President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit on Monday morning to discuss the Syrian crisis, in what the UK Sun described as a “tense standoff,” with Obama “stony-faced” after a humiliating snub by the Chinese hosts.
Among other things, the Chinese did not roll a stairway up to Obama’s plane. Once Obama’s retinue did manage to hit the tarmac, they were harassed by a swarm of angry Chinese officials, shouting things like “This is our country! This is our airport!” China denied this was a deliberate effort to make Obama look bad, and Obama is pretending to believe them, which is all part of China’s strategy to make him look small and weak.
After meeting with Putin, Obama described their 90-minute talk as “candid,” “blunt,” and “productive” to CNN. He said Syria, Ukraine, and Russian hacking mischief against U.S. institutions were the primary topics of conversation.
“We have had some productive conversations about what a real cessation of hostilities would look like that would allow us both… to focus our attention on common enemies,” Obama said.
Despite the President’s talk of “productive conversations,” the official negotiations between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have collapsed, although CNN quotes an unnamed U.S. official who hoped negotiations would resume in the coming days.
“It’s clear now what our respective positions are,” the official said, without dwelling on the fact that such clarity is the reason the Kerry-Lavrov talks fell apart. The official also admitted that Obama and Putin would not be directly involved in such negotiations, so their ostensibly cordial and productive chat at the G20 summit was purely symbolic.
The “respective positions” of the U.S. and Russia are that the former wants Syrian dictator Bashar Assad removed from power, but the latter does not, and Russia is holding all the cards in Syria right now.
Obama tacitly admitted as much by telling CNN, “Our conversations with the Russians are key because, if it were not for the Russians, then Assad and the regime would not be able to sustain its offensive.”
The Obama Administration is left effectively begging Russia to think about hustling Assad out of Damascus, so the two super-powers and their allies can focus on destroying the Islamic State. Russia and Syria respond that the U.S. should abandon its unrealistic hopes of deposing Assad and join forces with them to pulverize all “terrorist” forces in Syria, a term whose definition neither begins, nor ends, with the Islamic State.
Putin’s Russia is the ultimate refutation of Obama’s hideously dangerous belief that he can solve geopolitical crises by giving speeches, or sneering that global villains are lurking on the “wrong side of history.”
As CNN observes, “Putin’s persistent support for the Syrian regime, Moscow’s moves in Ukraine and the charge that Russia may be meddling in the US presidential contest have built a deeply antagonistic dynamic between the two leaders.”
That would be the same Vladimir Putin that Obama thoughtlessly mocked his 2012 rival Mitt Romney for portraying as a major threat to American interests, taunting that the Eighties were on the line for Romney and wanted their foreign policy back.
NBC News reports that Obama complained about “problems with cyber-intrusion with Russia in the past,” and warned Putin he didn’t want to see cyber-warfare escalate into a “wild, wild west” shootout. Doesn’t anyone in this Administration understand that a wild, wild West is exactly what Russia wants?
Russia is partnered with Iran, which still hates the United States, despite Obama’s dogged, dishonest efforts to make Iran the ascendant regional power, no matter what the American people or their Congressional representatives think about it. America’s regional allies are angry and demoralized after Obama’s concessions to Iran, which were repaid with a string of humiliations for the U.S. Russia is poised to deliver Syria to Assad, while America’s Syrian allies have to worry about other nominal American allies killing them.
Russia is even beginning to get cozy with NATO member Turkey, with the blessing of the Obama Administration, which doesn’t seem to understand how angry the regime of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan became with the U.S. government, after July’s unsuccessful coup attempt.
Obama complained about “gaps of trust” between himself and Putin to CNN. The problem is that Obama views those gaps of trust as a dismaying surprise. Putin can only shake his head in amusement as the Obama Administration tries, one more time, to talk Russia out of pursuing its strategic interests, with all of its forces aligned for success in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere.