US President Barack Obama is flanked by Robert Gates, left, and Leon Panetta, right, at the White House in Washington in 2011.© AFP 2013/ Jim Watson
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WASHINGTON, September 18 (RIA Novosti) – Former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates did not mince words this week when asked if he trusts Russian President Vladimir Putin as Washington and Moscow negotiate a plan to secure Syria’s chemical stockpiles.
“Are you kidding me?” Gates told a forum in Dallas on Tuesday evening, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Gates spoke alongside fellow former Pentagon chief Leon Panetta at the forum, where both men questioned US President Barack Obama’s response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Gates and Panetta, who both served as US defense secretary under Obama, said they would not have advised Obama to seek Congressional approval for a punitive military strike against Syria in response to an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus that Washington blames on Assad, according to the AP.
But the two men differed on the wisdom of intervention in the civil war, with Gates saying US military action in Syria would be like “throwing gasoline on an extremely complex fire in the Middle East.”
“Haven’t Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya taught us something about the unintended consequences of military action once it’s launched?” Gates asked, The New York Times reported.
Panetta, meanwhile, said Obama should have backed up his words with force and launched military strikes after the White House concluded that Assad had crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons.
“Once the president came to that conclusion, then he should have directed limited action, going after Assad, to make very clear to the world that when we draw a line and we give our word,” then “we back it up,” Panetta said, the Times reported.
Gates was appointed secretary of defense by Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, and remained in his post under Obama, who replaced him in 2011 with Panetta, who was serving as head of the US Central Intelligence Agency.
Gates took issue with Panetta’s position that military force was necessary to enforce Obama’s “red line” on Syria’s chemical weapons.
“I believe to blow a bunch of stuff up over a couple of days to underscore or validate a point or principle is not a strategy,” Gates was quoted by the AP as saying.
Washington and Moscow on Saturday announced an ambitious plan to place Syria’s chemical arsenal under international control for eventual destruction, but the two sides remain at loggerheads over how to enforce the agreement should Damascus fail to comply.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia would soon submit to the United Nations findings indicating that Syrian rebels had used chemical weapons during the conflict.
Gates said at Tuesday’s forum that he doubts whether Putin is sincere in Moscow’s efforts to hammer out a deal with Washington over Syria and that he is skeptical that Assad’s government will disarm, the Times reported.
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- Mikhail1228Mutual distrust01:14, 19/09/2013The primary reason for the distrust is due to the following. American's are used to allies that have no independent foreign policy. In many ways these western European partners are like vassal states of the US. Whatever America wants them to think ,or do, these countries usually comply. Russia has its own independent foreign policy which does not coincide with the foreign policy of the US. Russia has a formidable nuclear deterrent and its powerful military is being rebuilt by President Vladimir Putin. They have no problem telling America "NO" and Vladimir Putin does not give a shit what America thinks. Furthermore Russia and China have the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which has 200 million soldiers in uniform, an organization with the economic and military might to overwhelm NATO and the West in any confrontation.
- bielecThe difference between Gates and Panetta05:09, 19/09/2013Panetta is Israel's boy in Washington's power structure. That explains his position on striking Syria, even if it violates international law. People like Panetta are dangerous and should be kept away from politics.
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Russia has become very adept in playing the diplomatic game, in which victory depends on choosing the right associate or partner. But there are a growing number of claimants to this role in the new horizontal and interdependent world. Aside Syria and Iran, being still important, the new venues for the application of practical diplomacy may well be Ukraine, the East China Sea and Afghanistan.