Embassy Row

Article excerpt

Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

WHAT DOES OBAMA WANT?

Russian President Vladimir Putin is so confused by President ObamaAAEs muddled policy toward Syria that he sought advice from a political opponent who served as MoscowAAEs ambassador in Washington 20 years ago.

Vladimir Lukin, now RussiaAAEs human rights commissioner, told an audience in Moscow on Tuesday that Mr. Putin approached him last week.

The president asked me what the Americans want in Syria, saying he could not understand what they want, Mr. Lukin said. I honestly acknowledged that I canAAEt make out what they want, but that I know for sure they want us to join the U.S. in its failure to understand what to do in Syria.

Mr. Lukin, ambassador to the U.S. from 1992 to 1994, joined James F. Collins, U.S. ambassador to Russia from 1997 to 2001, in a forum commemorating the 80th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties between Washington and Moscow after the 1917 communist revolution.

Mr. Lukin and Mr. Collins bemoaned the decline in U.S.-Russia ties after the failure of Mr. ObamaAAEs cooperative approach to relations with Moscow called his reset policy. The strategy proved to be an unintended gaffe from the moment on March 6, 2009, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a red button imprinted with what State Department officials thought was the Russian word for reset. The word turned out to be Russian for overcharge.

In the Moscow forum Tuesday, Mr. Collins blamed lawmakers in Washington and Moscow for the chill in relations, according to an Associated Press report on the conference.

In many ways, people are passing legislation in both countries that is undermining some of the most important achievements of the last three to four years, Mr. Collins said.

The latest legislative tit-for-tat started when the U.S. in December adopted sanctions against Russians suspected of human rights violations. Russia retaliated by prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children.

Mr. Collins, a retired Foreign Service officer, is now director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. …