Was Putin Supporting Obama on the Shutdown or Trolling Him?

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Oct. 7 2013 4:16 PM

Is the Shutdown Making Democracy Look Bad?

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) listens to US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) shortly before a family photo ahead of the gala dinner hosted for the leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013.

Photo by mast irham/AFP/Getty Images

Asked about President Obama’s absence from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali today, Vladimir Putin of Russia expressed his sympathy:

Putin told a CEO conference Monday on the summit’s sidelines, “If I were him I would not have come as well. Any leader of a state would have done the same.”

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Of course, Putin would never be in this situation, partially because this is a uniquely American form of dysfunction, but mostly because the Russian legislature is controlled by his allies and the government periodically takes steps to make sure it stays that way.

Writing in the National Interest, Paul Pillar goes as far as to make the case that the shutdown will undermine the case for liberal democracy around the world. That probably goes a bit far, but when the secretary of state, filling in for the president, is reassuring allies at a major international forum where the heads of state of nearly every other participating country including China and Russia are present, that the United States “will move beyond this, and we will move beyond it with strength and determination," it’s clear we’re not at a high point for American soft power. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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