- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2013

John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, weighed in on Tuesday morning on the obviously uncomfortable get-together of President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, characterizing the attempt to find common ground on Syria a pure waste of time.

And photographers captured the tension in a picture of the two leaders looking anything but happy — an image that tells tall tales about the behind-scene tensions that marked the Monday meeting, Mr. Bolton said on Fox News.

In diplomatic-speak, that photo shows that “in private, they had a full and frank exchange, meaning they essentially told each other to take a hike,” Mr. Bolton said. That exchange included Mr. Putin’s reiterating that Russia does not agree with the U.S. and Western belief that Syria unleashed chemical weapons on the rebel fighters, or that President Bashar Assad should be ousted, various media reported.

But Mr. Putin’s statements “should not have been a surprise to Obama,” Mr. Bolton said. For more than two years, Mr. Putin steadfastly has said Russia holds a different view of the Syrian situation than the United States or Britain. So, Mr. Bolton said on Fox News, why should his most recent statements — yet another repeat of the different interests Russia holds in Syria — come as a shock?

“I think it’s an embarrassment for [Mr. Obama],” Mr. Bolton said, because it highlights just how much the White House has “based policy on fundamental misperception. It’s not a surprise that the policy doesn’t produce any results.”

Mr. Bolton also said on the Fox News segment that the Obama administration’s “policy on Syria was badly out of whack” because it waffles — a “little bit this way, a little bit that way.” And the waffling is due to Mr. Obama’s reluctance to address key aggravating factors in the Syrian conflict, such as Iran’s influence, he said.

“But Putin’s adamant support for Assad,” Mr. Bolton said on Fox News, “all of this is entirely predictable.”

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