‘Partnership of equals’: Putin sends Independence Day telegram to Obama

© Kevin Lamarque
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent out a personal commemorative message to his American counterpart as the US celebrates Independence Day, urging the two countries to mend ties.

“The history of US-Russian relations proves that when we act as equal partners and respect each other’s legitimate interests, we can solve the most complicated international problems for the benefit of the both nations and humanity as a whole,” wrote Putin in his holiday missive.

“The President said he was sure that the positive experience of the past would help to set the dialogue between Russia and the United States back on a constructive track thus enabling both countries to counter more effectively the threats and challenges facing the international community today,” continued the statement, published by the Kremlin.

Over eight years of Obama’s administration the two leaders have clashed repeatedly over NATO’s missile defense system in Europe, US policy in the Middle East, and most notably, Ukraine. Their awkward handshakes and stilted poses during international summits have been endlessly analyzed by media observers.

But the seemingly innocuous text comes in the context of a potential thaw.

In the past year, the two countries have made a public effort to put an end to the bloody struggle in Syria, despite Moscow endorsing the leadership of President Bashar Assad, and Washington insisting that he must be replaced if the country is to transition to peace.

Following a virtual breakdown of the ceasefire agreed and monitored by the two sides in February, last Monday the White House decided to go all in. A message sent to Russian diplomats proposed closer collaboration between the two countries – both of which have significant military resources in Syria or on its borders – in eliminating Islamic radicals, such as Al-Nusra and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). As a corollary of the countries synchronizing their military strategies, the US is hoping for greater immunity for designated “moderate” rebels, which it says have been bombed by Assad and Russia.

Although Vladimir Putin previously made suggestions that the US and Russia should operate side-by-side in Syria, there has not yet been a public response to the latest proposal.