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US perplexed by Putin’s Syria ploy 2017 12 18

A month after Russia began sending military equipment and personnel into Syria, Obama administration officials still haven’t figured out exactly why Vladimir Putin escalated Russia’s involvement in the conflict or developed a response to the Russian leader’s ambitions outside his borders.

U.S. officials are trying to determine what Putin is up to, and how his buildup — which now includes dozens of aircraft — might impact U.S. efforts to broker a peace settlement that could end Syria’s disastrous civil war.“The reality is we need to know more about what their intentions are,” said a senior administration official.

Confusion about Putin’s motives have plagued the Obama administration ever since the Russian leader first moved into Crimea in March of last year, creating a national security crisis for President Barack Obama that remains on slow boil. Earlier this year, the White House initiated a comprehensive review of its Russia policy with an eye toward better understanding Putin’s grand designs. His latest moves further complicate an unclear picture.

Russia’s move might not be all bad if Russia mounts effective strikes against the Islamic State, U.S. officials say. But if his goal is to prop up the government of Syrian ruler Bashar Assad, then Putin is inserting his military into a proxy fight with U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, putting the U.S. and Russia on opposing sides in a conflict with the potential to flare into a broader Middle East war. At a minimum, the officials say, Putin appears to be looking to position Russia as a growing power in the Middle East at a time when the U.S. is seen as eager to turn away from the region. U.S. officials hope that Putin will shed more light on his thinking when he addresses an annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York next week.

One source of frustration is Putin’s failure to signal his plans diplomatically. Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as recently as early August, weeks before the Russian buildup commenced, but got no heads-up from his counterpart of the impending military deployment.

Even as they try to discern Putin’s game plan, Obama officials understand they’re losing a propaganda duel with Moscow, where media outlets are casting Putin as strong and resolute in contrast to an American president they call befuddled by the Middle East. “While Obama continues to scratch his head over the mess that has unfolded in Syria, Putin has not wavered,” declared a commentary in the Moscow-funded outlet RT, adding that Putin’s “steady moves in Syria are perplexing the U.S.” The White House is trying to counter that narrative by depicting Putin as the weak actor — desperate to escape a state of diplomatic isolation and economic punishment that began after his invasion and annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

“Russia’s moves have all the appearances of emanating from a position of weakness,” says another senior official. Other officials call that a rosy spin on a bad situation. They say that Putin is exploiting U.S. weakness in Syria, where Obama’s policy appears to be spinning its wheels. Last week, senior military officials told Congress that a $500 million program to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels had placed only a handful of fighters onto the battlefield.

By many accounts the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, has grown only stronger within Syria in recent months. And on Tuesday, Bloomberg View reported that Obama’s point man for the anti-ISIL fight, retired Marine Corps Gen.

John Allen, is departing his State Department post after just one year on the job. On Monday, Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Muallem, charged that the results of America’s airstrikes against ISIL in Syria “are almost imperceptible” and said the Russian move “shows that the U.S. and the coalition don’t have a clear strategy for fighting Islamic State.” Administration officials deny that, though privately they concede the results have been slow and unsatisfying.

Источник: http://www.politico.eu/article/u-s-perplexed-by-putins-syria-ploy/
РАЗМЕСТИЛ: Эмма Роул

US perplexed by Putin’s Syria ploy 2017 12 18

US perplexed by Putin’s Syria ploy
A month after Russia began sending military equipment and personnel into Syria, Obama administration officials still haven’t figured out exactly why Vladimir Putin escalated Russia’s involvement in the conflict or developed a response to the Russian leader’s ambitions outside his borders.

U.S. officials are trying to determine what Putin is up to, and how his buildup — which now includes dozens of aircraft — might impact U.S. efforts to broker a peace settlement that could end Syria’s disastrous civil war.“The reality is we need to know more about what their intentions are,” said a senior administration official.

Confusion about Putin’s motives have plagued the Obama administration ever since the Russian leader first moved into Crimea in March of last year, creating a national security crisis for President Barack Obama that remains on slow boil. Earlier this year, the White House initiated a comprehensive review of its Russia policy with an eye toward better understanding Putin’s grand designs. His latest moves further complicate an unclear picture.

Russia’s move might not be all bad if Russia mounts effective strikes against the Islamic State, U.S. officials say. But if his goal is to prop up the government of Syrian ruler Bashar Assad, then Putin is inserting his military into a proxy fight with U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, putting the U.S. and Russia on opposing sides in a conflict with the potential to flare into a broader Middle East war. At a minimum, the officials say, Putin appears to be looking to position Russia as a growing power in the Middle East at a time when the U.S. is seen as eager to turn away from the region. U.S. officials hope that Putin will shed more light on his thinking when he addresses an annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York next week.

One source of frustration is Putin’s failure to signal his plans diplomatically. Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as recently as early August, weeks before the Russian buildup commenced, but got no heads-up from his counterpart of the impending military deployment.

Even as they try to discern Putin’s game plan, Obama officials understand they’re losing a propaganda duel with Moscow, where media outlets are casting Putin as strong and resolute in contrast to an American president they call befuddled by the Middle East. “While Obama continues to scratch his head over the mess that has unfolded in Syria, Putin has not wavered,” declared a commentary in the Moscow-funded outlet RT, adding that Putin’s “steady moves in Syria are perplexing the U.S.” The White House is trying to counter that narrative by depicting Putin as the weak actor — desperate to escape a state of diplomatic isolation and economic punishment that began after his invasion and annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

“Russia’s moves have all the appearances of emanating from a position of weakness,” says another senior official. Other officials call that a rosy spin on a bad situation. They say that Putin is exploiting U.S. weakness in Syria, where Obama’s policy appears to be spinning its wheels. Last week, senior military officials told Congress that a $500 million program to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels had placed only a handful of fighters onto the battlefield.

By many accounts the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, has grown only stronger within Syria in recent months. And on Tuesday, Bloomberg View reported that Obama’s point man for the anti-ISIL fight, retired Marine Corps Gen.

John Allen, is departing his State Department post after just one year on the job. On Monday, Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Muallem, charged that the results of America’s airstrikes against ISIL in Syria “are almost imperceptible” and said the Russian move “shows that the U.S. and the coalition don’t have a clear strategy for fighting Islamic State.” Administration officials deny that, though privately they concede the results have been slow and unsatisfying.

Источник: http://www.politico.eu/article/u-s-perplexed-by-putins-syria-ploy/
РАЗМЕСТИЛ: Эмма Роул


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