Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday warned Americans against attacking Syria, saying that a military strike “will result in more innocent victims and escalation.”
In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Putin said U.S. military action could spread “the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. 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,” he added. “It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”
Putin’s op-ed comes as the U.S. and Russia begin talks Thursday on forcing Syria to hand over its chemical weapons arsenal to international observers. President Obama has threatened to attack Syria to punish its leader Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons against civilians in that country’s civil war. Obama’s push though has found lukewarm support in Congress and polls show a majority of the public oppose a strike.
Obama on Tuesday in a national address made the case for hitting Syria, while also saying he wanted a “peaceful” solution and would pursue a Russian-offered plan to secure Damascus’s chemical stockpile.
But the Russian offer has been met with skepticism from many on Capitol Hill, who fear Putin, a longtime ally of Assad, is only stalling U.S. action.
Putin said chemical weapons had been used in Syria’s brutal two-year civil war, but charged that they had been used by opposition forces seeking Assad’s ouster, and not by the regime as the Obama administration claims.
The Russian leader also cited past American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and said the U.S. should be wary of entering another Mideast conflict.
“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,” Putin wrote. “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.’”