Recent developments in Syria prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to "speak directly to the American people and their political leaders." In order to do that, he reached out to the New York Times to publish an op-ed about the implications of "war and peace" and the consequences of taking military action against Syria.
"Relations between us have passed through different stages," Putin writes. "We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again."
Russias President Vladimir Putin gestures during a press conference at the end of the G20 summit on September 6, 2013 in Saint Petersburg. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
The Russian leader stressed that Syria is "not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country."
"There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough [Al] Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government," he continued. "The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world."
In the op-ed, titled "A Plea for Caution From Russia," Putin expressed concern that mercenaries from Arab countries and other nations are fighting in Syria and "are an issue of our deep concern." He speculated that extremists could return to their countries with "experience acquired in Syria," which "threatens us all."
Putin also addressed the chemical attack in Damascus and mentioned reports of a possible attack being planned by "militants" against Israel [emphasis added]:
No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. 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.
It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. 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.”
But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.
He wrote that he welcomes a "continuing dialogue" with President Barack Obama on Syria, but urged the U.S. to avoid using force and focus on "negotiations."
In the very last paragraph of the op-ed, Putin took a jab at President Obama for referencing American exceptionalism.
"I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is 'what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.' It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," he writes.
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 05: In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) greets U.S. President Barack Obama at the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Credit: Getty Images
"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."
Read Putin's entire op-ed here.
UPDATE: The White House responded to Putin's op-ed, telling CNN's Jake Tapper:
“That’s all irrelevant,” the White House official said in response. “He put this proposal forward and he’s now invested in it. That’s good. That’s the best possible reaction. He’s fully invested in Syria’s CW disarmament and that’s potentially better than a military strike – which would deter and degrade but wouldn’t get rid of all the chemical weapons. He now owns this. He has fully asserted ownership of it and he needs to deliver.”
Featured image via AP