Disrupt   |  September 14, 2013

Obama welcomes US-Russia deal on Syrian weapons

There was a major breakthrough in the efforts to secure Syria’s chemical weapons as the United States and Russia announced an extensive deal to bring them under international control. NBC’s White House Correspondent Kristen Welker reports on details of the deal and the Obama administration’s role. Then Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., talk with MSNBC’s Karen Finney about why Russia won’t give up on Syria and the role of Congress going forward.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> thanks for disrupting your saturday afternoon. i'm karen finney. two weeks ago we seemed to be on the verge of war. today, a stunning breakthrough. could some of that goodwill rub off on congress? nah.

>> talks reach a major turning point.

>> marathon three days of negotiations.

>> john kerry and sergey lavrov have come to a deal.

>> united states and russia are committed to the elimination of syrian chemical weapons .

>> emerged with a credible threat of military action .

>> only two weeks ago this morning that the u.s. military strike seemed eminent.

>> there can be no games, no room for avoidance or anything less than compliance.

>> we keep the pressure on the assad regime.

>> this is an extraordinary achievement.

>> you don't negotiate with your best friends but your enemies.

>> i want to thank president putin for his willingness to pick up on the possibility of negotiating an end to syrian weapons of mass destruction .

>>> major breakthrough today on efforts to secure sir why's chemical weapons . u.s. and russia announcing a deal to bring them under international control.

>> the principles that the united states and the russian federation have agreed on today can with accountable follow-through allow us to expedite the elimination of syria 's chemical weapons . providing this framework is fully implemented, it can end the threat these weapons pose not only to the syrian people , but also, to their neighbors, to the region, and because of the threat of proliferation, this framework can provide greater protection and security to the world.

>> it's an astounding turn of events. just days ago, the u.s. was posed to launch air strikes on syria opening a new military front in the middle east and now look where we are. a significant diplomatic accord between two rivals and the possibility of a peaceful solution. from here, it goes to the u.n. where the general assembly starts this week and the security council 's expected to be briefed on monday by the secretary-general. all this came together in a scene straight out of a cold war spy novel complete with a poolside meeting and anonymous brunette, although we are told they were drinking coffee, not vodka. as for president obama , we'll hear from him in an interview tomorrow. he's been relatively quiet in the geneva talks seeming to abide by the philosophy, speak softly and carry a big stick . not so for vladimir putin . with the op-ed this week in "new york times," he wants to be the power player asserting mastery over the situation in syria . but you know, if putin wants to take responsibility for syria , that might just work in the united states ' advantage. as andrew sullivan just wrote, you want it, vladimir, be our guest. for the latest from the white house , i'm joined by white house correspondent kristen welker. thank you for joining me.

>> thank you, karen .

>> a lot of developments in a short period of time. what's the latest from the white house ?

>> reporter: a lot of moving parts. president obama saying that he welcomes the deal that was reached earlier today by secretary kerry and the russian counterpart. it is an ambitious time line that they have mapped out for this deal. it requires assad to provide an accounting of his chemical weapons stockpile in a week. and calls for the total destruction of all of assad 's weapons by the middle of next year. here's a little bit of what president obama had to say. he said, quote, while we have made important progress, much more work remains to be done. the united states will continue working with russia , the united kingdom , france, the united nations and others to ensure that this process is verifiable and that there are consequences should the assad regime not comply with the framework agreed today. and if diplomacy fails, the united states remains prepared to act. go ahead, karen .

>> i noticed that, you know, not to be left out of the fun, senator mccain and senator lindsey graham put out a statement, as well, already critiquing this agreement.

>> reporter: right. well, just to give some context to their criticism, which i'll read in just one minute, the united states essentially did give a concession to russia which is that they are acknowledging that a u.n. agreement does not need to include a use of force trigger. as a consequence, if assad doesn't act. you heard those comments by president obama essentially saying that he can act unilaterally. however, mccain and graham say, quote, without a u.n. security council resolution under chapter 7 authority which threatens the use of force for noncompliance, this framework agreement is meaningless and does nothing to resolve the problem in syria , the underlying conflict that killed 110,000 people. driven millions from their homes. destabilize our friends and allies in the region. emboldened iran and the terrorist proxies. they're some of the hawkish members of the republican party and expect for them to say. nonetheless, look, this is a step in what will undoubtedly be a long process. that is for sure. i have been talking to experts in this area saying, look, the real work is the inspectors to go in and remove the chemical weapons . that is a difficult task in any environment. but remember, this will have to take place in the middle of a civil war so that's going to really complicate things and the administration has made it very clear that they expect assad to adhere to this ambitious time line mapped out. karen ?

>> we shall see how it shakes out. thank you.

>> reporter: indeed. thank you.

>>> for reaction from the hill with me now, democratic congresswoman loretta sanchez and rob whitman . thank you both for joining me. i'd lick to start, congressman whitman , with you and get your reaction to the day's developments.

>> i'm glad the diplomatic efforts resulted in an agreement and highly skeptical of the agreement. i think there are lots of things there that cause me pause. i think it's tremendous, tremendously difficult effort to identify, to control and then dispose of all of these chemical weapons in a country with a civil war going on. we haven't defined the sites to be looked at or inspected and what would happen if it doesn't come about. will assad let them happen? it's extraordinarily difficult and then there's a timeline, a deadline of the middle of 2014 . i want things to diplomatically and i'm highly skeptical because of the thing that is are a severe challenge.

>> you're skeptical but are you optimistic? you did vote against authorizing the -- you have been against the use of force by the president so this is a good first step, no?

>> it is. absolutely. diplomatic efforts are where we need to be and make sure they're verifiable and put the pressure on all the parties involved, specifically syria to make sure it gets done and not in favor of a military effort here. i'm hopeful it works and i know that we have to put tremendous amount of focus and pressure to make sure it gets done and verifiable and assure that none of these chemical weapons are under the control either of bashar al assad or the rebels in the area, too. that's a concern that they might fall in their hands or forces that are completely friendly to the assad regime. congresswoman?

>> i would like to say with almost everything my colleague said, i would agree. he voices a real concern, a real concern many lawmakers and colleagues will have on capitol hill . i am ecstatic that the united states wants to be just not a leader in war, but a leader in diplomacy. and so i -- i and i believe many of my colleagues and i hope my colleague you heard from will work hard to put pressure on, to continue to assure that syria and assad do eliminate these weapons. it's a very big task. and i would also say to mr. putin , we need your help. you want to be at the top of your game. you want to be recognized by the world. you will get that recognition if you help us to do this and this is a very important step for all of these countries involved and for the world to get it done correctly.

>> congressman whitman , the president and the administration have vigorously pursued the diplomatic path and we all would agree it's ambitious, complicated. but they're pursuing it. if for some reason the efforts fail and the president had to come back to you and again ask for the authorization for the use of force , given that the diplomatic efforts have been pursued, would you in that case allow the -- vote in favor for the president?

>> i would still have reservations about using --

>> go ahead, congressman whitman .

>> i would still be opposed to the use of military force . i think if the u.n. security council and the u.n. itself can't bring it to fruition and can't verify it happens, i think there are other opportunities out there for us to engage nato and other partners in the world to bring different elements of pressure upon syria to make sure that these weapons get out of circulation and not used against the syrian people and not in the hands of those folks to use them. i want to make sure to do this and without getting in to a conflict in the middle east . i believe a military action against syria has a potential to turn in to a massive and dirty mission. i don't believe that's where we need to be as a nation and i don't believe it's in the best strategic interest.

>> congresswoman sanchez, obviously putin has taken quite a role here. we know that this is not -- that russia doesn't have -- they're not just doing out of the goodness of their hearts despite what you might have read in the op-ed. i mean, russia has very specific interests with regard to syria in terms of their naval installation, in terms of this being a key military alliance . they see it as a key point of leverage. i mean, this is a -- to some degree, this is kind of remnants of the cold war era . so i mean, it seems to me that, you know, to some degree we do have to be cautious with regard to russia , particularly when we talk about going back to the u.n. security council given that we know that the russiaens have been the ones all along threatening to block many efforts to this point.

>> well, again, i do a lot of work because of the military committee that i sit on. a lot of work with russia . there are so many treaties, so many other issues, nonprolive nation, nuclear war , et cetera that we work on together. sometimes it's very difficult in whatever time period that we're trying to get that done but we have had successes like with the new start treaty , et cetera . so i'm not willing to say that, you know, because we have had our differences in the past somehow putin -- mr. putin cannot get this done. this is a big thing to get done. and he will have to put his should tore the wheel and help us to get this done. there's no doubt and i think that the world is watching to see if, in fact, he can do that. that he should have other breasts in syria , well that's -- just happens to be the case and the facts. but without trying, at least, to eliminate these weapons, which is the criteria that the president said, the thing he said is that these weapons are dangerous, that they're used nondiscriminately and so we have to go after these weapons if this is the best way that we can, we can do it without firing a missile, i think that's a good thing.

>> well, we shall see with regard to mr. putin , as andrew sullivan wrote recently, he owns this process. let's let him have it. thank you, congresswoman and congressman.

>> thank you, karen .

>> thank you.

>>> next, how will the framework agreed upon today actually work? that's coming up next.

>> if the u.n. cannot look at this and say, you know what? when you're gassing people in your own suburbs --

>> right.

>> and we still don't vote to go in, what is the point of that big building in new york? why don't we just turn that in to a disco? because