framework of fulfilling the requirement to pass over the control over its chemical weapons, with their eventual elimination.
The US, France and Britain would like the resolution to contain a threat to hit Syria in case the conditions are not fulfilled, but Russia and China oppose this. “Failure to bring about a political settlement has allowed the conflict not only to deepen in its intransigence, but also to widen – expanding to new actors and to new, previously unimaginable crimes,” said Paulo Pinheiro, chairperson of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
On September 12 media reported that a letter was sent to the Nobel committee proposing to consider Putin’s candidacy for the Nobel Peace Award. The initiative belongs to Sergei Komkov, president of Russia’s education fund, who based his proposal on Putin’s role as mediator in the Syrian war. “Mr. Putin has confirmed his commitment to the cause of peace. He puts much effort into preserving peace not only in Russia, but also plays an active role in peaceful settling of all conflicts arising worldwide,” the letter runs.
“FOR PUTIN ALL THIS BOILS DOWN TO POWER: THOSE WHO HAVE IT ARE EXCEPTIONAL”
Dr. Matthew ROJANSKI, director, Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:
“It is still too early to say how American officials or public will respond to this letter. All in all, it is a rather logical message on the importance of international law, and many Americans will duly appreciate it. However, I think he made a mistake not to mention anything concrete about the problem of chemical weapons and the many civilian deaths. His description of this conflict as a civil war fueled first of all by external support to extremist militants is somewhat one-sided and cynical. His viewpoint on the exceptionality of the American nation is bearable, but it will hardly change the key theme of American policy. For Putin, all this boils down to power: those who have it are exceptional. I think for many Americans exceptionality stems from what they consider a moral mission, regardless of whether it is right or wrong.
“I think Putin will have difficulty trying to present himself as a peacemaker. Meanwhile, Obama’s decision on hitting Syria from the air will depend on whether these efforts will result in turning over his chemical weapons.”