NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken his case against U.S. military intervention in Syria directly to the American people.
In an opinion piece for The New York Times titled “A Plea for Caution From Russia,” Putin says a U.S. military strike would create more victims and could spread the conflict beyond Syria, warning it could “unleash a new wave of terrorism.”
“The potential strike by the United States against Syria will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders,” he wrote.
In the article posted Wednesday on the Times website, Putin repeats his contention that there is every reason to believe that Syrian rebels, not Bashar Assad’s government, are responsible for the poison gas attack on a Damascus suburb.
He wrote that 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.”’
Putin said he favored taking advantage of Syria’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control and welcomed President Barack Obama’s interest in continuing to discuss Syria with Russia.
“If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust,” he wrote. “It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.”
The Russian leader also takes a shot at Obama’s Tuesday night address, in which he said American ideals and principles “are at stake in Syria” as he made his case for military action against the Assad government.
Putin writes: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.” He adds that whether countries have long democratic traditions or are still finding their way to democracy, “we must not forget that God created us equal.”
The U.S. meanwhile is hoping that an acceptable agreement with the Russians can be part of a binding new U.N. Security Council resolution being negotiated that would hold Syria accountable for using chemical weapons.
“If Assad’s chemical weapon stockpiles can be secured and removed from his position, that would be a very good thing,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
Experts believe the chemical weapons are spread throughout the country. There is an estimated 1,000 tons of chemical agents that need to be rounded up and destroyed.
Secretary of State John Kerry is in Switzerland Thursday for talks with Russia’s foreign minister. The talks will focus on a how to secure and eventually destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.
Kerry planned to meet with Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, before sitting down with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
In meetings planned for later Thursday and again Friday with Lavrov, Kerry will prod Moscow to put forward a credible and verifiable plan to inventory, quarantine and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stocks, according to U.S. officials.
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