The significance of today’s joint Obama/Putin call for democratic transition in Syria is, as usual, in what is not mentioned. Neither the Russian arms shipments to the regime nor the Saudi and Qatari arms flowing to the opposition are mentioned. Ditto the suspended UN monitoring mission. There is no hint of intervention other than through the Annan plan and the UN Security Council. The Americans are essentially accepting the Russian emphasis on dialogue and peaceful means, while reiterating their hope for eventually democratic ends.
Hope is not a policy. The question is whether something else lurks behind these words. I doubt it. Note the emphasis in the statement on the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran. Note also the emphasis on supplying Afghanistan from the north. Russia is vital to both. Bucking Putin in Syria would not be smart if the higher priority is blocking Iran’s nuclear program from achieving “break out.” So long as Pakistan is blocking the usual land routes into Afghanistan, Russia is vital to NATO supply lines.
The statement is silent on Egypt. It appeals for North Korean implementation of a 2005 (sic) agreement. The Middle East peace process statements it references are more recent, but no more effective.
There is very little else in the statement that would excite my interest. I can’t imagine why Jackson-Vanik, legislation whose premises (non-market economy and restrictions on emigration) became obsolete years ago, is still in effect. Russia in the World Trade Organization is clearly going to be better for the United States than Russia outside. But I’ve got to give Putin and Obama extra credit for this:
This year we together celebrate the 200th anniversary of Fort Ross in California, which was founded by Russian settlers and underscores the historic ties between our countries.
Anodyne is not a policy either, unless you want to convey how impotent the former superpowers have become.