Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama are pictured on a video screen installed in the press center of the G-20 Summit in Strelna near St. Petersburg, September 5, 2013.
Grigory Dukor / Courtesy Reuters

On Monday, September 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a diplomatic move that seemed to catch the entire international community, not just U.S. President Barack Obama and his team, by surprise. He seized the most dramatic moment possible -- the eve of what was to be a fateful vote in the U.S. Congress on Obama’s decision to launch a targeted strike against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad -- to propose that Syria surrender its chemical weapons to an international commission headed by the United Nations. Assad quickly agreed to the proposal, at least in principle.

By the evening of

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