Obama and Putin face off at the opening of the 70th UN General Assembly
The speeches of Putin and Obama before the 70th convening of the UNGA were rich in implications. This remains the case though Putin’s comments in his recent interview with Charlie Rose perhaps went further in critiques directed at the US, while Obama mainly stuck to already established talking points.
Obama resorted to harsh and unproven accusations about Putin and Assad’s regime in Syria, but as I wrote here, the administration recently has made a significant step towards allowing Assad to remain in power for a period in Syria. More implicitly than explicitly, the US is now about to allow Russia to prop up his regime. If a tense agreement has been made about Assad, the question about ISIS, which ought to be front and center, is still ‘on hold’ in the American camp. Less diplomatic Russian and Syrian sources than Putin argue that the US fears that Russian support will allow Assad to take serious action against ISIS and other “rebel” groups who have been trained and armed, directly or indirectly, by the supposedly anti-ISIS coalition, the “ambivalent coalition”, of the US, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
The UN addresses were jockeyed to different audiences both domestic and foreign, but much pointed repartee was ad nationem if not ad hominem, in particular between Obama and Putin. The range of comments made by world leaders perhaps were limited by the forum — no Krushchev shoe-banging or Colin Powell presentation of falsified “evidence” about Saddam’s WMDs at this dignified event. Still the UN talks were contentious, and highly significant precisely because of the public view given to this major 20th century institution symbolizing the ideals of global cooperation and unity.
Many major speakers sought to argue an enhanced role for the UN as an umbrella for healing divisiveness among the globe’s nations. The 2030 Development Agenda, devoutly espoused by the Pope, is one example. Russia now will take up the rotating presidency of the Security Council and Putin announced the initiatives it will immediately convene to comprehensively engage what all must agree is a universal problem: ISIS. America and most allies still hem-and-haw, however, still drag their collective feet.
Putin has now apparently engaged decisively in the Middle East, despite a smoldering Donbass and a Kiev buildup in eastern Ukraine, contrary to the Minsk 2 accords. Perhaps in order to preempt or divert activity in that region, Putin has launched his country into a newly prominent role in the hottest hotbed of all, the Middle East. The Ukraine and Syria are in fact intimately tied issues.
Many commentators look for an autumn offensive into Donbass by the US-led junta in Kiev. This will meet the approval of the warhawks in the US administration, especially those commanding the American NATO military contribution in Europe such as General Breedlove. The Ukrainian situation is tied to Syria because in this way the Western allies will try to prolong the death throes and reduced utility of their Syrian “moderate” and not-so-moderate proxies. Breedlove recently stuck his Russophobe nose into the Middle Eastern business, even though this is technically outside his field of apocalyptic expertise.
The Western allies need but the thinnest excuses for foreign war, since their publics are so in the dark. Suffice to claim that “the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming”, and FoxNews and the NYTimes step into line. Never mind that Russian troops are neither in the Ukraine nor Syria, though evidence-absent claims are repeatedly made, even by Charlie Rose to Putin’s face.
Putin’s reply, accompanied by a tired smirk, was along the lines any independent researcher will discover for themselves, but couched in the technical language of the spy apparatus (Rose kept reminding Putin he used to be in the KGB). Putin said, with abundant good reason, the accusations about Assad amount to an “active measure”, a psy-op, a media manipulation, American propaganda. In fact, there has never been a shred of convincing evidence offered in support of US claims.
Russia has now made clear where its red line stands with its Syrian ally, just as, after some testing by the West, it became clear in the Ukraine after the overthrow of the Yanukovich government, and the installation of the candy-industry oligarch Poroshenko. Before the UN talk, Russian media had leaked its supposed contents, which prominently focused on the Middle East, and seemed purposefully to leave out discussion of the Ukraine, where, perhaps, Putin had little hope for progress. The US did not take up the invitation to leave out its usual unsupported assertions about the Ukraine, and the usual back-and-forth ensued.
But Putin had already ‘responded’ to these allegations in his CBS interview with Charlie Rose a couple days earlier. That interview’s transcript had its offending remarks chopped out by CBS but these were retained by other media sources (and the Kremlin, naturally). In the interview, Putin turned the charges on their heads, arguing that Russian intelligence (as well as much non-US media) knows full well that the US was behind the Kiev coup. Thus, the hypocrisy demonstrated by US calls for Russia to respect Ukrainian sovereignty are particularly rank and disgusting, as well as idiotic and illogical.
Without naming Victoria Nuland, US Asst Sect’y of State (or mentioning her “Fuck the EU!” when informed of possible European objections), he said he knew “for sure” that the US had a hand in the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovich. The ex-KGB agent (Charlie Rose kept reminding him) said Moscow knows “who had meetings and worked with people who overthrew” the ex-president, as well as “when and where they did it,” he said.
“We know the ways the assistance was provided, we know how much they paid them, we know which territories and countries hosted trainings and how it was done, we know who the instructors were. We know everything. Well, actually, our US partners are not keeping it a secret,”
Nothing of this preponderant importance was mentioned at the UN. That would have been a Soviet shoe-banging moment, though quite the opposite of the lies Colin Powell was forced to tell in this forum. Of course, it did not warrant any attention in the mainstream US press.
The stage upon which the UN remarks were delivered is the most public of all the several stages upon which the two neo-Cold Warriors have presented their viewpoints in recent weeks. I have been detailing the US retreat in regard to one of two main Russian policy points regarding Syria: Assad has been given some leeway to stick around awhile. Amazingly, hypocritically, the US still refuses to collaborate with Assad or Russia in their anti-ISIS efforts. Well, what with the multi-billion dollar CIA program that put 10,000 fighters on the ground in Syria and the much better known but smaller 500 million dollar Pentagon program that put “four or five” (thats 4 or 5, yes, single digits) one can understand no one at the DOD or Langley wants a good investment lost.
In my next post, I will concentrate on Obama’s talk, and on Putin’s in the following.