Expert Available to Comment on Syria, Russia and Obama
Source Newsroom: Saint Joseph's University
Russia expert Lisa Baglione, Ph.D., professor and chair of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, analyzes why President Obama's acceptance of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s lifeline to avoid an airstrike in Syria is the right move.
"While Putin’s solution stops far short of what the President wants, and verifying the elimination of chemical weapon stockpiles will be difficult, it might be the best that the U.S. President can do, and, in fact, for Obama and the U.S., it actually might be a good option for these reasons:
First, the U.S. public and Obama’s biggest supporters in Congress don’t want the airstrike. Moving forward on it alienates his base. Second, the action is multilateral in nature and brings the international community back into the calculus. The principle of using international actors to resolve tough problems and finding ways for the five permanent members of the Security Council to cooperate is important for future actions. Let Russia be the hero here; it may help solve other problems in the future. Third, Obama won’t face this vote that he could lose and risk the impact of a weakened presidency, both at home and abroad. Fourth, this solution prevents another western strike against a Muslim country. As we commemorate another September 11, the U.S. should remember that perception is important, and our political capital in the Muslim world would be worsened again by this strike, even if we have the best of intentions. Lastly, while Assad is no friend of the U.S., his opponents are a varied group. The West could work with some; others are frightening. Empowering them could be disastrous.
Thus, the Russians have thrown Obama a lifeline. They spare him domestic and international political failure (in both the short and the long term, because the implications of either acting or not striking are significant), and they reinvigorate the international community.
The remaining puzzle is why would Putin offer this course of action when Obama would likely have been thwarted and Assad spared by Congress? Last week, during the G20, reports abounded about the bad relationship between the Russian and American Presidents. Moreover, Putin is no lover of international organizations. Still, perhaps the fear of the fall of an ally and another Western action in the Middle East is too much, as Russia stands on the sidelines watching. This proposal helps build their prestige, too, and it’s the kind of image-making we should encourage."