As a one time practitioner of diplomacy I admire masters of the craft.  The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is a master diplomat. In fact he is so good I would compare him to Paganini (the greatest violinist) playing a Stradivarius (the greatest violin maker).   Just when President Obama is drowning in his self inflicted “red line” dilemma along comes Lavrov to bail him out with a brilliant display of diplomatic maneuvering. 

Of course I speak of the proposal for the Syrians to transfer all their stocks of chemical weapons to international authority.  Lavrov did it by first leading the Obama team to narrow the mission of our missile attacks to only hit military installations related to chemical weapons and not other targets.  As Obama put it we only seek to “degrade” the Syrian regime’s chemical weapon capacity.  Lavrov did this by veiled threats of retaliation by the Syrians and perhaps the Russians themselves. 

After narrowly defining the mission to just take “weapons of mass destruction” he waited for Secretary of State Kerry to goof by stating at a public debate in reply to a question of what could the Syrians do to avoid the planned US missile strikes that they could avoid the strikes if they gave up all their chemical weapons. 

Lavrov responded in a matter of hours with a proposal to have the Syrians turnover their chemical weapons to international control and the Syrians immediately accepted.  This took the wind out of Kerry and Obama’s sails since they had narrowed the mission to removing the chemical weapons and with these placed under international control there was no more reason for the missile strikes or, more importantly, have the US Congress vote on taking military action.  

The speed with which the Russians made the proposal and the Syrians accepted, in a matter of hours, suggests that the plan was already in place and only needed to have the US step into the trap. 

The brilliance of the maneuver is that Lavrov has proposed a “diplomatic” solution for the removal of the weapons that avoids using military power and, more importantly for the Russians, leaves their ally, Syrian President Assad, to stay in power.  Lavrov will be applauded by all sides, the true test of diplomatic success. 

Oh, I believe Obama owes Lavrov a big thanks for getting him out of a real political bind.