The Cable

Obama congratulates Putin for election "win"

The Russian people and international observers may not see last Sunday's presidential election in Russia as legitimate, but President Barack Obama has now officially endorsed the return of Russian past and future President Vladimir Putin.

"President Obama called Russian President-elect and Prime Minister Putin to congratulate him on his recent victory in the Russian Presidential election," the White House said in a late Friday afternoon statement (read: news dump) about the Friday morning phone call between the two leaders. 

"President Obama highlighted achievements in U.S.-Russia relations over the past three years with President Medvedev, including cooperation on Afghanistan, the conclusion and ratification of the START agreement, Russia's recent invitation to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and cooperation on Iran," the statement read. "President Obama and President-Elect Putin agreed that the successful reset in relations should be built upon during the coming years."

Obama told Putin he looked forward to Putin's May visit to Camp David for the G-8 summit and the two talked about how they could benefit economically from Russia's joining the WTO, the statement explained.

That could be a reference to administration efforts to get Congress to repeal the 1974 Jackson-Vanik law that prevents the U.S. from giving Russia permanent normal trade status. Some in Congress are resisting that because of Russia's deteriorating record on democracy, rule of law, and human rights.

At the end of the statement, the White House mentioned the crisis in Syria, in which the Russian government is arming the brutal regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"President Obama and President-Elect Putin agreed to continue discussions on areas where the United States and Russia have differed, including Syria and missile defense," the statement read. "President Obama and President-Elect Putin agreed to continue their efforts to find common ground and remove obstacles to better relations."

The State Department, in their May 5 statement on the election, noted the concerns of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe about the election, including that it wasn't a level playing field to begin with, that government resources were used partisan purposes, and that there were procedural irregularities on the day of the election.

"We urge Russian authorities to build on these steps to ensure that the procedures for future elections will be more transparent," the State Department said. The White House statement made no mention of the problems with the election.

After Russia's Dec. 2011 parlaimentary elections, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called them "neither free nor fair." When Russian protesters took to the streets to protest those elections and Putin's return to the presidency, Putin publicly accused Clinton of inciting the protests.


The Cable

State Department (website) recognizes new Libyan government

Following our Thursday report that the State Department website still had Muammar al-Qaddafi listed as the ruler of Libya, today the crack web team in Foggy Bottom updated its site to reflect that the Libyan revolution did in fact succeed.

The new note updates the name of the country from the "Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" to "Libya," noted the date of the revolution as Feb. 17, 2011, displays the flag of the new Libya, and recognizes Libya's interim Transitional National Council as the official government. Interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib is in Washington this week and met with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Drawing from the local opposition councils which formed the backbone of the "February 17" revolution, the Libyan opposition announced the formation of a Transitional National Council (TNC) on February 27, 2011. The Council stated its desire to remove Qadhafi from power and establish a unified, democratic, and free Libya that respects universal human rights principles," the website now reads. "On October 23, 2011, 3 days after Qadhafi's death, the TNC officially declared Libya liberated."

Now that's what we call change you can believe in!

At an event Friday morning at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Keib spoke about the sacrifices of the Libyan people during their struggle against the Qaddafi regime and the atrocities that Qaddafi's forces committed during the revolution.

"I am not sure if I should say this, but you need to know that many of our young men and women were raped, and for others, reproductive organs were literally cut off," he said. "As the revolution was entering its second month, things were looking painfully grim, and we all held our breath. But courage, resolve and the decisive point of no return was reached, and this turned events around. You, the international community, chose not to sit quiet and watch as we were being massacred."

He also defended his government's handling of the transition period, which has faced criticism due to the failure to reign in militias, the lag in restoring government services in Tripoli, and the slow progress of rebuilding the Libyan economic sector.

"There are some who chose to dwell today on our challenges, on our differences and on our mistakes. I have no problem with that. But I believe that in so doing, they lack both perspective and an understanding of history and of the human spirit in Libya," said Keib. "And we have all the institutions of the state to rebuild from scratch, a huge challenge but a truly exciting one."

He also defended the new Libyan law that reintroduces polygamy as an acceptable practice.

"How many of us have a wife and more than one without being wife? You know, many of us, unfortunately, do that," he said. "But in Libya, I guarantee you, this is not going to be something of a problem, and I don't think this is something that people want to do. I don't know how it came out, but don't worry about it, OK? It's not going to be a problem. I guarantee you this."