Putin warns Americans against Syria intervention

Russian president blasts US exceptionalism in op-ed, urges action only through the United Nations to preserve international order

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives an interview earlier this month, ahead of the G-20 conference (photo credit: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives an interview earlier this month, ahead of the G-20 conference (photo credit: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

In an op-ed published Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin bypassed the Obama administration and made his case against military intervention in Syria directly to the American people.

In the New York Times piece, which seemed calibrated to address American fears regarding a new military entanglement, Putin offered a string of warnings.

A potential strike by the US against the Bashar Assad regime would create more victims and could spread the conflict beyond Syria as well as “unleash a new wave of terrorism,” wrote the Russian leader.

“It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa.”

He said that a US strike, without the unanimous consent of the UN Security Council, “could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”

Putin repeated his contention that there is every reason to believe that Syrian rebels, not Assad’s government, were responsible for a poison gas attack on a Damascus suburb in August that, Washington says, killed 1,429 people. Opposition forces may have perpetrated the attacks “to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons,” he said.

Putin claimed reports that “militants” were preparing another attack, this time against Israel, cannot be ignored.

He went on to blast what he called “alarming” American intervention in the internal conflicts of other countries:

“Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us.'”

With respect to the American exceptionalism he noted in US President Barack Obama’s speech on Syria Tuesday, Putin warned, “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.” He added, “There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Key international players were moving on two diplomatic fronts Wednesday to try to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, and a fresh effort appeared to be underway to get the government and opposition to peace talks.

The five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, who have been deeply divided over Syria, met late Wednesday to discuss what to include in a new resolution requiring that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile be secured and dismantled. They later left Russia’s UN mission without commenting.

At the same time, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were heading to Geneva with teams of experts for broader-ranging talks Thursday about the nuts and bolts of putting Syria’s chemical weapons under international control and destroying them, diplomats said.

The diplomatic flurry follows the threat of US strikes against the Assad regime and a surprise offer from Kerry that Syria could avert US military action by turning over “every single bit of his chemical weapons” to international control within a week. Russia, Syria’s most important ally, and Assad’s government quickly agreed on the broad proposal, but details still need to be worked out.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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