Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin cannot be trusted and should not be involved in coming up with an agreement on the Syrian chemical weapons issue, Sen. John Barrasso argues in a Monday op-ed in The Wall Street Journal
"It is downright naïve to think that Mr. Putin will do anything that President Obama asks him to do without exacting a huge price in return," the Wyoming Republican wrote. "For more than four years, the Obama administration has capitulated to Mr. Putin's demands and accepted his rebukes."
Barrasso noted that in 2009, when the Obama administration said it would "reset" relations with Russia, Americans didn't expect that his words meant making Putin the "de facto U.S. ambassador to Syria in 2013," but, he said, Putin has taken over U.S. diplomacy with President Bashar Assad's regime.
The most recent evidence of that came over the weekend with the announcement of Secretary of State John Kerry's deal, brokered by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Syria's chemical weapons
Assad is to give an accounting of his chemical stockpile within a week, allow international inspections to begin in November, and destroy the weapons or remove them by next summer.
"Most experts on chemical weapons say the timetable is unworkable," said Barrasso. "But ridding Syria of chemical weapons is not the point. The Kerry-Lavrov agreement is simply a Russian delaying tactic on behalf of its Syrian ally — a tactic we've seen before."
The senator pointed out that after a May 7 agreement with Russia for a conference to help end Syria's civil war, Moscow started supplying Assad with cruise missiles within two weeks.
"Moscow's military support of the Assad regime is one of the main reasons that more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed in the current conflict," Barrasso said. "On the political front, the Russians have vetoed every attempt by the United Nations Security Council to do something to bring about an end to the civil war . . . It is extremely unlikely that Russia is suddenly now going to cooperate with the U.S. on Syria."
The Obama administration, though, has been giving in to the Russians for some time, Barrasso claimed, beginning with the New START arms control treaty in April 2010, which limited U.S. deployments and reduced delivery systems while "Russia gave little to nothing of value."
Barrasso said the United States should also distrust Russia and Putin over its activities concerning Iran and other countries.
He noted Moscow opposed U.N. attempts to increase sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program, voted against a resolution concerning repression in North Korea, and that it continues to refuse to extradite National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
"Moscow is not even complying with a commitment to eliminate its own chemical weapons, Barrasso said. "It has also missed deadlines to convert former chemical-weapon production plants. Why would we expect Moscow to help enforce similar restrictions against Syria?"
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