Tuesday, September 3, 2013

All roads lead to Putin

There are two big foreign policy stories in the news these days and it seems significant that Russian President Putin is integrally involved in both. The picture above was taken at a G8 meeting in June when President Obama said that the US was going to provide arms to some Syrian rebels. Obviously Putin wasn't happy with that decision because Russia has been backing the Assad regime - his closest ally in the Middle East. 

Now that Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people and President Obama is proposing military intervention against him, Russia is determined to veto any UN Security Council resolution condemning Assad or supporting President Obama's call for the international community to respond. But apparently obstruction at the UN isn't enough for Putin. He is actually preparing to lobby the US Congress to vote against the President.  I certainly hope the media will follow this story and let us know which members of Congress are open to being lobbied by the Russian government (cough...Rand Paul...cough). 

The other story of course involves Edward Snowden. Shortly after the picture above was taken, he fled to Hong Kong and began leaking the classified documents he'd stolen from the NSA. We now know that not only did Snowden wind up getting legal representation from a Russian lawyer with ties to the FSB (formerly the KGB), he eventually received asylum in Russia. Now we also know that wasn't simply because he got stranded at the Russian airport. As a matter of fact, he stayed at the Russian consulate in Hong Kong for a few days prior to his flight there

We've previously looked at the connection between Julian Assange (Wikileaks) and Russia. The WaPo story reporting on Snowden's stay in the Russian consulate ends with this.
The article [in the Russian newspaper Kommersant] implies that Snowden’s decision to seek Russian help came after he was joined in Hong Kong by Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks staff member who became his adviser and later flew to Moscow with him.

Harrison, the article suggests, had a role in making the plans.
As Snowden's revelations have recently begun to be less about domestic concerns and more designed to undermine US foreign policy around the world, one has to wonder about Putin's role in all this.

Just so you don't worry that I've donned my tin-foil hat in making these connections, check out what Glenn Greenwald retweeted yesterday.

Yep, things have gotten pretty weird in this saga when American reporters are suggesting that Putin's policy of backing a regime that used chemical weapons against its own people is preferable to our own policy against such crimes.


  1. I just finished reading an article that might explain why Putin has become so belligerent toward the U.S. According to the article, Putin isn't suddenly acting more aggressively toward the U.S. because he's overly concerned about us disrupting his influence in Syria, or for reasons related to Russia's national security but for economic reasons.

    "Why Is Vladimir Putin Acting So Crazy?"

    "Since reclaiming the presidency in May 2012, Putin has become the biggest impediment to the Obama administration’s foreign policy aims. That’s undoubtedly played well with Russians yearning for the days when the country was a superpower. Yet beneath Putin’s swagger lie weaknesses at the core of the economy that threaten Russia’s future—and with it, his power base. And for that, he can blame a familiar nemesis: the U.S."

    "His difficulty has nothing to do with intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles—and everything to do with natural gas that’s cooled to -260F at normal pressure, condensed into liquid form, and transported on special tankers to markets around the world. America’s surprising return as an energy superpower is complicating life for the Russian petro state. The rise of a vibrant, global, and pipeline-free liquefied natural gas (LNG) market is a direct threat to Russia’s interests in Europe, where Gazprom (GAZP:RU), the state-owned energy giant, supplies about 25 percent of the gas. So is the shift in pricing power from suppliers to consumers as a result of the huge supply shock emanating from North America."


    It's not surprising that GG and certain other Americans would support Putin over their own country. If it has anything to do with opposing President Obama and/or portraying him as a failure, they're all for it. Matt Drudge tweeted today that "Putin is "the leader of the free world." People like GG, Drudge, and their supporters need to stop embarrassing themselves by showing how ignorant they are about history, politics, economics, etc.


  2. "Obviously Putin wasn't happy with that decision because Russia has been backing the Assad regime..."

    Not correct. As this points out.

    Dmitry Peskov: "The Russian position is very simple, it’s very straightforward and it’s quite obvious. As a matter of fact – and it was said many times by numerous Russian representatives – Russia has never been an advocate of President Assad. Russia has always been an advocate of the supremacy of international law. That is actually what we are trying to explain to our partners: it is a necessity for everyone to stick to the rules and principles of international law. And international law stipulates that the only body that can make use of force against any country legitimately is the United Nations Security Council. And not a single country in the world, not any other international organization can do that.

    Both Moscow and Washington, and also all other capitals in the world, are strictly against the usage of weapons of mass destruction – in the case of Syria, it’s chemical weapons. And Russia totally shares the concern of the United States and other partners of ours that these kinds of weapons could be used during the conflict."

    Russia is determined to veto any UN Security Council resolution condemning Assad or supporting President Obama's call for the international community to respond.

    Also not correct and Peskov addresses that too.

    Peskov: "It depends on the evidence. And evidence can be proven only by relevant experts, by the United Nations. So they have completed their job in Damascus. They have returned, and now all the evidence is being examined by relevant bodies. So we have to wait until we see the results of this examination.

    Unfortunately, the evidence that was mentioned by [US Secretary of State] Mr. Kerry, brought by the American representative to Moscow, is not satisfactory in terms of proving that those weapons were used by either side."

    Putin and Lavrov say the exact same things.

  3. ^^^What?

    Putin has never lost his KGB leanings. He wishes to return Russia to it's old (but mythical) power of the USSR. The oppression of the Russian people, it's press, the LGBT community and not to mention Putin's political rivals, smacks of a bygone era. Russian Television is a blight and is pure propaganda. It's also been mentioned by the SPLC for advocating racism, birther conspiracy theories (along with other anti-Western conspiracy theories, the likes of which Alex Jones promotes, a regular guest on the channel), militia movements, etc. The anti-Western (in particular US) propaganda has been around since the inception of the channel.

    The ties run deeper then merely financial though I agree with everything Majii wrote.

    Drudge and those like him would flip on a dime if a Republican were in the White House. Glenn Greenwald too (he was for Bush until the end of Bush's term) he, as I know you are aware, is not progressive at all.

    It's a sad day indeed when people trust Putin, he's nothing but a venomous snake. I do know those that trust him are in a great minority when compared to the great majority of this country.

    1. Hi aimee.

      You think Putin's a venomous snake. Great. But you must know that saying Putin is a snake is NOT an argument about what is the official position of the Russian government on Syria.

      smartypants wrote two things that do not reflect the position of the Russian government. Maybe if the USG listened to Russia's concerns it might be able to arrive at a diplomatic solution with full international backing. SP's misrepresentation of the Russian position is not helpful.

      Quite frankly, there is a serious dissonance when Obama says that he is going to bomb Syria to enforce an international norm, and the international community that has the norm does not support his bombing to enforce the norm. That means that there are other actions that should be taken (for example, referral to UNSC and the ICC).

      US bombing without a UN Security Council Resolution is illegal according to international law (check the arguments at Lawfare). Bombing without a broad international coalition is extremely risky. And if Obama chooses to bomb without congressional authorization and rely only on his Article II power, well, that would be the definition of an imperial president---no matter what smartypants thinks.