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Source: http://news.yahoo.com/little-sign-progress-obama-putin-speak-231431925--politics.html

While U.S. officials denied those accusations, confirmation of Brennan's visit could provide fodder for Russian officials to create a pretext for further incursions into eastern Ukraine.

What are the authors trying to suggest and what does in this context the word fodder mean?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Fodder is food for animals.

In an idiomatic way, it is used in much the same way here as in the expression food for thought.

The allegations could provide Russian officials with material to create a pretext.

The word fodder usually comes with negative connotations. Although it provides something for them to create that context, it will not provide any real argument with a strong base. They can just "gobble it up" in order to create (new) propaganda. The implication is that Russian officials will use any excuse to suit their needs, even if it does not create a very strong basis for their actions.

Another way fodder is (was?) used was in the expression cannon fodder, to describe soldiers that served as "food for the enemy cannons" - that is, their role on the battle field would consist mostly of being shot to piece by enemy fire.

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Fodder is raw material which can be used to build something. It is not particularly idiomatic when used in this way.

While U.S. officials denied those accusations, confirmation of Brennan's visit could provide fodder for Russian officials to create a pretext for further incursions into eastern Ukraine.

In this context, it means that the Russian officials might see the confirmation of Brennan's visit as a reason to react in a particular manner, to be given the raw materials with which to build a case for something, so to speak.

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'Not particularly idiomatic'. This is a very telling point. Is a dead metaphor no longer a metaphor? I'm not sure I've seen anyone commit to print (before now!) on this issue. Certainly, when dictionaries begin to add definitions of (once?) metaphorical senses for words, without adding a 'metaphorical' tag, one begins to wonder.... – Edwin Ashworth Apr 15 '14 at 7:27
@EdwinAshworth - if fodder means raw materials as opposed to lowish quality food for animals, then is it a metaphor/idiom (dead or alive)? Perhaps it is only understood as food? – medica Apr 15 '14 at 7:31
... Grammar Monster has: 'The term literal meaning denotes that all words are in strict accordance with their original meanings. In other words, to apply the literal meaning is to take the words in their most basic sense without metaphor or exaggeration.' But also on the internet: '... the literal meaning of a word, the 'dictionary definition.' ' [emphasis mine]. Which dictionary definition? Which dictionary? [sounds like a quote from Churchill :-)] – Edwin Ashworth Apr 15 '14 at 7:35
@EdwinAshworth - Hmm. One must build an argument out of something. What are the raw materials of an argument? Is that itself a metaphor? I can see fodder for fuel for an argument as a metaphor. Maybe it really is very telling. I have no objection to it being seen as an idiom or metaphor. – medica Apr 15 '14 at 7:41
The best intro (100+ pages !) to idioms and related devices I've come across is 'Fixed Expressions and Idioms in English ...' by Rosamund Moon. I'm not sure if it's available online. There's [I've used plural there's!] a lot of excellent analysis (eg transparency; invariance), classifications (eg are all proverbs idioms?), and examples, but also a necessary section looking at the academic bunfight over what the terms 'idiom' and 'idiomatic' should actually mean. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 15 '14 at 9:01

It is used in a figurative sense meaning an excuse; using the word fodder, food for animals he is hinting at the fact that the visit could nourish, create a pretext for further incursions.

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+1 for nourish, fuel would do just as well in all aspects of the word 'fodder'. – Frank Apr 15 '14 at 7:08

The word originally means "food for animals", and used in this context it means something like "raw material", with the implication of low quality. Usually, when you see the word used in examples like "Her behavior provided regular fodder for gossip around town", it means that her behavior was the raw material for the gossip.

In this context, what the article is trying to convey is that while the American's claim that the thing that happened doesn't mean anything, the Russians are still going to use it as an argument for further action. In other words, the Russians need arguments on their side, so they use whatever they can find, regardless of whether it has any merit or not.

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