Russian diplomats may want to present their case against U.S. military involvement in Syria to top U.S. congressmen, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is not having it.
Boehner refused a request for a meeting with Russian diplomats who hope to influence the decision of U.S. lawmakers on the Syrian issue, CNN reported Wednesday night. “The Speaker has declined the Russian Embassy’s request that he meet with a delegation,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told CNN.
Boehner has agreed to back President Obama’s “call for action” on Syria, which may have influenced his decision to decline. While he won’t work with Russia to actively undermine the president, however, he isn’t exactly sticking his neck out to help him either. Despite Boehner’s personal support, he’s made no effort to whip up votes among his party colleagues.
While Boehner’s support may influence the House, the Russian lobbying effort will likely have no effect. “I don’t think a delegation from Russia will make any difference in terms of congressional votes,” Dick Lugar, former head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN. “At this particular point, my understanding has been that relations between members of Congress and the Russian parliament have been very sour,” he added.
Recent statements by Russian president Vladimir Putin may have added to the “sourness” of the relationship. In a council meeting on Wednesday, Putin suggested the majority of Syrian rebels are al-Qaeda affiliated, and that this was misrepresented by Secretary of State John Kerry. “(He) lies openly, and he knows that he lies,” Putin said about Kerry. “This is sad.”
Nevertheless, Russia has not given up on lobbying Congress. “We’re planning the visit,” a Russian embassy spokesman told CNN. “We can’t tell you the exact time, but it will be next week.”
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