The two leaders spoke by phone for the first time since U.S. relations with Russian were strained by the U.S. attack on a Syrian airfield. They two leaders set the foundation for what could be their first face-to-face meeting in July.Statements from both the White House and the Kremlin suggested the two leaders had a productive conversation that included North Korea and fighting Islamist militants throughout the Middle East.
“The conversation was a very good one, and included the discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons,” a White House statement said.
President Barack Obama spent the weekend making the case for increased U.S. and NATO involvement in Europe to counter Russian actions related to persisting tension in eastern Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, says the moves are yet another indicator that the U.S. is working to initiate worldwide war.
Writing in the Financial Times, Obama opined: “This may be the most important moment for our transatlantic alliance since the end of the cold war. Terrorist attacks inspired or directed by Isis have slaughtered innocents in NATO countries, from Orlando to Paris to Brussels to Istanbul. Conflicts from Africa to Syria to Afghanistan have sent waves of migrants seeking refuge in Europe. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine threatens our vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. The vote in the UK to leave the EU raises significant questions about the future of European integration.”
In other words, the Obama administration is using uncertainty over the British exit from the European Union combined with the migrant and terror crises it created through destabilization in the Middle East as an excuse to poke the bear.
The process of reigniting Cold War tensions has been ongoing since former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauded the current White House’s “Russian reset” in 2009.
Beyond meddling in Russian affairs in Eastern Europe, the U.S. irritated Russian relations with the construction of an anti-ballistic missile system in the region. U.S. officials maintain the system was intended only to counter nuclear threats coming from Iran and other “rogue states.” Putin, meanwhile, contends that the Iran nuclear deal is evidence that American officials have other ideas in mind.
And Obama’s current NATO maneuvers certainly aren’t doing much to temper his fears.
In a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda, the U.S. president promised: “Poland will be seeing an increase in NATO and American personnel and in the most modern military equipment.”
Putin isn’t the only one who sees the U.S. and NATO actions as problematic.
Russia’s aggressive military intervention in Syria poses major problems for the United States, its allies, and the future of Syria. It is likely to make a bad situation worse by propping up the Assad regime, intensifying the fighting, and driving more Syrian refugees out of the country.
Secretary of State John Kerry doggedly tried to put a positive spin on the situation yesterday, telling CNN that the Russian intervention could spur some kind of diplomatic action:
I think it’s an opportunity, to be honest with you. It’s an opportunity for us to force this question of how you actually resolve the question in Syria.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin had other ideas. He seized the opportunity to call for a Russian-led international coalition against the Islamic State terrorist group (also known as ISIS or ISIL); unveiled an intelligence-sharing agreement among Russia, Syria, Iran, and Iraq; and quickly launched air strikes against Syrian rebels, catching the Obama administration flat-footed.
Not only did Putin’s unilateral actions disrupt the administration’s diplomatic dreams of multilateral cooperation in resolving the Syrian crisis, but the abrupt start of Russia’s air campaign without coordinating with the United States stunned Pentagon officials.
One anonymous senior official told CNN: “Our presidents just talked about setting up de-confliction talks and now they just go ahead and do this? They cannot be trusted.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a liar for denying that al-Qaida was fighting with the Syrian opposition in that country’s civil war.
Speaking Wednesday to his human rights council, Putin recalled watching a congressional debate where Kerry was asked about al-Qaida and denied that it was operating in Syria, even though he was aware of the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group.
Putin said: “This was very unpleasant and surprising for me. We talk to them (the Americans) and we assume they are decent people, but he is lying and he knows that he is lying. This is sad.”
Putin repeated Russia’s position that any use of military force against Syria without the approval of the U.N. Security Council would be an act of aggression.