Putin takes case for caution in Syria to American public

Sept. 12, 2013 at 7:53 AM
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MOSCOW, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin took his plea against a military strike in Syria over chemical weapons use to the U.S. public, arguing for caution.

"The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria's borders," Putin said in a commentary in The New York Times Wednesday.

"A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. 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. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance," he wrote.

Syria was experiencing an "armed conflict" between President Bashar Assad's regime and opposition forces, not a "battle for democracy," Putin said in his commentary.

"There are few champions of democracy in Syria," he wrote. "But there are more than enough al-Qaida fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government," noting that the U.S. State Department has designated several as terrorist organizations.

"From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future," Putin said. "We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today's complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos."

"No one doubts" that poison gas was used in Syria, Putin wrote, "But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists."

"Reports that militants are preparing another attack -- this time against Israel -- cannot be ignored," Putin said.

The diplomatic solution proposed by Russia Monday calls for Assad to turn over his chemical weapons stockpile to international control and destroy it. President Obama says evidence indicated that forces loyal to Assad gassed hundreds of Syrians Aug. 21 in an attack on Damascus suburbs.

Putin also chided Obama for considering a limited military strike as a response, although Obama said the strike would be delayed so this diplomatic option could be explored.

"It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States," Putin said.

He said he welcomed Obama's decision to put off a military strike and discuss the Russian-backed plan.

"If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust," Putin said. "It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues."

Putin said he studied Obama's televised speech Tuesday and disagreed with Obama's remarks that U.S. policy is what makes America exceptional.

"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," Putin said. "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."

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