White House on Biden-Putin Call: Cyber Talks This Week; Syria Compromise with Russia
July 10, 2021 (EIRNS)—The White House gave a background briefing to media yesterday with a “senior administration official” describing the call between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, and the unanimous vote in the UN Security Council extending the authorization of cross-border humanitarian aid for Syria through Turkey into Idlib Province, which for the first time included a condition negotiated by Russia to move towards giving the Damascus government control over distribution of aid throughout the country.
The briefer said there were two topics (although a four-hour call certainly included other topics as well), cybersecurity and Syria. On cyber, he had no more to say than Biden had told the press, as reported above.
On Syria, the briefing became contentious. The senior official said:
“First, Syria—which I really want to underscore because I think it deserves some attention.
“The leaders commended the work of their respective teams following the U.S.-Russia summit that led to today’s unanimous renewal of cross-border humanitarian assistance to Syria in the UN Security Council. And I genuinely encourage you to reach out to NGOs and other humanitarian organizations about the impact of this.
“For months, we’ve been concerned about the likelihood, if not a near certainty, of a Russian veto of the UN Security Council resolution that allows for humanitarian assistance to be provided across the Syrian border from Turkey. And it is our strong sense that only leader-level engagement along the lines that took place at the summit in Geneva would have gotten this extension done and this access secured at a time of severe humanitarian distress and need in Syria. So, we think that’s quite a consequential action and a genuine impact of the President’s personal engagement and of the summit.”
The media hounds pounced at the idea that the Security Council resolution was a compromise with the dreaded evil empire of Russia. The first question:
“On Syria, you mentioned we should call NGO groups, and we have. And they say that this isn’t good enough.... Human Rights Watch said that Russia successfully blackmailed the international community. Amnesty [International] said Russia continues to play games with the lives and welfare of millions of people. So how do you paint this as a success if these groups are saying it’s not?”
The senior official stood his ground, although avoiding any comment on the joint cooperation with Russia:
“So, first of all, this was a 15-0 vote in the Security Council, broadly, strongly believed by the United States and our closest allies that this was a big step forward on the humanitarian front. And the groups that we’ve been in touch with have a different impression from the ones that you’ve just quoted.... I mean, for our purposes, what we were concerned about was the continued, sustained, and ideally enhanced flow of humanitarian assistance into all parts of Syria, and we think that’s what this has accomplished.”
Note that this is the first time the U.S. showed any concern for aid to “all parts of Syria,” formerly only referring to the areas under U.S. or Turkish control, while actually preventing any aid from going through the real government in Damascus.