02.10.2015 Author: Vladimir Odintsov

The Putin-Obama Face Off


Undoubtedly, the most significant event of the last few days was the 70th session of the UN General Assembly. World leaders shared their views of the situation in the world and the speeches of the US and Russian presidents were particularly important in this regard. On the sidelines of the UN session Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin held a personal meeting and even though it has not eliminated differences between the US and Russia and their positions on the situations in Syrian and Ukrainian, the negotiations of the two top politicians in the world are sending a clear signal that both sides intend to change the status quo, not only in bilateral relations but also in world politics.

Vladimir Putin, while addressing the General Assembly for the first time in ten years, stated, without mentioning the United States directly, that “We all know that after the end of the Cold War — everyone is aware of that— a single center of domination emerged in the world, and then those who found themselves at the top of the pyramid were tempted to think that if they were strong and exceptional, they knew better and they did not have to reckon with the U.N., which, instead of [acting to] automatically authorize and legitimize the necessary decisions, often creates obstacles or, in other words, stands in the way. “This was the cause of numerous errors in the policy of Washington and its allies in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and other regions of the world, including the migrant crisis that Europe is now facing.

In his speech Putin criticized the West for its ongoing support of the “moderate” rebels in Syria, that sooner or later all defected to ISIL. In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Putin said that it’s mistake not to seek cooperation with the Syrian army in the fight against the Islamic state. According to Russia’s president, the Syrian army is the only force that is really fighting ISIL militants. “We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face. We should finally acknowledge that no one but President Assad’s armed forces and Kurds (ph) militias are truly fighting the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in Syria” – stated Putin.

However, the Western media reacted to Moscow’s pro-Syrian posture in different ways. A Canadian journal, Ottawa Citizen, on September 22 published an article titled “Washington froze, like a snake in front of a mongoose.” According to this publication, the most fascinating thing in this whole situation is that Russia is acting in Syria legally, at the invitation of Bashar al-Assad, while the United States that is allegedly fighting ISIL too, is not.

Le Figaro’s editorial notes that Vladimir Putin is not taking the Syrian dossier in his hands by chance, since he has enough strategic vision to recognize a certain sequence of events in this country. Putin’s support of the Assad regime is not residing solely on his desire to keep a Russian foothold in the Mediterranean – it also has been dictated by the chaos in Iraq and Libya that followed the overthrow of leaders in those states.

But there’s little doubt that the pivotal moment of the latest UN General Assembly was a personal meeting Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. But long before it started American journalists and experts had different opinions of its prospects.

From the outset of the preparation process the White House fed the general public with disinformation concerning the initiator of the meeting. The spokesman for the White House Josh Ernest has even stated that Vladimir Putin was “desperate” to meet Obama. But no American media source has reported on the position of Russia’s presidential aide Yuri Ushakov who turned those claims down as false. In fact, it was Washington that on September 19 sent a proposal to hold a meeting between Putin and Obama to Moscow. The Reuters news agency reported this fact correctly…

Naturally, there was a lot of negative publicity before the meeting even started, which was not surprising, since the US media has been presenting a gloomy image of Putin for a while now to its readers. The National Interest article that was published on September 22 was not praising Russia’s president, but at the same time the author is not particularly ecstatic about the activities of the president of the United States, noting that “Why create one more opportunity for Putin to show his disdain, or for the Kremlin team to demonstrate its insistence that the Obama administration is irrelevant?”

The New York Times on September 28, the day of the meeting of Presidents, featured an article stressing that President Obama has no other choice except for trying to work things out with President Vladimir Putin, if the US really want to put an end to the catastrophe in Syria. The newspapers point out the meeting of the two presidents on relatively neutral ground of the UN was the right solution.

While commenting on the state of bilateral relations between the US and Russia, Vladimir Putin stated that Moscow is always willing to try to resolve the damage that has been done to them.

Assessing the results of the meeting of the two presidents, the editors of The Washington Times were convinced that Russia’s president had obviously won. The newspaper The New York Post called Russia the only superpower, “The baton was officially transferred Monday to the world’s new sole superpower — and Vladimir Putin willingly picked it up. “

The Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, while assessing the impact on the world order that the speeches of Russia and the United States leaders at the UN had, stated that for the past quarter century the green marble dais in the United Nations General Assembly Hall has been the place where American presidents preached to the rest of the world their vision of international affairs, yet “Mr. Obama was back at the same podium on Monday, this time to implicitly acknowledge that the old U.S.-led world order had disintegrated somewhere along the way. An age of multipolarity, for better and for worse, has arrived. “

Vladimir Odintsov, political commentator, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”