September 4, 2013

It got almost no notice, but at yesterday’s Senate hearing on Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry made a stunning revelation: President Obama is backtracking on his decision not to meet with President Vladimir Putin during the president’s visit to Russia.

Recall: Obama cancelled his summit with Putin because of Russia’s decision to provide asylum to fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden. An incensed White House said that Obama would neither travel to Moscow for a meeting with Putin, nor would have a bilateral meeting with Putin at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg.

On August 7, the New York Times reported:

President Obama on Wednesday canceled next month’s Moscow summit meeting, ending for now his signature effort to transform Russian-American relations and potentially dooming his aspirations for further nuclear arms cuts before leaving office…. Mr. Obama will still attend the annual conference of the Group of 20 nations in St. Petersburg on Sept. 5 and 6, and his secretaries of state and defense will still meet with their Russian counterparts in Washington on Friday. But Mr. Obama will not even meet with Mr. Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 gathering, as is customary. (Emphasis added)

That was then, this is now. Yesterday, Secretary Kerry had this exchange with Senator Barbara Boxer:

SEC. KERRY: …The president, as you know, is leaving this evening to go to St. Petersburg for the summit. He will have ample opportunity to hear firsthand from President Putin, and I’m confident they’ll have a discussion about it.

SEN. BOXER: Thank you.

SEC. KERRY: Thanks.

SEN. MENENDEZ: Senator Risch.

SENATOR JIM RISCH (R-ID): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEC. KERRY: Could I just say — I want to add, though, our Russian — you know, the Russians — I think it’s important for us not to get into an unnecessary sort of struggle over some of his with the Russian for — there are a lot of reasons. The Russians are working with us and cooperating on this effort to try to make a negotiated process work. And I think they’re serious about trying to find a way forward with that, number one. Number two, on major issues, like START, North Korea, Iran, the Russians are cooperating. So I think, you know, we have to sort of deal with this thoughtfully, and let’s hope the summit might produce some change of heart as the president makes the evidence available to President Putin. (Emphasis added).

Remember that whole Snowden unpleasantness? Never mind. Bygones. Basically, the Moscow summit is back on — it will just take place on the sidelines of the meeting in St. Petersburg.

Does this president follow through on anything? No wonder Assad wasn’t worried about crossing Obama’s “red line” on WMD. Obamat can’t even keep his word when it comes to snubbing Vladimir Putin.

Talk about projecting weakness. Good grief.