Our Nobel Peace Prize laureate and President was apparently unable to put aside personal animosity toward the Russian President at the G-20 meeting in China to achieve a breakthrough negotiating a comprehensive cease fire in the Syrian civil war. [photos] That five year conflict, in which the two powers are backing opposing belligerents, has killed upwards of 500,000 Syrians. There appears to be no end in sight. Obama cited "gaps of trust" for his inability to make a deal with the Russian leader. Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov have been negotiating an agreement for weeks without progress. The US is resisting military cooperation with the Russians for a joint effort against Islamist extremists operating in Syria. The US backs rebels attempting to overthrow the regime of Bashad al-Assad. The war has become a confused, three-sided conflict endlessly complicated by superpower politics and sectarian rivalries.
To make matters worse, US security experts are blaming the Russians for attempted hacks of Democratic National Committee databases, something President Putin denies. The level of official paranoia not seen since the Cold War allegedly ended is increasing despite Russian denials, as national intelligence agencies intend to probe claimed Russian influence in the US election. Mr. Putin has accused the United States of much the same thing in the past, especially in Ukrainian elections and subsequent coup in that country which led to Russia's annexation of the Crimea. Nevertheless, Mr. Putin made an optimistic statement on Monday that an agreement with the US to reduce the mounting Syrian death toll could be reached shortly. For his part, Obama moves on for a visit to Laos, the scene of one of the most egregious American war crimes of the 20th century: "Operation Steel Tiger", the secret bombing of Laos.