A deal on Syria’s chemical weapons is far from done.
U.S. officials are cautiously optimistic about a Russian proposal mandating Syria turn its chemical weapons stockpiles over to international control as a way of avoiding a U.S. military strike—but the White House and the Kremlin are still at odds over major sticking points.
Syria has agreed to the Russian plan. But Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the plan to disarm will only work if the U.S. takes the possibility of military strikes completely off the table.
“Certainly, this is all reasonable, it will function and will work out, only if the US and those who support it on this issue pledge to renounce the use of force, because it is difficult to make any country—Syria or any other country in the world—to unilaterally disarm if there is military action against it under consideration,” Putin told RT.
Meanwhile, President Obama wants to make clear that military force may still be necessary and will stress that point during his major prime time address on Tuesday night, a senior administration official told NBC News.
Obama is expected to also argue that stopping Assad from using chemical weapons—like he allegedly did in the Aug. 21 killing of at least 1,400 people—is in the national security interest of the United States. The commander-in-chief will also say he is pursuing the diplomatic option Russia has put forth.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday afternoon. In a Google Hangout session, Kerry said he hoped the Assad regime would “live up to what they said they would do,” but stressed the U.S. would not wait long.
Kerry also said he wanted the Russian proposal to be backed by the United Nations Security Council and that he had not yet even seen a specific plan.
Lavrov “is sending those to us. They’ll be coming in formally in the course of the day. We’ll have an opportunity to review them, and as the president has said, if we can, in fact secure all of the chemical weapons in Syria through this method, clearly, that’s by far, the most preferable.”
But nothing is a sure-fire bet.
Kerry added, “We need a full resolution from the Security Council in order to have the confidence that this has the force that it ought to have. That’s our belief. And obviously, right now the Russians are in a slightly different place on that. We’ll have to see where we get to.”
It’s not likely to help that the United Nations Security Council, of which both the U.S. and Russia are members, was expected to hold a meeting at 4 p.m. to discuss the proposal. But the meeting was cancelled after Russian authorities—who called for the meeting in the first place—withdrew their request.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday night that he would delay the Senate’s increasingly unpopular test vote to greenlight the military strikes.