Obama, Putin Discuss Syria at the G20 Summit

By:  Warren Mass
Obama, Putin Discuss Syria at the G20 Summit

At the G-20 summit at St. Petersburg, Russia, Obama remains committed to attacking Syria, while Russian President Putin says such a strike would be “illegal.”

Following a 20-minute discussion on the sidelines of the eighth Group of Twenty (G20) summit at St. Petersburg, Russia, on September 6, President Obama remains committed to a military strike against Syria, while Russian President Vladimir Putin maintains that such a strike would be “illegal.”

Reuters quoted a source who made a statement following a dinner held after Thursday night’s session of the summit, indicating widespread division on Syria among the participants: “There has been a long discussion with a clear split in the group.”

Putin told the press after his meeting with Obama: “We hear one another, and understand the arguments but we don’t agree. I don’t agree with his arguments; he doesn’t agree with mine. But we hear them, try to analyze them.”

Putin described the meeting as being “substantial and constructive.”

China's Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese President Xi Jinping, who also spoke against military action: “A political solution is the only right way out for the Syrian crisis, and a military strike cannot solve the problem from the root,” said Xi. “We expect certain countries to have a second thought before action.”

The Reuters report noted that the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, indicated clearly on Thursday that the United States had given up efforts to gain Security Council support for military intervention in Syria, blaming Russia — which along with China holds veto power on the Council — for indicating that it would block such action.

With UN approval unlikely, Obama must now turn to Congress for approval. While this strategy is born of necessity, it actually results in a strategy more in line with what the Constitution requires in Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, sometimes referred to as the “War Powers Clause.”

This clause, however, gives Congress the power “to declare war,” not to approve military intervention short of such a declaration, as has been done numerous times, including operations in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

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Photo of President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 5: AP Images

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