What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

U.S., Russia offer little give on Islamic State strategy

President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin laid out starkly different visions of Syria's future at the United Nations. Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner joins Judy Woodruff from the United Nations to discuss the disagreement between the two leaders, as well as the news that Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria will share intelligence on the Islamic State.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And Margaret Warner joins me now.

    So, Margaret, how far apart are these two powerful leaders in how they approach the world?

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Well, I think quite different, Judy, even though if you just arrived from Mars and you read their speeches, you would think both were talking about having a very orderly and cooperative world.

    But not only as you heard in the speeches did they have very different views of Ukraine and Syria, how we got to the point where we are in both countries, but, you know, what the solutions are. The difference was that President Obama talked a lot about how a strong nation is actually forced to do diplomacy abroad, and, at home, its citizens to its freedoms — or accepts the facts that its citizens have freedoms, and it's a weak leader and a weak country that asserts itself abroad sort of unilaterally and represses dissent at home.

    It was an obvious dig at Putin. And he said, in the end, that is a recipe for essentially a disorderly world. Now, Putin didn't talk at all of course about human rights or any sort of broad topics like that. He also talked about wanting to cooperate, but he just didn't, I would say, try to offer an alternative vision, other than vague statements about cooperation.

    And, in fact, they clearly, in their actions, are dealing very differently with almost every conflict you see around the world.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, we know, as you just mentioned, Putin's — has forces. He's beefing up his forces in Syria. But in addition, we now know the Russians have arranged this intelligence gathering arrangement with Iran and with Assad in Syria. What is the U.S. saying about that?

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Well, they're very concerned.

    And the other player in this, by the way, Judy, is Iraq. So, those four countries are going to share intelligence on ISIS. And when this first came out yesterday, the United States was completely blindsided. They had no idea. No one alerted them. So, it was clearly — it's like Putin and the rest of them are trying to set up a rival sort of anti-ISIS coalition.

    And what worries the United States is, it adds to the U.S. worries, which is, what is Putin really up to? In other words, has he sent forces to Syria to fight ISIS, or is it really to prop up Assad and help Assad wipe out all internal opposition, whether they're terrorists or not?

    So this just adds to the sort of basket of worries that the United States has about the situation in Syria. Now, others would argue of course that President Obama declined to get very involved in Syria, and Russia has stepped into a void, essentially, a sort of external leadership. Wherever you come down on that argument, the U.S. is very, very concerned.

    Now, to us, members of the administration said, oh, well. One said to me very low-level intelligence officers. And another side, oh, Iraq is a sovereign country. They can do whatever they want, even though the U.S. is in there really trying to save Iraq's bacon, retraining its military, giving them air support in their attacks on ISIS.

    But, I mean, those ring a little hollow. I mean, the United Kingdom as an ally wouldn't do something like this without telling Washington, for example. So, Iraq may be a sovereign country, but I think that's what stunned them the most, the U.S. officials, that Iraq is part of this.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Margaret, given all this, what were the expectations going into this meeting between President Obama and Putin? We assume it's still going on.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Yes.

    And, apparently I mean, I wasn't there, and just a couple of reporters and photographers. They have a stony handshake. The expectations were low, very low on the U.S. part, because meetings between Secretary Kerry and Prime Minister Lavrov had not yielded — including here in New York — had not yielded any greater insight into what the Russians are up to.

    When they use words like frank, you know what that means. And nor have there been any really private assurances. And then, of course, there was no sense of give, except that President Obama said in his speech today, we are willing to work with Russia and Iran.

    So, in that sense, you have seen the U.S. move a little — you know, open the door, that they would like to have Russia part of this anti-ISIS coalition. But their expectations were quite low going into it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, a lot to watch, Margaret Warner, who will be in New York the rest of the week following the goings-on at the U.N. Thank you.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Thank you, Judy.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest