Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a rare move, took his case against the use of military force in Syria directly to the American people Wednesday with an op-ed in The New York Times.
In the opinion piece, headlined “A Plea for Caution from Russia,” Putin warned against military strikes in Syria and suggested intervention could “further destabilize” the Middle East and North Africa.
“The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders,” Putin said.
The op-ed comes as Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov begin two days of meetings in Geneva on how to handle Syria’s chemical weapons.
“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,” Putin said.
The Russian leader also took issue with President Obama’s remarks Tuesday on America being exceptional. “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” the Russian leader said.
“There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too,” he wrote. “We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
A senior White House official responded to the op-ed, saying, “Putin is now fully invested in Syria’s CW (chemical weapons) disarmament,” CNN’s Jake Tapper reported.
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, said he first heard about Putin’s op-ed while at dinner on Wednesday.
“I almost wanted to vomit,” he said. “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.”