President Obama’s Impeccable Negotiation Record Stands as Russian Ships Turn Back

Post date: Jun 21, 2012 12:52:7 PM

President Obama’s Impeccable Negotiation Record Stands as Russian Ships Turn Back!

We interrupt our current series of ObamaCare SNAP-CAPs to bring you another outstanding accomplishment of the President’s personal diplomacy. The ObamaCare series will continue.

The stage is set for a dramatic move for our chess master President. With the world watching it seems that he is stymied on all sides. Most of his chess pieces have been captured and his king is under steady attack. This looks like one time he’ll have to concede.

Here is the situation on the board. There is a complicated situation in Syria. The country is on the brink of a civil war and a desperate government is committing multiple hand horrible atrocities against its citizens. The situation is logistically and politically untenable. 

The President’s hands are tied by several factors including the confused internal politics of Syria that doesn’t allow a clear distinction between friends and enemies making it impossible to know who of the rebels to support, if any. This is compounded by Russia’s relationship with the existing government and their fear of losing their best foothold in the region. 

As the leaders of the two countries get set to meet at the G20 conference in Mexico, Russia announces that they have sent a boat loaded with attack helicopters to Syria in support of the government forces. They later announce that they are sending two warships with marines to the area as well. We have not had a direct confrontation of this sort with Russia since the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

In spite of the sabre rattling, the touchy situation, and the reports that the two men do not get along personally, they go ahead with their meeting.

Reading early reports of the Putin/Obama meeting in Mexico this morning, June 19, 2012, and watching the news stations, even MSNBC a station usually favorable to the President, one would believe that his two hour meeting with Russian President Putin was something between a time-waster and a disaster.

The two men were reported to have very negative body language and couldn’t even look one another in the eye. This led almost all observers to opine that nothing had been accomplished between the two leaders in their two hours together.

Reuters concluded: “LOS CABOS, Mexico (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will press Vladimir Putin over Russia's role in the Syrian crisis when they meet on Monday but appears to have little chance of persuading him to budge on Moscow's resistance to tougher U.N. action against Damascus.”

After more pessimism they continued, “But with relations frayed and expectations low on both sides for progress on breaking the deadlock, the stage is set for an uncomfortable meeting in the Pacific resort of Los Cabos.”

Reuters then explained the reasons that accommodation lay somewhere between improbably to impossible. “The hardened tone appears to mark the endpoint of Obama's "reset" of ties with Moscow, pursued with Putin predecessor Dmitry Medvedev and touted by the White House as a signature foreign policy accomplishment.”

“Obama may seek to lower the temperature, but he also wants to be assertive enough to avoid giving Republicans an opening to accuse him of being soft on Moscow at a time when he is already struggling to defend his record on the economy. At the same time, he faces criticism for not providing stronger leadership on Syria.”

“For his part, Putin will be in no mood for concessions that could be seen as weakness as he seeks to quell dissent at home with tactics that are drawing U.S. criticism. He also will be wary of making commitments to an American president whose future remains uncertain beyond the November 6 election.”

The article ended with the seemingly prophetic opinion, “On a personal level, there is reason to doubt whether "No-Drama" Obama and tough-talking Putin will click. Their body language will be dissected by the media for any hint of where the relationship is heading.”

There were a plethora of instantly written articles immediately following the presidential confab. The N.Y. Times reported that, “But after two full hours together, Mr. Putin was still balking, appearing afterward with Mr. Obama before reporters in a grim tableau that seemed to bespeak the frustration on both sides. During the few minutes that it took their handlers to usher reporters out of the room after their prepared remarks, the two leaders remained seated, side by side, staring straight ahead, with none of the interaction or small talk that leaders usually engage in before the cameras. “We agreed that we need to see a cessation of the violence, that a political process has to be created to prevent civil war,” Mr. Obama said.”

“We have found many common points on this issue,” Mr. Putin allowed in his own remarks after the meeting, adding that the two countries would continue discussions. 

Mr. Obama’s attempt to reset relations with Russia had begun with Mr. Putin’s predecessor, Dmitri A. Medvedev, who only two and a half months ago said that “these were perhaps the best three years of relations between Russia and the United States over the last decade.” 

But this first meeting between these outsize personalities as leaders of their respective countries could not have come at a more fraught time. Russia and the United States are clashing over a series of difficult issues…”

With all of the media agreement both before and after the leaders met, that there was little if any possibility of accommodation, imagine their surprise when hours later the following headlines appeared, “Russian Ship, Loaded With Attack Helicopters, Turns Away From Syria.”

First reports that the ship reversed course was due to the British insurance company cancelling the shipping company’s insurance, which would block the ship landing at any port. Yahoo News reported, “The United States alerted Britain to the consignment and British security services told Standard Club that providing insurance for the shipment would breach EU sanctions, reports said.

The insurer, Standard Club, confirmed that it had cancelled insurance for the ship and for all others in the fleet owned by Russian cargo line Femco. "We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria, which would be a clear breach of our Club rules," it said in a statement provided to AFP. "We consequently informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage."

A more speculative, but reasonable article appeared in “A transport ship the U.S. believes is carrying attack helicopters to Syria is now heading back to Russia. Ostensibly, the MV Alaed turned around after its insurance coverage was pulled. But the ship’s return coincides with a meeting between Obama and Vladimir Putin — a sign the two leaders may be starting to cooperate on what to do about Syria’s deadly war.”

The wiredroom report continued, “But it’s not clear if the ship was also ordered to return to port by Russian authorities. EU sanctions, for one, do not have jurisdiction over Russian ships. If Russia really wanted the ship to continue to Syria, and remained complicit in the slaughter of civilians, then it’s unlikely anyone could have stopped them. But letting the ship continue on its way would also contradict statements made by Vladimir Putin on Monday during the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. During the leaders’ two-hour meeting, which is the first time the two have met as presidents, Putin and Obama agreed to a “peaceful” resolution to Syria’s bloodshed.”

A joint statement from the two leaders stated, ““In order to stop the bloodshed in Syria, we call for an immediate cessation of the violence and we pledged to work with other international actors, including the United Nations, Kofi Annan, including the movement towards a political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system, which would be exercised by the Syrians in the framework of the sovereignty, independence, unity and the territorial integrity of Syria,”

Oh, and what of the two “warships that were reported headed to Syria loaded with Russian marines? “The timing also coincides Tuesday with more denials from the Russian Defense Ministry that amphibious landing ships loaded with marines were headed to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russia maintains its only warm water port outside of the former Soviet Union. A Defense Ministry spokesman told RIA Novosti that the ship, the Kaliningrad (not to be confused with the port of the same name), “is currently taking part in the Celtic Week [festival] and will soon return to its home port,” the spokesman said. Another landing ship, the Caesar Kunikov, was also rumored to be heading to Syria. Russian officials said it’s really participating in a routine exercise.”

What would Mitt do? How would a President Romney have handled this situation? Any answer would be speculation but it is very clear to see that he was headed in the wrong direction from a boneheaded recent Romney comment. “Russia is America’s biggest strategic threat.” That thoughtless comment among others of the same uninformed and belligerent ilk helped to undermine Obama going into the delicate conversations with Putin.

Wired opined, “The Obama administration dismissed Mr. Romney’s remarks as election-year posturing, but given that they came just as Mr. Putin has been doing some muscle-flexing of his own, it has put Mr. Obama in a difficult position as he tries to persuade Mr. Putin of America’s good intentions — or, at least, its lack of ill intentions — toward Russia.”