Washington: President Barack Obama this week plans to urge reluctant world leaders to back an American-led strike against Syria as he attends a global summit in Russia and makes a stop in Sweden. His three-day overseas trip comes as his administration seeks the support for military action of a divided US Congress.
Obama`s presence at the Group of 20 gathering in Russia highlights his tense relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"It`s been like watching a slow-moving train wreck for nearly two years," Andrew Kuchins, a Russia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said of the Obama-Putin relationship. "Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama don`t like each other at all. I think there`s a deep degree of disrespect."
That`s not Obama`s only headache.
His surprise announcement over the weekend that he would seek congressional authorisation for a military strike against Syria may have stoked doubts among world leaders about his willingness to make good on his threats to rogue nations.
His administration argues that the strike is needed in response to what it says was a deadly chemical weapons attack last month.
Before a White House meeting today with lawmakers whose votes he will need, Obama said he is confident he will be able to work with Congress to pass a resolution authorising the strike on Syria.
Obama indicated that he`s open to changes to his request for congressional authorisation, which he said must send a clear message to Assad and hamper his ability to use chemical weapons.
While Syria is not officially on the agenda at the economy-focused G-20 summit, Obama administration officials say the president sees the gathering as an opportunity to press his counterparts to support military action against the Assad regime.
World leaders also will seek guidance from the US president about whether he plans to proceed with a strike if Congress rejects his proposed resolution, a question Obama`s aides have refused to answer.
Obama spoke about Syria ahead of the meeting by telephone last night with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the White House said today. A White House statement said Obama and Abe pledged to consult on a possible international response.
Votes in the House and the Senate are expected next week, just after Obama wraps up his trip.