September 12, 2013

Pelosi's wary view of Putin

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's take on Russian President Vladimir Putin's New York Times op ed?

"It is what it is.  I mean, Vladimir Putin is not in a strong constitutional democracy where people have their say so he comes here and has his say, but it has to have some fidelity to fact," the California Democrat told a news conference.

She was asked if it was frustrating that Putin may be the United States' negotiating partner.

"I mean, (Syrian President Bashar) Assad is a part of the negotiation, too, and he is, I think, clearly a monster who would gas children in his own country that he wants to preside ove," she said.

Pelosi pointed to Putin's remark that he doesn't want the United Nations turning into another League of Nations.

"I thought that was interesting, because one of the reasons the United Nations has not been effective, say for example in Syria, is because of the fear of a Russian veto," she said. "Even initiatives that others have tried to propose that would, say, condemn the use of chemical weapons, they have not been willing to sign on to. 

"So, part of the strength of the U.N. is the fact that it has a strong Security Council.  Part of the lack of success is that Russia and China too frequently use that veto power.  But what I have found interesting was the closing.  He says when we pray to God he judges us all.  I don't know exactly what his words are, but he says that we are all God's children.  I think that is great.  I hope it applies to gays and lesbians in Russia as well."


September 04, 2013

Putin on Obama: We weren't elected to be pleasant with each other

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he and President Obama can have constructive talks -- even though he's disappointed Obama cancelled a meeting with him in Moscow.

In what the Associated Press says in his only interview before he hosts the G8 summit, Putin warned the U.S. against military strikes in Syria and downplayed his testy relationship with Obama -- which Russia analysts say is the worst in US-Russian and US-Soviet leader relationships.

But Putin expressed hope the two would have serious talks in St. Petersburg: "President Obama hasn't been elected by the American people in order to be pleasant to Russia," Putin told the AP. "And your humble servant hasn't been elected by the people of Russia to be pleasant to someone either," he said of their relationship.

 "We work, we argue about some issues. We are human. Sometimes one of us gets vexed. But I would like to repeat once again that global mutual interests form a good basis for finding a joint solution to our problems," Putin said.

He didn't rule out supporting a UN resolution to support military strikes if it's proven that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons, but called it "ludicrous" that the government would use chemical weapons at a time when it was holding sway against the rebels.

August 26, 2013

Obama to meet with Putin at G20 in Russia

President Obama will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at next week's gathering of world leaders in St. Petersburg, the White House says, though it's unclear whether it will be an exchange beyond pleasantries.

The G20 summit is being held in St. Petersburg, and with Russia is the host nation, Obama "will certainly meet with Putin," spokesman Jay Carney said. But, he added, the White House earlier this month decided against holding a bilateral summit in Moscow with Putin. 

Carney said he couldn't say whether the encounter in St. Petersburg will be a formal meeting, known as a "bilateral."

"I just don't have a schedule of what our meetings look like at the G20," Carney said. "I mean, we're going to St. Petersburg for the G20. 

Obama scrapped a pre-G20 meeting in Moscow with Putin to register U.S. displeasure over the country's embrace of intelligence leaker, Edward Snowden, among other disagreements. He's suggested it's time for the US to take a pause and reconsider its relationship with the country.

August 07, 2013

Obama cancels trip to Moscow

President Barack Obama canceled his trip to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next month after Russia granted National Security Leaker leaker Edward Swowden asylum, the White House said Wednesday.

The decision was not solely based on Swowden. The United States has grown frustration with Russia on other issues, including missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations and human rights.

"Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September," according to a statement released by White House press secretary Jay Carney.

Carney said the United States values cooperation on a variety of issues between the two nations, including the New START Treaty, and cooperation on Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea.

Continue reading "Obama cancels trip to Moscow" »

August 01, 2013

Boehner talks about Snowden

House Speaker John Boehner says it's up to President Barack Obama how to engage Russian President Vladmir Putin over the Edward Snowden matter.

Snowden, who leaked documents about secret American data gathering programs, was granted temporary asylum Thursday in Russia.

Here's the exchange with Boehner, R-Ohio, at his weekly news conference:

Q. Edward Snowden has left the Moscow airport.  Senator McCain put out a statement saying that it's a slap in the face of America (and) fundamentally changes our relationship with Russia.  What do you think? 

SPEAKER BOEHNER:  Mr. Snowden's actions have hurt the ability of our country to protect our citizens.  And I would hope that President Obama would engage President Putin on this issue and resolve it in a way that's satisfactory to the American people. 

Q:  Could you be more specific?  Engage in what way?  I mean, how?   

SPEAKER BOEHNER:  I'll let him decide -- I'll let him decide the best way to engage the president.

July 17, 2013

Does the White House support an Olympic boycott?

So will the United States boycott the 2014 Olympics in Russia?

It sure doesn't like it. But White House press secretary Jay Carney couldn't bring himself to say no outright.

"I'm not going to engage in speculation about that," he told reporters at his daily briefing. "And the Olympics are a long way off." 

Carney was asked repeatedly about a proposal floated by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. that the U.S. keep its athletes home if Russia provides asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Continue reading "Does the White House support an Olympic boycott?" »

July 16, 2013

Will Obama scrap Moscow visit over Edward Snowden?

The White House announced last month that President Obama would meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow when he travels to St. Petersburg in September for the annual Group of 20 summit meeting.

But with U.S. and Russian officials a bit at odds over the fate of currently-marooned NSA leaker Edward Snowden, that visit may be up in the air.

Asked today whether the president's plans for the summit would be disrupted if Russia should decide to grant Snowden temporary asylum as he's requested, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney played it coy.

"The president intends to travel to Russia in September for the G-20 summit," Carney said, adding a tantalizing, "And I don't have any further announcements with regard to that travel."

Hmmm, reporters asked. Do his plans for Russia still include the Moscow leg that was only recently announced?

"I'm just saying that the president intends to go to Russia," Carney said. "Again, I don't have anything to add to our previous announcements."

The White House wants Russia to expel Snowden and return him to the United States: "Mr. Snowden has all of the rights that every American citizen charged with a crime in the United States has, and he should be returned here where he can stand trial and take advantage of those rights," Carney said. "So that's the conversation we're having with foreign governments; that’s the conversations we're having with our Russian counterparts."

June 17, 2013

Obama and Putin differ on Syria, only agree violence should end

President Obama and his Russian counterpart met in Ireland today at a gathering of world leaders that underscored the rift between them over Syria as they could agree only that the violence in the war torn country should end.

"Of course our opinions do not coincide," said Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key ally of the Syrian leader Obama wants to see step down. "But all of us have the intention to stop the violence in Syria, to stop the growth of victims, and to solve the situation peacefully, including by bringing the parties to the negotiations table in Geneva. We agreed to push the parties to the negotiations table."

Obama said the pair had "differing perspectives on the problem, but we share an interest in reducing the violence; securing chemical weapons and ensuring that they're neither used nor are they subject to proliferation; and that we want to try to resolve the issue through political means, if possible."

He said the two had instructed their teams to work on the potential of a Geneva follow-up to the first meeting. 

Putin sat stony faced and slumped in a chair as Obama spoke and the American president strived to inject some humor into his remarks, saying that they had "compared notes on President Putin's expertise in judo and my declining skills in basketball."

June 14, 2013

Syria, conversation with Putin likely to top talks for Obama at Ireland summit

President Obama heads to Ireland Sunday for the annual G-8 summit and Syria -- where he's come under domestic and some international pressure to intervene -- will be tops on the foreign policy agenda.

The trip comes in the wake of the White House decision to send military support to the Syrian opposition after reaching the conclusion that Syrian President Bashar Assad crossed a red line by using chemical weapons against rebel forces. And Obama is likely to call again for assistance from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has remained a key ally of the regime in Syria, despite U.S. efforts to convince him otherwise.

Obama will meet with Putin on the first day of the summit and they "clearly have a very broad agenda to discuss," said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. That includes Syria, Afghanistan, nuclear weapons, arms control, missile defense, and security issues, as well as "issues related to counterterrorism cooperation" -- the Russians say they alerted the FBI to possible terrorist connections to one of the Boston Marathon bombers --  "as well as deepening our economic and commercial ties between our two nations."

Obama is expected to talk to Putin about whether there's a way to forge a political settlement to Syria's civil war, but said that "there are no illusions that that's going to be easy," -- particularly given that the U.S. insists Assad must leave office; the Russians do not.


Putin, for his part, will be making his "return to the G-8," noted Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Affairs. Putin skipped the Obama-hosted G-8 at Camp David last year, and the last time he attended a G-8 was with President Bush.

Continue reading "Syria, conversation with Putin likely to top talks for Obama at Ireland summit" »

September 13, 2012

Liz Cheney: Administration response to crises "appalling"

Mitt Romney's campaign continued to blast the Obama administration for its foreign policy Thursday, this time urging people to read a column by Liz Cheney calling the White House response to the Egypt and Libya crises "appalling."

"It has certainly been a terrible 48 hours," the conservative commentator, and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, wrote in the Wall Street Journal. "In Libya, violent extremists killed American diplomats. In Cairo, mobs breached the walls of the U.S. Embassy, ripped down the American flag and replaced it with the al Qaeda flag.

"In response to the attack in Cairo, diplomats there condemned not the attackers but those who 'hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.' The president appeared in the Rose Garden less than 24 hours later to condemn the Libya assault and failed even to mention the attack in Egypt. The message sent to radicals throughout the region: If you assault an American embassy but don't kill anyone, the U.S. president won't complain.

"Though the administration's performance in the crisis was appalling, it wasn't surprising—it is the logical outcome of three-and-a-half years of Obama foreign policy."

Cheney went on to argue the U.S. looks weak.

Continue reading "Liz Cheney: Administration response to crises "appalling"" »


"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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