Relations between the U.S. and Russia continue to spiral downwards over issues of war and peace, as Vladimir called John Kerry a liar:

In remarks that could raise tension further before he hosts President Barack Obama and other G20 leaders on Thursday, Putin also said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry lied to Congress about the militant group al Qaeda’s role in the Syrian conflict.

“They lie beautifully, of course. I saw debates in Congress. A congressman asks Mr Kerry: ‘Is al Qaeda there?’ He says: ‘No, I am telling you responsibly that it is not’,” Putin said at a meeting of his human rights council in the Kremlin.

“Al Qaeda units are the main military echelon, and they know this,” he said, referring to the United States. “It was unpleasant and surprising for me – we talk to them, we proceed from the assumption that they are decent people. But he is lying and knows he is lying. It’s sad.”

Putin did not give any more details.

Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution Wednesday to grant President Obama the power to launch a military strike on Syria in response to its government’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

From the Washington Post:

Acting hours after Obama, during a visit to Sweden, said the credibility of Congress and the international community was also at stake, the committee voted 10 to 7, with one member voting “present,” to approve using force against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The resolution now goes to the full Senate. The House is separately considering a similar resolution.

The resolution limits the response to no longer than three months – 60 days, with a 30 day extension if needed – and it forbids the President from using ground troops.

Speaking in Stockholm, Sweden today, Obama said that it wasn’t him, but the world, that set a red line at the use of chemical weapons in Syria, according to NBC News.

Answering a question about his statement last year that Syrian use of chemical weapons would be a “red line,” Obama said the response was not about him.

“I didn’t set a red line — the world set a red line,” Obama said. “The international community’s credibility is on the line, and America and Congress’ credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.”

As Professor Jacobson posted earlier today in Two Red Lines (with contrasting videos), there is an international red line, but Obama also set a red line.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile remained critical of the US and warned against taking military action against Syria, but seemed to leave open the possibility of supporting a UN resolution if adequately convinced of the allegations against the Syrian government.

From the Associated Press (via NPR):

President Vladimir Putin warned the West against taking one-sided action in Syria but also said Russia “doesn’t exclude” supporting a U.N. resolution on punitive military strikes if it is proved that Damascus used poison gas on its own people.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press and Russia’s state Channel 1 television, Putin said Moscow has provided some components of the S-300 air defense missile system to Syria but has frozen further shipments. He suggested that Russia may sell the potent missile systems elsewhere if Western nations attack Syria without U.N. Security Council backing.

The interview late Tuesday night at Putin’s country residence outside the Russian capital was the only one he granted prior to the summit of G-20 nations in St. Petersburg, which opens Thursday. The summit was supposed to concentrate on the global economy but now looks likely to be dominated by the international crisis over allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in the country’s civil war.

Putin maintained his reluctance to believe that the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attack, according to the AP/NPR.

Putin said it was “ludicrous” that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad — a staunch ally of Russia — would use chemical weapons at a time when it was holding sway against the rebels.

“From our viewpoint, it seems absolutely absurd that the armed forces — the regular armed forces, which are on the offensive today and in some areas have encircled the so-called rebels and are finishing them off — that in these conditions they would start using forbidden chemical weapons while realizing quite well that it could serve as a pretext for applying sanctions against them, including the use of force,” he said.

But the Russian President said he remained hopeful he and Obama would have serious discussions about Syria, as well as other issues, while in St. Petersburg, saying “I would like to repeat once again that global mutual interests form a good basis for finding a joint solution to our problems,” according to the AP/NPR.

Obama indicated that he is hopeful of the same, and said that he will engage Putin in such discussions.


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