By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has recently pushed for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian chemical weapon crisis, wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times on Wednesday. He argues against US-led military action on Syria’s government in response to President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons, saying that such a strike would defy 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. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not,” he says. If the US does not follow this international law, in which “force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council,” then Putin believes greater chaos would spread in the Middle East region. If the US attacks Syria, Putin says this “will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism.”
Even though the US has promised to focus its attacks on specific military targets in Syria, Putin is worried for the civilians who might die. “No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.”
He also points out that the rebel fighters battling al-Assad’s government in Syria are not necessarily interested in democracy, and that even the US State Department has identified several pro-rebel groups as terrorists. Putin then points out that using force has not worked out well for the US in recent conflicts, highlighting, “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.” Even America’s own self-interest is not served by attacking Syria, as Putin questions, “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.”
Recently, US President Barack Obama gave a speech, making the case for an attack on Syria. He emphasized that Syria had crossed the line, defying international law against chemical weapons usage, and that allowing them to avoid punishment would merely lead to further use of such dangerous materials in combat. While Obama and Putin do not see entirely eye to eye on the matter of Syria, in Putin’s New York Times article, the Russian president says, “My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this.” However, after listening to Obama’s speech, Putin did not like when the US president talked about America being special. Putin cautions, “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy.”