Russian lawmakers formalized their plans to lobby the U.S. Congress on Syria by sending an official request to meet with House and Senate leadership on Wednesday. That's according to a CNN report, which seems to follow up on earlier speculation that Russia would send a delegation to the Capitol. They'll arrive some time "next week." It's not clear whether the delegation would arrive before Monday, when the House and Senate are expected to debate a bill that would authorize military force against Syria.
In any case, Speaker of the House John Boehner has already RSVP'd "no" to Russia's invitation. “The Speaker has declined the Russian embassy’s request that he meet with a delegation," a Boehner spokesperson told CNN.
Russian president Vladimir Putin suggested a plan to directly lobby Congress was in the works on Monday, after meeting with Valentina Matvienko and Sergei Naryshkin, speakers for the upper and lower houses of Russian parliament. They apparently proposed the idea to Putin, arguing that they could work U.S. lawmakers towards a more "balanced" stance on Syria. But given Russia's high-profile, adamant support for the Syrian regime, the Associated Press notes that any planned trip would be more of a publicity stunt than anything. According to CNN, their delegation would include members of both Russian houses, and would target both parties of the U.S. Congress. Putin said earlier on Wednesday that he did not believe the U.S. Congress had the authority to authorize a Syria strike: only the U.N. could approve such a response. Russia holds a veto power on the U.N. Security Council, which it's more or less used to block any substantive resolutions that would lead the U.N. to intervene in some way.
While John Kerry may have dodged many opportunities over the past week to insult Russia in public, American lawmakers haven't been quite as, well, diplomatic. Senator Ed Markey, who voted "present" on today's Senate Foreign Relations Committee proposal for authorizing a military strike in Syria, said that "Syria is a proxy state of Russia," during Tuesday's hearing. Senator Tim Kaine called Russia a "pariah state" because of it's support for Syria's chemical weapons use. And even though there's far from a consensus among lawmakers on Syrian intervention, it's doubtful that they'd be swayed by arguments coming from Russia.
But Russia's ability to impress and win over American lawmakers hasn't been all misses. Earlier this summer, a group of GOP lawmakers from the House visited the country on a fact-finding mission related to the Boston Bombings. In the gentle hands of their tour guide, Steven Seagal, Reps Michele Bachmann, Dana Rohrabacher, and. Steve King left with reportedly good impressions of the country, bonding with Russian officials over the "threat" of extremist Islam, and of their mutual distaste for Pussy Riot. But Steven Seagal probably isn't one of the lobbyists Russia plans to send to Congress. And unlike the GOP's earlier trip to Russia, all eyes will be focused on the Syria vote, presumed to happen early next week.
Reprinted with permission from the Atlantic Wire. The original story can be found here.