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Russia expert: Obama has been put aside in Syria resolution

By Ned Seaton

An expert on Russia and international relations said in a Manhattan appearance Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin got “exactly what he wanted” and that “President Obama of the US has been put aside” in the resolution of the Syria crisis last month.

Marcel de Haas, a senior research associate at a Netherlands institute of international relations called Clingendael, said that the Russians have “taken advantage of the weakness of the U.S. president,” and that future U.S. interests could be hurt as a result.

Putin stepped in to avert a potential military strike by the U.S. against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by brokering a deal: Assad would give up chemical weapons in order to avoid military action.

The trouble, in de Haas’ view, is that Obama had already warned Assad against using chemical weapons on his domestic opponents in the ongoing civil war; Obama described the use of such weapons as crossing a “red line.”

When Obama presented proof that Assad had used chemical weapons but then failed to follow through on a threat of consequences, he — and the United States — ended up looking weak, de Haas indicated.

Putin, meanwhile, emerged as “the great victor in the game,” de Haas said, by establishing himself as a major power broker in the region.

Russia has remained allied to Assad because of such things as arms sales and Russian naval bases in Syria, de Haas said.

Syria is Russia’s traditional foothold in the Middle East, he said. Russia’s main historical interest, de Haas said, is to be seen as a great power on the world stage. “And now they are back in town,” he said.

De Haas, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Dutch military, was in Manhattan to speak in a lecture series coordinated by K-State political science Prof. Dale Herspring.

It’s called the Political, Diplomatic and Military Lecture Series.

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