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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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September 12th, 2013
06:00 PM ET

Analysis: The politics of Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin's op-ed in The New York Times was a limited strike, a shot across the bow designed to send a stern message.

"It is clear that President Putin has invested his credibility in transferring Assad's chemical weapons to international control, and ultimately destroying them," Press Secretary Jay Carney said at Thursday's press briefing.

But Putin doesn't care about his credibility, said Max Fisher, foreign affairs blogger for The Washington Post.

"He's not running for the Senate here. What he's trying to do is put his thumb on the domestic American debate over whether to strike Syria," said Fisher.

"The CIA arming the rebels, Putin's op-ed, it is all about this chess match between these two great powers over the future of this country," said Fisher. "The U.S. wants to see the chemical weapons pulled out. Russia wants the status quo. Everything they're doing is about trying to achieve that position."

A senior White House official told CNN that this diplomatic proposal of its chemical weapons is now on Putin. They are trying to stake Putin's credibility on it, not Obama's.

"It's pretty audacious for Putin to be lecturing our people about the president, you know, 80% of people oppose the military strikes and for good reason. Because our president doesn't have a good military objective or strategy that he's articulated to the American people," said Rebeccah Heinrichs, fellow at the Heritage Foundation. "We are already against it so we don't need lectures from Vladimir Putin."

Matt Miller, fellow at the Center for American Progress and NPR host, said Putin could theoretically get a nod from the Nobel community, should the proposal to disarm Syria.

"If you read that op-ed, it's actually - if Obama were still running for re-election in 2016, Putin would be outflanking him to his left, as kind of the peacenik candidate against the warmonger Obama," said Miller.

"You could argue that Putin, if he pulls off this Syrian thing, will have done more to deserve a Peace Prize than Obama did when he got the first one just by taking office," said Miller.

"What Obama wants is for Assad to step down voluntarily as part of a negotiated peace deal with the rebels that would also leave elements of Assad's government intact," Fisher wrote in a column Thursday.

The president did not lay out his objectives as clearly during his speech Tuesday night.

"The reason that he's not talking about that is that it's actually totally separate from what he's trying to do with the chemical weapons. If he takes chemical weapons out, Assad's still there, that does nothing to solve the war," said Fisher.

Fixing the problem of Syria "is actually not on the table with getting rid of chemical weapons," said Fisher. "Upholding international norms is really important, but it's rough to sell to people," said Fisher.

Heinrichs said Americans are confused by the argument for why military strikes against Syria are necessary, and Obama's speech did not help matters.

"The speech was muddled and confusing and it wasn't clear. That's because in the president's own mind it's muddled and confusing and isn't really clear about what these military objectives are meant to achieve," said Heinrichs.

Russia's proposal was a "curveball," said Heinrichs, but it is also a "great out for president Obama."

"But it's not really an out, ultimately," said Miller in response.

"I don't know anyone serious who thinks that you can dismantle chemical weapons in the middle of a civil war and even then, you've still got Assad there having killed 100,000 people. So I don't know what we're
doing," said Miller.


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