Putin and Obama Have Profound Differences on Syria
“Mr. Putin’s increased aggressiveness in Syria could result in a new era of Russian-American competition and a larger role for Russia in the Middle East,” the New York Times editorial board wrote in an op-ed Monday afternoon.
“In theory, at least, there should be grounds for a political compromise. As the American invasion of Iraq showed, destroying state institutions leads to chaos. Every effort should thus be made to ensure that institutions in Syria continue to function once Mr. Assad is moved out of the government. Mr. Obama told the United Nations he was willing to work on Syria with Russia and Iran, which had previously been excluded. But there is little reason to believe that any compromise between the Assad government and the opposition fighters, or Washington and Moscow, will happen soon,” the editorial board wrote.
“Mr. Putin enabled the Assad government early on, and he has no particular strategy to contain the Syrian conflict. With Russia grappling with sanctions, lower oil prices and a weakened economy, it is unclear how much he can afford to invest in a dead-end war in Syria. Mr. Obama, who did not create this catastrophe, doesn’t have the answer, either. Bombing alone won’t defeat the Islamic State, and American attempts to create a proxy force to do the ground fighting have failed.
“In the meantime, millions of Syrians have been killed, maimed or forced to flee to Europe, and countries of the region are being further destabilized by the endless violence.”
Obama and Putin Clash at U.N. Over Syria Crisis
“After circling each other for the past year, President Obama and President Vladimir Putin of Russia squared off on Monday at the United Nations in dueling speeches that presented starkly different views on the Syrian crisis and how to bring stability to the Middle East,” write Michael R. Gordon and Gardiner Harris at the New York Times, in an analysis that lays bare both the “verbal jousting” and the “subtle game of diplomatic poker” that took place between the two yesterday in New York.
“’The Obama administration would like to find a way to link arms with Russia on a diplomatic process and not have to tackle some of the less palatable issues like creating safe areas in Syria,’ said Andrew S. Weiss, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. ‘But the only road map Putin laid out today was a fuzzy concept of a grand coalition to fight terrorism arm in arm with Bashar al-Assad, the very man the Americans say is the source of the problem.’”
Gordon and Harris argue that after a day of dialogue, some of which took place behind closed doors, the two leaders made little progress on finding a mutually acceptable pathway forward in Syria.
“Two speech, one reception and a meeting later,” write Gordon and Harris, “there was no hint that the two leaders had substantially narrowed the chasm between them on their principal disagreement: the future of Mr. Assad.”
Why the West Should Listen to Putin on Syria
“Putin is right. Everyone knows Putin is right, that the only way forward in Syria, if not to eternal slaughter, is via the established government of Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese and Iranian allies,” writes Simon Jenkins at the Guardian.
“Syria is experiencing the most ghastly anarchy anywhere on Earth. If ever there were a case for humanitarian ‘troops on the ground’ it must be here. Those who seek this end cannot pick and choose their merchants of atrocity. All sides in war kill innocent people, including western addicts of air bombing (such as Hilary Benn at the Labour party conference yesterday). Russia has accepted that the forcible toppling of Assad – which Britain has predicted since 2011 – is not a realistic path to peace. If he is to go, it will be after his enemies have been driven back, not before.
“The true nature of the west’s commitment in Syria was revealed in Barack Obama’s remark to the U.N. that “because alternatives are surely worse” is no reason to support tyrants. In other words, American feelgood is more important than Syrian lives. That cosy maxim has guided western policy in the region for over a decade. It has been a disaster. If we have nothing more intelligent to say on Syria, we should listen to Putin. He has.”
Putin’s Speech Shows U.N. Who’s in Charge
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s careful yet aggressive speech at yesterday’s U.N. General Assembly in New York as markedly different than his last visit, exactly 10 years ago, argues Anshel Pfeffer at Haaretz.
“Putin chose a very evocative way to open his speech, reminding delegates of the summit between the leaders of the allies, leaders of ‘the countries that defeated Nazism,’” writes Pfeffer, describing the Russian leader’s comparison between his proposed coalition’s fight against the Islamic State and the celebrated allied fight against the Nazis as a “breathtaking rewriting of history.”
Putting Putin’s rhetorical hyperboles aside, Pfeffer argues Moscow’s recent military investments in Syria’s Latakia region have made one thing clear: “Only Russia will decide if, how and when his local ally, Syria’s President Bashar Assad will end his blood-soaked reign.”
Top Image: United States President Barack Obama, right, and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin pose for members of the media before a bilateral meeting Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, at United Nations headquarters. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)
- The Atlantic: Putin’s Syria Gambit
- Middle East Eye: Analysis: What are the Implications of Russia-US Co-operation for Syria’s war?
- The Guardian: Syria Crisis: Where do the Major Countries Stand?
- NBC News: Analysis: How Russia is Aiming for Syria Checkmate
- BBC: Did Putin Upstage Obama at UN Syria Summit?
- Foreign Policy: Leave it to Vlad (and the Supreme Leader)