Putin lectures US on Syria, use of force in 'internal conflicts'

Russian President Vladimir Putin is warning that a potential U.S. military strike against Syria would “result in more innocent victims and escalation,” adding that U.S. force has proved "ineffective and pointless" in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

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In an op-ed published in The New York Times on Thursday, the Russian leader notes the strong opposition to a potential strike from “many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope,” adding that 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 writes.

Putin writes 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,” he writes. “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.”

Putin's op-ed comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Putin’s words question whether Russia is serious about negotiations.

"I almost wanted to vomit," he told CNN of Putin's op-ed. "I worry when someone who came up through the KGB tells us what is in our national interests and what is not. It really raises the question of how serious the Russian proposal is."

Putin writes in the op-ed that recent events surrounding Syria prompted him to “speak directly to the American people and their political leaders.”

“It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies,” he said.

Putin writes that no one doubts poison gas was used in Syria but stresses the need to use the U.N. Security Council.

“The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not,” he writes. “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.”

"President Putin has invested his credibility in transferring Assad's chemical weapons to international control, and ultimately destroying them,” a senior administration official said. “The world will note whether Russia can follow through on that commitment."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who on said Wednesday that Russia is not a “reliable partner” in negotiations to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, also weighed in on Twitter.



Putin continued to dispute Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons and blamed it on the Syrian rebels — a charge Assad has also made.

He said that reports that militants were preparing to attack Israel could not be ignored.

“There are few champions of democracy in Syria,” he said. “But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government.”

Putin acknowledged relations between Russia and the U.S. have been rocky but harkened back to World War II when, as allies, the U.S. and Russia “defeated Nazis together.”

“We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement,” he said.

— Justin Sink and Rebecca Shabad contributed to this report.

— This report was posted at 6:22 a.m. and updated at 9:23 a.m.