Russia’s Putin To Speak At the U.N., Meet with Obama Over Foreign Policy Issues

Vladimir PutinOn Monday Russian President Vladimir Putin will be joining other world leaders at the U.N. for the 70th session of the U.N. general assembly and the world leader will give a speech and join the international debate on a variety of political issues ranging from climate change to confronting extremist Islamic groups operating in the Middle East.

President Putin hasn’t given a speech at the U.N. for 10 years now and his government in Moscow is faced with international sanctions for Russia’s past intervention in Ukraine last year that led to the annexation of Crimea along with accusations of directly supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Putin’s recent decision this month to double down on Syrian President Bashir al-Assad and provide military support to the Syrian military while solidifying bases at Latakia and Tartus has come under criticism from the United States and a host of global leaders who believe the Assad’s regime in Syria has lost legitimacy as a leader on the global stage after his government is believed to have carried out a chemical weapons attack on Syrian Arabs during a violent civil war that started in 2011, resulting in 250,000 deaths and over 4 million displaced Syrians seeking refuge in neighboring countries and Europe.

The use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War was already confirmed by the United Nations with the deadliest of those attacks occurring in August 2013 during the Ghouta attack in a Damascus suburb followed by another attack in a suburb outside of Aleppo in March 2013.

Several chemical weapons attacks in Syria were investigated by a U.N. fact finding mission and U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that confirmed the use of the nerve agent sarin.

The findings from the investigations stated that the individuals responsible for carrying out the chemical weapons attacks had access to the stockpile from the Syrian Army.

U.S. President Barack Obama faced fierce criticism from Israel and Republicans for not honoring his “red line” that he drew one year earlier in August 2012 towards Syria’s government over the use of chemical weapons.

In September 2013 Obama received government approval to authorize the use of force against the Syrian Army and the prospect of war seemed imminent. But in a sudden turnaround, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that a military strike could be averted if Syria’s government handed over their chemical weapons stockpile.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov proposed to Syria’s government that they surrender their chemical weapons.

Syria’s foreign minister accepted the deal and Syria’s chemical weapons were transferred out of the war-torn country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was recently interviewed on CBS by Charlie Rose from 60 Minutes and said that Russia supports the legitimate government of Syria.

Putin claimed that actions to destroy Syria’s government will create a power vacuum in Syria that could lead to the same unstable outcome that occurred in Libya and Iraq whose past leaders were overthrown.

“We support the legitimate government of Syria. And it’s my deep belief that any actions to the contrary in order to destroy the legitimate government will create a situation which you can witness now in the other countries of the region or in other regions, for instance in Libya where all the state institutions are disintegrated” Putin said on 60 Minutes.

“We see a similar situation in Iraq. And there is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism. But, at the same time, urging them to engage in positive dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct reform.” Putin added.

President Obama and other western leaders believe that the primary motivation of ISIS and other extremist Islamic groups is to overthrow Syrian President Assad due to his past violent aggressions towards Sunni Arabs, including chemical weapons attacks.

They cling to the hope that by implementing a new regime change in Syria and adopting a new representational government consisting of more Sunni Arabs, ISIS and other militant groups will  lose their ability to inspire and recruit militant Sunni Muslims to overthrow President Assad, a minority Alawite, whose own government has allegiances with Russia, Iran’s Shia dominated government, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Russian President Putin said on CBS’s 60 Minutes that this kind of assessment is an “active measure” by enemies of Assad and labeled it “anti-Syrian propaganda.”

Putin said that there are over 2,000 fighters from Russian and Ex-Soviet Republics in the territory of Syria and they are better off supporting Assad to fight ISIS.

The United States has spent $500 million equipping and training over 5,000 moderate Syrians called New Syrian Forces (NSF) to help fight ISIS but many of the trained forces want to fight Assad’s army forces and lack resolve.

On Friday, the Pentagon admitted that their trained forces in Syria had surrendered ammunition and equipment to the Al-Nursa Front, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, in exchange for their own safety through the region.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said during a press conference that it seems the U.S. shares a common interest with Russia in defeating ISIS and a political transition from the Assad regime that preserves and begins to restore the country.

However, Carter said that these two interests must be pursued in parallel.

“A Russian effort to fight ISIL will only end up fueling the Syrian civil war and the ISIL extremism it spawned in which Russia, with its history and large number of Russians who are foreign fighters in Syria, rightly fears. Thus, we believe the political and military tracks need to proceed in parallel and we’re willing to work with Russia on that basis” Carter said.

Russian President Putin will meet with U.S. President Obama on Monday to discuss the situation in Syria and Ukraine.

Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif will be at the U.N. on Monday to meet alongside the ministers from the six countries that signed the newly reached nuclear deal with Iran.

The discussion will concern implementing the terms of the nuclear deal.

On Tuesday Obama will co-host a summit to confront the rise of ISIS in the Middle East.

-Johnathan Schweitzer              schweitz31@gmail.com

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