Obama fails to sway Putin on Syria

President Obama failed on Monday to resolve disagreements with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the proper international response to Syria's civil war. [WATCH VIDEO]

Obama vowed after the two-hour meeting to not let his “differing perspectives” with Putin get in the way of closer cooperation on counterterrorism, arms control and other issues.

He opened his remarks on the margins of the G8 by praising Putin for a “very useful conversation” and thanking him for Russia's “cooperation” with the investigation into the Boston bombing. He announced their intention to sign a new nuclear nonproliferation deal to replace the expired 1992 Nunn-Lugar agreement. 

“This, I think, is an example of the kind of constructive, cooperative relationship that moves us out of a Cold War mindset into the realm where, by working together, we not only increase security and prosperity for the Russian and American people, but we also lead the world to a better place.”


Russian support for Syrian President Bashar Assad remains a main bone of contention between the two leaders, and the Kremlin made it clear ahead of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland that it was not swayed by Obama's determination that Assad has used chemical weapons.

An unsmiling Putin told the press after their meeting that “our opinions do not coincide,” but vowed to press ahead with a U.S.-Russian last-ditch attempt at a negotiated settlement next month in Geneva. 

“All of us have the intention to stop the violence in Syria, to stop the growth of victims, and to solve the situation peacefully, including by bringing the parties to the negotiations table in Geneva,” Putin said. “We agreed to push the parties to the negotiations table.”

After the meeting, the White House and the Kremlin released three joint statements vowing closer cooperation on a range of issues.

The White House confirmed that Obama would be traveling to Moscow on September 3-4 for a U.S.-Russia summit aimed at discussing “in greater detail the full range of bilateral and international issues.” The two leaders tasked Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev with deepening trade and economic ties and agreed to launch regular dialogues between the two countries' Defense and foreign affairs departments and their security councils.

The two parties also issued a joint statement calling for cooperation in countering terrorism following the Boston bombing and a suicide bombing in the Russian Republic of Dagestan last month. The statement vows “with due respect for the freedom to express opinions,” to “use all legal means to counter the abuse of the Internet for terrorist or other criminal purposes.”

Finally, the two nations agreed to launch a bilateral working group regarding information and communications technologies “in the context of international security that is to meet on a regular basis to consult on issues of mutual interest and concern.”

The goal, the first joint statement said, is to “intensify bilateral cooperation based on the principles of mutual respect, equality, and genuine respect for each other’s interests.”

The pledge to work together comes as the relationship between the United States and Russia — and between Obama and Putin — remains frigid. 

Russia expelled the U.S. Agency for International Development last year amid accusations of political meddling and banned U.S. adoptions, in apparent retaliation for new congressional sanctions against Russian human rights abusers. Russia also continues to arm the Assad regime and on Monday warned that it “won't allow” a no-fly zone over rebel-controlled parts of Syria “in principle.”

The encounter was marred by behind-the-scenes tensions before the two leaders even met.

A report in the New York Post over the weekend that Putin in 2005 stole a Super Bowl ring belonging to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was met with outrage by the Kremlin. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Sunday that Kraft could benefit from a “detailed discussion with psychoanalysts” after leveling the charge.

Relations continued to tense up after the two leaders arrived in Northern Ireland for the G8 summit, according to Russia's official radio broadcaster. Both presidents wanted exclusive use of the G8 gym, reported The Voice of Russia, but the United States asked first — so Putin opted to go for an early morning swim instead.

“The water in Fermanagh will be cold, but it should be no bother to Putin compared to Siberian rivers,” a source reportedly told the Voice of Russia. “In fact he’ll probably revel in it, as it could make Obama look weaker in his mind for staying indoors with a trainer.”

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