By Jill Dougherty
In an extraordinary direct appeal to Americans Vladimir Putin, in a New York Times op-ed, warned that military action in Syria would only “unleash a new wave of terrorism,” denied his country is trying to protect Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and depicted himself as an ally who wants to save the United States – from its own worst instincts.
“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,” Putin said. “ A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”
The Russian president also denied the view that the uprising in Syria is part of a wave of popular movements in the Middle East demanding democracy from despotic rulers. “Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multi-religious country,” he wrote. “There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government.”
By Jamie Crawford
Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Geneva on Thursday for a high-stakes meeting with his Russian counterpart that could conceivably tip the balance on whether the United States strikes Syria militarily over alleged chemical weapons use.
Kerry will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss the specifics of Moscow's plan that would put Syria's chemical stockpiles under international control, described as a difficult but momentous step that would nullify the threat of weapons of mass destruction and diffuse the crisis.
In his address to the nation on Tuesday, President Barack Obama said he was willing to test the seriousness and feasibility of the proposal before resuming his push for a vote in Congress on whether to authorize force to punish the Syrian regime over an alleged poison gas attack last month the United States says killed more than 1,400 people.
Kerry will take the lead in dealing with the Russians, Obama said.FULL STORY
(CNN) - As a Russian proposal to strip Syria of its chemical weapons began to take shape, the White House eased off the gas on Tuesday in its drive for congressional approval to strike the Middle Eastern country.
President Barack Obama asked Senate Democrats to delay voting on authorizing military action in Syria while the diplomatic process works itself out, according to senators in a meeting with Obama.
A White House official told CNN that during his meeting on the hill, the president said that his administration would spend the days ahead pursuing this diplomatic option with the Russians and U.S. allies at the United Nations.
By Jamie Crawford
Russia urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday to put his nation's chemical weapons stockpile under international control as part of an effort to head off a possible military strike from the United States.
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said his country would urge Syria to take the action if it would avert a military response from the United States. There was no immediate reaction from the Syrian government.
Lavrov's comments came the same day Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to endorse a similar course of action.
Assad "could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week," Kerry said during a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "But he isn't about to do it and it can't be done obviously."
The Russian ambassador to the United States said any use of American military force against war-wracked Syria could carry serious consequences and hoped such an outcome would not ruin already tense relations.
While things are difficult between Washington and Moscow, Sergey Kislyak said in Washington that ties have not plunged to Cold War depths – yet.
“They’re not in good shape,” Kislyak said at an appearance in Washington for the Center for the National Interest.
By Jill Dougherty
Relationships can be tough, especially long-distance ones. And talking to that special someone all night on the "red phone" isn't easy when you're pulling all-nighters dealing with world crises.
President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin showed one public display of affection on Thursday, shaking hands and exchanging a few words. Officials say the world leaders could have a longer meeting on the margins of the G-20. The issue of what to do in Syria is adding a lot of stress to an already strained relationship.
Back in January 2009 when Obama was sworn into office for the first time, he had high hopes for U.S.-Russian relations after things went south between George W. Bush and Putin.
There was a new young president – Dmitry Medvedev – in the Kremlin and Obama thought maybe Washington and Moscow could start over.
By Lateef Mungin and Michael Pearson
As lawmakers in the United States and France debated the merits of military intervention in Syria's brutal civil war, Russia's president said Wednesday his country could back a U.N.-approved military strike on Syria if there's proof the regime used chemical weapons.
"If there are data that the chemical weapons have been used, and used specifically by the regular army, this evidence should be submitted to the U.N. Security Council," President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with The Associated Press and Russia's state Channel 1 television.
"It should be a deep and specific probe containing evidence that would be obvious and prove beyond doubt who did it and what means were used," he told the news agency.FULL STORY
By Elise Labott, CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter
Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks on Syria Monday left little doubt the United States would deliver a punishing response to Syria's use of chemical weapons, calling the facts "undeniable" and warning the regime of President Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable.
Laying out a moral case for eventual military intervention, Kerry called Assad's attacks against civilians "a moral obscenity" that "should shock the conscience of the world." What is happening on the ground in Syria, Kerry said, "is real and it is compelling" and demanded a response from the international community. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in Indonesia Monday, said "if there is any action taken, it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification."
The United States is examining a variety of potential legal justifications for any type of military action. While three United Nations Security Council resolutions have failed to pass because of Russian veto power, officials say some in the administration believe it may be worth it to make the effort. But with Moscow already promising to declare any military intervention illegal, the United States and its allies would likely have to act without a U.N. mandate. FULL POST
By Jill Dougherty
Two days after calling off a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow, President Barack Obama said Friday he is re-evaluating the entire U.S./Russia relationship.
Obama, speaking at a White House news conference, seemed ready for a more rocky relationship with the Kremlin.
"It is probably appropriate for us to take a pause, reassess where it is that Russia's going, what our core interests are, and calibrate the relationship so that we're doing things that are good for the United States and hopefully good for Russia as well, but recognizing that there are just going to be some differences and we're not going to be able to completely disguise them, and that's ok."
Obama told reporters his decision not to participate in the Moscow summit next month went beyond Russia's decision to give temporary asylum to admitted National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
"It had to do with the fact that, frankly, on a whole range of issues where we think we can make some progress Russia has not moved," he said. "And so, we don't consider that strictly punitive."
By Jill Dougherty
Opening a meeting with top Russian officials, Secretary of State John Kerry referred to himself and to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as "old hockey players" who both know "that diplomacy, like hockey, can sometimes result in the occasional collision."
But he said at the State Department that Russia and the United States are "candid" about issues on which they agree and disagree and he is looking forward to a "very honest and robust discussion" on all issues in the U.S.- Russian relationship.
The meeting, which also includes Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, occurred two days after President Barack Obama canceled a planned summit next month with Russian President Vladimir Putin following Moscow's decision to grant admitted NSA leaker Edward Snowden temporary asylum.