POLITICS: PennAve

Is Putin powerless, a troubled lawyer or a master chess player?

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Steve Contorno,Barack Obama,Fox News,CNN,Russia,Syria,PennAve,Vladimir Putin,Chemical Weapons

To hear lawmakers talk about Russian President Vladamir Putin, he's either five steps ahead of the United States or scrambling to find an answer to the Syria crisis.

While there's some shared bipartisan optimism about a broad agreement between the U.S. and Russia to destroy Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons, Democrats and Republicans on Sunday were split on Putin's role in the international crisis.

Putin has been credited with bringing Syria to the negotiating table and floating the agreement that allowed the U.S. to back away from military intervention in the war-torn country. Republicans worry Putin's actions come from a desire to make America look bad. On CNN's "State of the Union," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said the U.S. was being "led by the nose by Putin through this horrible morass we call the United Nations."

"That stops us from the higher national security interest which is chemical weapons, yes, also conventional weapons sophistication that is dangerous if it falls into the hands of al Qaeda and Hezbollah," he added.

But Democrats say the Russian leader's hand was forced by the threat of U.S. action and a position of weakness with so much chaos so close to the former Soviet nation.

"Putin was sitting there powerless — this is his big ally in the Middle East — powerless to stop a potential limited U.S. strike," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told "Fox News Sunday." "And the answer is that he helped deliver to the president everything that we wanted."

Scrutiny of Putin has been intensified by his own brash maneuvers in recent days, including an op-ed in the "New York Times" that some equated to a poke in the eye. Republicans have criticized President Obama for losing the upper hand against Putin, but Democrats believe that's giving the Russian president too much credit.

"People have been saying that Putin is this master chess player and describing all kinds of omniscience to our adversaries," said Red. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. "I think Putin is more like a lawyer who's lost control of his client, that should have told Assad some time ago, look, you have the military edge on the battlefield now, don't screw it up by doing something stupid."

"I do believe Putin is playing chess," Rogers replied. "And we’re playing tic-tac-toe."

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