Russian President Vladimir Putin appealed directly to the American people on Wednesday night with an opinion piece in the New York Times. Putin urged Americans to oppose intervention in Syria without UN Security Council approval, and warned that doing otherwise would be dangerous.
“The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council,” he argued.
“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,” he wrote.
Putin warned that American intervention has failed to achieve its goals.
“Force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling… In Iraq the civil war continues,” he noted.
He warned of grave consequences if the United States intervenes in Syria without Security Council approval.
“The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries… 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... It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance,” he 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’… The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security.
“Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction,” he argued.
Putin also warned, “No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.”
He reiterated Russian claims that Syrian President Bashar Assad was not behind the use of chemical weapons against civilians in his country.
“No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But 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,” he wrote.
“Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored,” he added.
Putin urged support for Russia’s proposal for an agreement that would see the Assad regime willingly give up its chemical weapons.
“I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria... If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust.”
Putin's appeal follows U.S. President Barack Obama's address to the nation in which he made the case for intervention.