Russia Sends Request to Meet With U.S. Lawmakers over Syria

Abby Ohlheiser, The Atlantic Wire
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Abby Ohlheiser, The Atlantic Wire
Sept. 5, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

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.

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