Russia and US face off on Syria

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

Putin G20
Russian President Vladimir Putin marches forth with great purpose at the recent G20 meeting of world powers. His duel with US President Barack Obama over Syria ended with neither one really agreeing.

The Cold War of high tension between Russia and the United States from 1947-1991 might be over, but relations have certainly grown frosty lately. First, Russia granted asylum to NSA traitor Edward Snowden, refusing to ship him back to the US to stand trial for espionage charges. Then, US President Barack Obama refused to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in advance of the G20 summit that took place this week.

Now, with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad allegedly using chemical weapons against his people, the US wants to strike Syria with its allies. Who’s in their way? Russia. Well, Iran and China as well, not to mention a very cautious United Nations (UN), but Russia’s the real crafty one to keep an eye on. While Iran’s certainly been making all kinds of aggressive noise, if Russia actually decides to be cooperative, then China might join it in allowing a UN vote to pass authorizing a military strike on Syria. However, Russia has made it quite clear that in order for that to happen, it will need absolute proof of Syrian government wrongdoing in the chemical sarin gas attack that occurred in the Damascus suburbs recently.

While Obama acknowledges that “anti-American” talk has increased since Putin returned to the presidency in May 2012, he says, “I don’t have a bad personal relationship with Putin.” As for Putin, he doesn’t seem to publicly think badly of Obama, explaining, “Obama hasn’t been elected… to be pleasant to Russia.” Basically, they’re both pointing out that it’s nothing personal, it’s just business. They’re looking out for their country’s interests.

Russia, however, which has veto power – the ability to overturn a vote – on the UN Security Council, has threatened to veto any efforts to authorize a strike on Syria. If the US and its allies go ahead with a strike without getting UN permission, Russia, Syria, and Iran have promised consequences. Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, said on Thursday, “Russia continues to hold the council hostage and shirk its international responsibilities, including as a part to the Chemical Weapons Convention.” Since the major nations of the world have agreed not to use chemical weapons in war, allowing Syria’s government to get away with it, she believes would send the wrong message. So does Obama, who says the world’s moral responsibility is to punish al-Assad.

Images courtesy of G20 Russia Facebook.