Obama officials are talking to Putin more than ever
But do they have anything to show from their stepped-up dialogue?
An Obama administration debate about whether to engage Vladimir Putin or treat him like a pariah has tilted in the engagement camp’s favor—even as critics and some officials worry that it’s become too easy for the Russian president to get a stature-enhancing meeting with U.S. leaders.Will anything good come of it? Who knows. Something may come of it, or it may all come to nothing. Time will tell.
When Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Moscow on Tuesday for a planned sit-down with Putin, it will be his second visit to see the Russian leader since May. It also follows three face-to-face encounters between Putin and President Barack Obama since late September. Some critics of engagement fear that Putin has, in effect, used his military intervention in Syria to win a seat at the diplomatic table, while others doubt that the increased dialogue is achieving anything.
“The skeptics are still skeptical,” said Evelyn Farkas, who departed as the Pentagon’s top official for Russia and Ukraine this fall and pushed for a generally harder line on Moscow than the White House has adopted. “You don't have any results yet for the engagement people.”
For now, sources say, Obama and Kerry in particular believe the costs of interacting with Putin are relatively low and that discussion—whose tone a senior administration official described as “not warm but not hostile,” and “businesslike”—is more likely than a freeze-out to yield progress on disputes over a peace deal for Syria and Russian aggression in Ukraine. [...]