Vladimir Putin tries to save America from itself
September 12th, 2013
07:14 AM ET

Vladimir Putin tries to save America from itself

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.”

RELATED: Reaction to Putin

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.”
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Trying to Tweet your way into Moscow's City Hall
September 9th, 2013
04:26 AM ET

Trying to Tweet your way into Moscow's City Hall

(Moscow, Russia) CNN – There wasn't a shadow of a doubt that former presidential aide and interim mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin would win the mayoral race against blogger and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny.

The only question was by how much. Anything less than 50% would have meant a run-off election.

There will not be a run-off. Sobyanin squeaked by with 51.37% of the vote. Navalny won 27.24%.

Calling the preliminary results "sheer falsifications" Navalny demanded the annulment of "offsite" elections, in which voters are allowed to vote at home, without having to come to polling stations. "We also demand a second round of voting for the election," he said.
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September 4th, 2013
08:05 PM ET

Breaking up is hard to do: the Obama-Putin relationship

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.
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U.S., North Korea to meet on detained American
August 28th, 2013
11:20 AM ET

U.S., North Korea to meet on detained American

By Jill Dougherty

The United States is hopeful that a visit to Pyongyang aimed at securing the release of imprisoned American Kenneth Bae will be "straightforward," but a U.S. official speaking on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue tells CNN there are "no guarantees."

Ambassador Robert King, who's President Obama's special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, will join a small delegation flying to Pyongyang on a U.S. military jet Friday. They are expected to spend 24 hours on the ground, meeting with North Korean officials.

"The sole purpose of the trip is to secure Bae's release," the official says. "Our expectation is that now is the time to move forward and resolve this, to release this American."
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4 U.S. State employees face reassignment
The U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya following an attack on September 11, 2012
August 20th, 2013
08:35 AM ET

4 U.S. State employees face reassignment

By Jill Dougherty

Four State Department workers who were put on leave after last year's attack on a U.S. mission in Libya will be allowed to resume work, but in different positions, a senior State Department official told CNN on Tuesday.

News of the move irked U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the Republicans who've pressed the State Department to punish employees for what the lawmakers say were ignored security warnings in advance of the September attack on the Benghazi mission, which left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

"Instead of accountability, the State Department offered a charade that included false reports of firings and resignations and now ends in a game of musical chairs where no one misses a single day on the State Department payroll," Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Tuesday.

"The Oversight Committee will expand its investigation of the Benghazi terrorist attack to include how a supposed 'Accountability Review Board' investigation resulted in a decision by Secretary Kerry not to pursue any accountability from anyone," Issa added.

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August 9th, 2013
08:23 PM ET

Obama says 'pause' needed to assess Russian relations

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."

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No summit, but U.S. and Russian officials meet
August 9th, 2013
12:42 PM ET

No summit, but U.S. and Russian officials meet

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.
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Despite Snowden debacle, US-Russian meeting Friday to go ahead
August 6th, 2013
07:07 PM ET

Despite Snowden debacle, US-Russian meeting Friday to go ahead

By Jill Dougherty

Putting to rest doubts that it might be cancelled, the State Department announced Tuesday that senior United States and Russian officials will hold a meeting on Friday in Washington to discuss issues leading up to September’s G-20 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will meet with their Russian counterparts, Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Shoigu, at the State Department.

Washington’s anger over Russia’s granting temporary asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, as well as disagreements between the two countries on other issues, including Syria, led the White House to question whether the meeting was worth holding.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the officials will discuss the New Start nuclear treaty, Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear program and efforts to end the conflict in Syria.

The White House is also reviewing whether President Barack Obama will still hold a planned summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That meeting would be held around the G-20 in Moscow.

August 2nd, 2013
02:32 PM ET

Growing chatter, rising concern and post-Benghazi caution behind threat warning and embassy closures

By Barbara Starr, Jill Dougherty and Dana Bash, with reporting from Elise Labott, Evan Perez and Gloria Borger

U.S. intelligence has been tracking a growing threat against American and Western targets from al Qaeda’s affiliate organization in Yemen for the last several weeks.

But in recent days, there has been additional intelligence about a potential attack in Yemen, as well as threats against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa, leading to the Obama administration’s decision to shut down U.S. embassies and warn publicly of the threat, U.S. officials tell CNN.

Based on the intelligence, officials say, there is particular concern about the U.S. Embassy in Yemen between Saturday and Tuesday. Sunday, one of the holiest days in Islam, marks the end of Ramadan, and officials say they are concerned about attacks on that day.

The threat against the U.S. Embassy in Yemen was a primary concern, but it was ambiguous and could indicate threats against other U.S. and other Western targets in the Mideast and North Africa, another U.S. official told CNN.

The officials say the threat is linked to al Qaeda, rather than emanating directly from al Qaeda’s traditional stronghold in Pakistan.

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Kerry 'feels the clock ticking' on Mideast peace agreement
July 30th, 2013
07:15 PM ET

Kerry 'feels the clock ticking' on Mideast peace agreement

By Jill Dougherty

As Secretary of State John Kerry embraced Israeli Justice Minister Tsipi Livini and warmly shook hands with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat at the State Department on Tuesday there was a deja-vu moment.

A flashback to September 1993 when President Bill Clinton embraced Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat on the South Lawn of the White House.

This is just the beginning of a revived peace process that could easily crumble, as Clinton’s Oslo accords did and Kerry admitted: “I know the path is difficult. There is no shortage of passionate skeptics.”

The secretary of state, however, did succeed in getting two representatives together at the State Department to work out details of where this new push for peace is headed.
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