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Obama and Putin Likely to Have Informal Talks as Russia Advances on Ukraine

poniblog-CC-BY-NC-SAponiblog-CC-BY-NC-SAPresident Barack Obama is likely to have informal talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin as tensions continue to rise over the war in Ukraine.

Both the leaders are scheduled to be at the Asia-Pacific (APEC) summit in Beijing and the G20 summit in Brisbane next week. Although an "official bilateral meeting between Obama and Putin [is] not anticipated," a senior U.S. official tells Reuters, "there [is] a good chance they would find time to talk informally at the APEC gathering." The two will also likely talk about Syria and the ISIS insurgency.

The State Department this week blasted Russia for supporting "sham" elections that put pro-Kremlin puppets in power in the war-torn eastern regions of Ukraine. "Should Moscow continue to ignore the commitments that it made [honoring Ukraine's electoral law] and continues its destabilizing and dangerous actions, the costs to Russia will rise," the department stated.

The U.S. and its European Union allies have been trying to de-escalate Russian aggression through both targeted and broad economic sanctions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel today suggested more robust sanctions to punish Putin. Russia's economy is suffering, due in large part to Putin's own poor handling, and the nation's currency is at record lows.

The war, which has already taken the lives of about 4,000 people and displaced countless others, shows signs of getting worse. Russia continues to violate ceasefire and political agreements made last month, called the Minsk Protocols. "Recently we are seeing Russian troops moving closer to the border with Ukraine. … Russian special forces [are] inside eastern parts of Ukraine," says Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO. The U.S. is the largest supplier of troops and funding for NATO.

Russian-American relations look like they've hit their lowest point since before the Soviet Union crumbled. Reason recently highlighted the fact that American diplomats are being harassed, White House computers have been hacked, and Russia is flying provocative, nuclear-capable flights over Europe. Also, a Moscow art gallery just opened featuring a caricature of Putin spanking Obama.

Photo Credit: cc

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  • Pro Libertate||

    It's so fucking stupid of Putin to do all of this. Sure, he's got a weaker president to take advantage of, but all of this will cost Russia far more than it will gain, even if the West relents. And what happens when the U.S. gets a less inept president?

  • Counterfly||

    Putin gets a flag around which to rally?

  • Pro Libertate||

    If the U.S. got really aggressive, sure. Though that doesn't make the Russian economy better.

    If Russia just focused on liberalizing their economy and restoring some semblance of the rule of law, they could convert that oil wealth into something more certain and long-lasting. Instead, they're acting like the Middle Eastern countries.

  • Counterfly||

    The US doesn't have to get aggressive. Putin just has to convince Russians that they might be. Which is impossible now, but becomes less so with a different "opponent."

  • Pro Libertate||

    Russia is about as unpredictable as ever. I think they're about to have a really bad economic moment again, which will likely stop some of the shenanigans for a while. They lack the military power and the wealth to stay this aggressive for very long.

  • Counterfly||

    Oh I'm not saying they'll actually DO anything much different than they are. But Putin would certainly use a foil to bolster the military (or at least channel more money to his cronies there, I doubt he actually wants a strong military), consolidate his power further (if that's even possible), and add to his cult of personality.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Sure. It's a mistake not to view everything he does as domestically driven. That's true for the U.S., too, to some extent (more so lately), but nowhere near as much.

  • ||

    Well, yeah. A guy like Putin does not rise to power in a system with strong social systems respecting property and human rights.

    The leaders of Russia are not interested in making things better for *Russia*. They simply want to be the big fish. And big fish in a little pond is just fine as long as they are the big fish.

  • The_Millenial||

    This appears to be the case

  • Pro Libertate||

    Of course, I agree. Which is why Russia is heading straight for another big collapse.

  • ||

    What is a less inept president going to do? Sanctions?

    We certainly aren't going to get into a shooting war. Even 'kinetic military actions' and 'no-boots on the ground drone strikes' would be a no-go against a military that actually has a slight chance of hurting us.

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, no, I'm not suggesting any open military stand-off. But there are levers that could be applied to pressure Russia into better behavior. And Europe could really cause some trouble if they'd even hint that they might start looking for other energy sources besides Russia. Or that they might start building up their military some, though no one would believe that unless the U.S. suddenly stopped being the EU's military.

  • The_Millenial||

    I agree about the US reducing or eliminating its military presence in Europe, but I don't see the Republican Party as it is currently constituted supporting this. Furthermore, how realistic is it for Europe to look for energy sources outside of Russia? I would assume they do so because it is economically expedient.

  • Pro Libertate||

    There's always the Middle East. Which Europe could take over the cop duties for.

  • The_Millenial||

    Is it possible that Putin doesn't really care about the Russian people and/or he is somewhat delusional in regards to the extent of Russia's power?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I personally think he's doing all of this for political reasons at home.

  • The_Millenial||

    I don't question that per se, but Putin looks to have ginned up preexisting fears or mistrust of the West for years now. US foreign policy has also lent itself to his manipulations to some extent as well.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Putin is a bored 5 year old who found an ant's nest. He's pretty much guaranteed to be president for life; what's left to do?

  • Counterfly||

    You know who else talked while advancing on the Ukraine...

  • Hugh Akston||

    Kramer?

  • Counterfly||

    I thought it was George?

  • Hugh Akston||

  • Counterfly||

    It'll be a cold day in hell before I stop embarrassing myself.

  • Clown Hunter||

    The Moops?

  • Swiss Servator, spare a franc?||

    the Zaporizhian Cossack Host?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    President Barack Obama are likely to have informal talks...

    The royal we. You know, the editorial.

  • ||

    That picture makes it look like they're two old, washed up boxers squaring off at the press conference before their last fight. Every time I see it I imagine Putin saying to Obama " If a man builds a thousand bridges and sucks one dick, they don't call him a bridge-builder... they call him a cocksucker."

  • Shirley Knott||

    Which one of them build a thousand bridges?

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    He didn't build them.

  • Homple||

    I'm sure Barack "Call My Bluff" Obama will run rings around Putin by using his fabled negotiating prowess.

  • WTF||

    Smart. Diplomacy.

  • Clown Hunter||

    I'm hoping for a SugarFree riff on Obama demonstrating his promised flexibility to Putin.

    Pretty please?

  • Cytotoxic||

    ITT, fans of Putin project their fascism onto everyone else.

    How many democratically-elected regimes has Putin replaced with Nazis, at taxpayer expense?

    Russia's.

  • Clown Hunter||

    For starters.

  • ||

    Wait, Russia hasn't taken over Ukraine yet? What are they, ISIS league now? Take 15 months to cover 15 kilometers?

  • ||

    "Comrade Obama, I do not understand. Why does your CIA not hunt and kill your political enemies for sport?"

    "Mr. Putin, we've had a hard time getting the IRS up to speed, but I think you'll see them born again hard between now and 2016."

  • ChrisO||

    The Russians are ultimately going to be the ones who regret wading into the quagmire that is Ukraine. It's going to cost them a lot more than they could ever make from it.

    Of course, all of this "new assertiveness" is just a ploy by Putin for domestic political purposes. He assumes that Russians are big enough suckers for a bully that they'll overlook the continued shambolic nature of their country, as well as their declining prospects.

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