In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Obama reaches out to Putin

Posted by seumasach on May 1, 2013

M.K.Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline

30th April, 2013

The United States President Barack Obama’s second telephone conversation in successive weeks with President Vladimir Putin on Monday underscores the criticality of Russia’s cooperation at the present juncture for Washington on the foreign policy front.

The White House readout of the telecon, here, singles out terrorism and Syria as pressing issues. To be sure, the Boston Marathon bombing has evolved into a Russian-American issue.
The US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty featured a hugely controversial commentary— curiously, without a byline —  that barely stops short of insinuating that the Russian intelligence might have more dope on Tamerlan Tsarnaev than it has cared to disclose.
The weekend commentary made a stunning disclosure that while on a visit to Russia — where Russian intelligence “did not move to prevent him from either entering or exiting Russia” —  Tamerlan disappeared from the face of the earth for a wholesome 2-month period in the Daghestan region in North Caucasus.
Obama, however, opted to “reiterate his appreciation of the close cooperation” from Russia on the Boston Marathon attack. In turn, Obama offered US cooperation in tackling the security challenges during the 2014 Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi (which is close to the Trans-Caucasus), which is a priority national security concern for Moscow.
The WH readout said Obama underscored “concern over Syrian chemical weapons.” It is a careful formulation. The readout makes no mention of Syrian government having used chemical weapons. Instead, it stressed the “close consultation” between Washington and Moscow on the Syrian situation.
The fact of the matter is that Obama has cut a sorry figure by having to fudge his own definition of the “red line” in Syria. It is improbable that the US can ever conclusively prove that chemical weapons have been used by the Syrian regime. Meanwhile, there is serious dissent within the western camp, too, at the policymaking level.
On the other hand, Russia has gone on the diplomatic offensive, FM Sergey Lavrov made a scathing attack that “unscrupulous external players” are manipulating the propaganda on the WMD “to advance their own geopolitical interests.” Lavrov said, “There are countries and external players who believe that all methods are good for overthrowing the Syrian regime, but the issue of the use of the weapons of mass destruction is too serious and we can’t joke with it.”
It is unclear whether Obama dialled up the Kremlin after Lavrov spoke or vice versa. Either way, Moscow is in no mood to acquiesce with any western move to open an Iraq-style Syria WMD File at the United Nations. Period.
Where does that leave Obama? On the one hand, White House is backpedalling that “much more” work needs to be done to establish the WMD allegation against the Syrian regime. But then, the mood in the Congress is turning ugly. Arguably, Obama has to “do more.”
However, what can he do? Even arming the rebels is tricky. Saner voices are counselling caution. As for imposing a ‘no-fly-zone’, it is sure to be contested in the absence a UN mandate for initiating a belligerent act against a member country.
In any case, Russia is moving its Pacific Fleet naval task force to the Mediterranean for an extended staynear Syria. Interestingly, the war ships paid a friendly call at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas en route to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.

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