How to Screw Up a Free Lunch

Presidential speech writers are no doubt in hyper drive after President Putin provided President Obama with an out by jumping on the ‘let’s get the international community to secure Assad’s chemical weapons’ flub by Secretary Kerry, that was actually not a flub. It’s okay Mr. Kerry because the President’s red line was not actually his red line; it was Congress and the 190 countries that signed the chemical weapons convention. So in a strange way Mr. Kerry is absolutely consistent to his President.

Up until now President Obama has failed to mention his ‘ongoing’ conversations with Vlad about the chemical weapons issue in Syria. Just like he has failed to mention U.N. inspectors reports from last spring pointing a chemical finger at Syrian rebels. There is such a thing as homemade Sarin.

Presidents Obama and Putin have some things in common, not the least of which is narcissism; the point of difference is that, on foreign policy and real politic, Putin is as smart as they come and President Obama, well, not so much.

If, in the President’s speech tonight, he makes it too much about him and his efforts, we will have a problem. If he insists that the potential point of progress regarding chemical weapons is all about the pressure he applied to the situation the potential will exist for the deal to go south in about three days. Vlad will kill it as his ever so tender sensitivities will have been insulted once again by the American President. Vlad is not the bored kid in the back of the room; Vlad is a cagy operator with a clear view of where his and Russian self interest lies. Vlad sees a zero sum game; When America is weakened, Russia gains currency.

The President would be well advised to be magnanimous and embrace the ‘international cooperation’ that he and Vlad will lead. He would be further well advised to thank Vlad for his quick embrace of the proposal, not Kerry’s proposal, THE proposal to eliminate chemical weapons from the Syrian conflict. If the President’s prevailing instinct to make it about him, to slide around facts and misrepresent the efforts of his administration prevails; Vlad will slap him down, blaming the continuing stress in Syria on him.

The American President has delivered himself to the hands of the Russian Oligarch. We have the result of appeasing the Russians; we have our ‘reset’. We have been outsmarted; quite a position for an American President to be in.