(Photo: Reuters/Grigory Dukor)
Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed published late Wednesday in The New York Times where he strongly challenged President Barack Obama and the American public against a military strike against Syria, a longtime ally of Russia, warning of the likelihood of exacerbating the Mideast conflict to beyond the Syrian border and undermining the authority of the United Nations Security Council.
In his remarks, Putin called upon Americans to exercise "caution" when dealing with Syria, advocating for talks instead of military action.
"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," wrote Putin. "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."
"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 in chaos," the Russian president continued. "Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression."
Putin also argued that while no one disputes the claim that chemical weapons were used on civilians in Syria late last month, there is still much dispute as to which side committed the atrocity.
"…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," wrote Putin.
Putin's remarks come as talks are in play to have the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad turn over its chemical weapons stockpile.
Since the first reported usage of chemical gas to kill hundreds of civilians was made known, investigators have disputed which side in the near two-year old conflict was culpable, but the U.S. recently came out and stated that its investigators believe the Assad regime is responsible for the chemical attack.
Putin's opinion piece comes two days after President Obama's televised speech arguing for the need to strike the Assad regime.
"…we know the Assad regime was responsible. In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad's chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gasmasks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces," said Obama.
"We know senior figures in Assad's military machine reviewed the results of the attack, and the regime increased their shelling of the same neighborhoods in the days that followed. We've also studied samples of blood and hair from people at the site that tested positive for sarin."