Syria: Putin Acts, Obama Goes to Ground
We had another example last week.
On Friday 4th March 2016 Putin had a telephone conference with the leaders of the European powers: Merkel of Germany, Hollande of France, Cameron of Britain and Renzi of Italy.
The subject of the telephone conference was Syria and the Syrian truce deal.
This is the same group of leaders Obama spoke to in a video conference on 23rd February 2016.
That means that Putin has now spoken to both the Arab leaders on 24th February 2016 and to the European leaders on 4th March 2016.
Moreover he has spoken to one European leader who was not included in Obama’s video conference.
This is Renzi of Italy, who has been getting increasingly critical of the way in which he feels he is being cut out of the big decisions by Merkel.
The initiative to include Renzi in the telephone conference apparently came from the Europeans. The fact however remains that Putin included him in the discussions whilst Obama did not.
Obama has not completely vanished from the scene. For example he recently met in the White House with the King of Jordan. However it is impossible to avoid the impression that he is becoming increasingly disengaged - limiting his contacts with foreign leaders and failing to meet his top military and security advisers.
This contrasts with Putin who looks fully on top of the situation and confidently in control, speaking to all the key foreign leaders - with the important exception of President Erdogan of Turkey - and meeting regularly with his Security Council.
The fact that the European leaders after talking to Obama still felt they had to speak to Putin in itself shows who holds the initiative in this conflict.