Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would consider a military strike against the Assad regime in Syria, but only if it was sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council.
“I do not exclude this,” Putin said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“But I would like to draw your attention to one absolutely key aspect. In line with international law, only the U.N. Security Council could sanction the use of force against a sovereign state. Any other pretext or method which might be used to justify the use of force against an independent sovereign state is inadmissible and can only be interpreted as an aggression.”
Russia is a strong ally of Syria and has close military ties to the country. There’s a Russian naval base in Syria, and Moscow sells arms to the regime of President Bashar Assad.
A report by the Interfax news agency earlier in the week said Putin was considering the unusual step of sending Russian lawmakers to lobby U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill against a strike.
The Kremlin has disputed U.S. intelligence reports that say Assad has used chemical weapons against the people in his country, and in the AP interview, Putin continued to question the reports that U.S. officials laid out in hearings Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
“These are horrible pictures,” Putin said. “The question is only who did it and what they did, and who is responsible for this. These pictures do not answer the questions I have just posed. There is an opinion that it's a compilation by these very rebels who are connected with al Qaeda and who are always distinguished by exceptional brutality.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the most vocal lawmaker pushing for military intervention in Syria, told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday that claims the Assad regime was not responsible for the chemical weapons attacks in Syria were “ludicrous.”
“That's ludicrous and an insult to your intelligence," McCain said. "The rebels don't have access to those chemical weapons, to start with. And this wasn't the first time that Bashar al Assad used those weapons … many occasions he has in the past, just in small amounts. And there's no doubt about what he did, and more and more evidence will be forthcoming. There's enough evidence now that we must act."
“It's absolutely true,” McCain added. “The evidence is in, the tests have been taken.”