Flexibility Transmitted

• June 14, 2012 9:45 am


The Obama administration may be displaying its flexibility earlier than expected.

Despite revelations that Russia is arming Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad while he massacres civilians and protesters, Obama is pushing Congress to establish trade relations with Russia to help improve the struggling U.S. economy.

The Obama administration and business groups say U.S. exporters will suffer unless Congress passes legislation to establish normal trade ties with Russia when it joins the World Trade Organization (WTO) this summer.

Lawmakers who were wary of losing one of their few levers of influence over Russia had vowed to link the trade deal with legislation penalizing Russian human-rights violators with travel and financial restrictions. But now, in the wake of the arms shipments to Syria, even that might not be enough to win their support. …

"In light of Russia’s policy in Syria, the Obama administration’s string of concessions to Moscow must stop, including the latest effort to … give Russia preferential trade benefits," [House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)] said in statement after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first raised the helicopter allegations on Tuesday.

The discovery of the Syrian arms deals comes as Obama is set to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to discuss trade.

Assad has ordered the killing of more than 14,000 Syrian dissidents and civilians since protests against his regime began in 2011.