We Don’t Need To Trust Russia

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 10 2013 @ 12:25pm

Josh Marshall makes smart points about the Syria situation:

Don’t look at the offer but the trajectory of events it puts in place. Russia coming forth with this proposal puts in motion a chain of events which totally reshuffles deck internationally in a way that is much more favorable to the US and to the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons capacity. The Russians (and Chinese) Security Council veto has always been the key variable in this drama. But Russia has proposed this course. The White House quickly floated it past UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He wants to bring this before the Security Council. So that will happen. And it will be extremely difficult for the Russians to veto it.

The key to understand is that this starts a UN Security Council process that probably won’t be vetoed (the Chinese being the wildcard). Soon you’ll have some sort of force on the ground in country inspecting and securing these weapons or knocking at the door of an isolated and recalcitrant Syrian regime.

It is, if it transpires, a huge victory for the US. Yes, it means we have to relinquish ownership of all this and let Russia take the credit – and all the blowback domestically and internationally that might entail. Expect a whole slew of “Munich” stories; a chorus singing the A-word (appeasement); and the usual derision of Obama from the loony right. The great thing about this president is that he doesn’t care how the short-term optics look or how the news cycle plays as long as the result is one he wants. The process toward that goal is inherently messy, but what matters is the result.

The key development of this week is clearly the UN Security Council finally taking this on – led by Russia and backed by China. The credible threat of military force made that breakthrough possible. If it succeeds, Obama will have created a new template for global affairs – one that retains the US as the critical actor, but that also allows for other great powers to assume more responsibility.

This is not a repeat of Bush; it is, rather, the liquidation of the Bush-Cheney mindset, entrenched in the UN and potentially in the Congress. If and when the dust settles, the moment that is currently being seen as Obama’s low-point in foreign policy may eventually be seen by historians as his signature achievement. We don’t know that yet – and much can still go wrong. But this is potentially transformative in America’s engagement with a post-Cold War, post-Iraq War world.