Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote an op ed letter yesterday to Americans titled A Plea For Caution From Russia that was published in the New York Times in which he cautioned the Obama administration to move away from carrying out airstrikes in Syria and refuted President Obama’s case for American exceptionalism.
Sensing that President Obama has lost political momentum after retreating from his presidential push to generate domestic and international support to launch U.S. airstrikes and punish Syrian President Assad’s regime for their alleged chemical weapons attack on August 21st, Putin appealed directly to Americans, making the case in his letter that it is not in America’s long term interest to use its strong military power to intervene in internal conflicts across the globe.
“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’ ” he added.
Putin’s letter failed to mention that Russia has been supporting the Assad regime’s military attack against Syrian opposition groups in a bloody two civil war that has spiraled out of control and claimed the lives of over 100,ooo Syrians while displacing millions of Syrians in neighboring countries.
Putin denied that Russia was supporting the Syrian government and said in a spirit of peaceful dialogue Russia was supporting international law.
“We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos” Putin wrote.
The Syrian civil war has evolved into a proxy war with competing outside interests holding political stakes in the war.
The U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and Turkey have aligned with Sunni-led Syrian opposition groups while Russia, Iran, and Lebanese Hezbollah have supported the mostly Alawite Assad regime in Syria with Shiite backing.
The United States has provided covert CIA support to moderate opposition groups across Syria while Russia has provided Syria with an arsenal of military weapons including an air defense system.
After the United States deployed navy carriers to the Mediterranean following the August 21st chemical weapons attack, Russia responded and deployed some of their own navy ships to the region in a move that was viewed by most as a maneuver to protect Syria.
Yet Putin denied that Russia is protecting the Syrian government, a claim that is widely disputed.
Putin indicated in his op ed letter that the Syrian government was not responsible for carrying out the August 21st chemical weapons attack.
He placed the blame instead on Syrian opposition groups who used the chemical weapons on their own people to generate wider support from their powerful foreign proxy supporters.
“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” Putin wrote.
Despite all of the recent talk about why it’s not in the interest of the Obama administration to carry out a “limited” airstrike that President Obama said won’t be a “pinprick” and yet will “deter future use of chemical weapons”, it’s hard to understand the reasons that Russia would put everything on the line to defend the Assad regime which has a tarnished image with few international allies.
Russia will soon play host to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia with billions of oligarch money already invested in the winter games.
It would be foolish for Russia to be at war in Syria against the United States and its western allies with the Olympic games just around the corner.
Russia has a lot of economic and political stakes on the line if they decide to come to Syria’s defense in the event of a future U.S. airstrike.
Putin attempted to make several moral arguments in his letter for the United States to not intervene in affairs of other nations, yet he falsely denied that Russia has intervened and supported the Syrian government.
Some believe that Putin is taking a diplomatic approach towards Syria simply to delay a future U.S. airstrike and allow the Syrian government to hide their vast chemical weapons arsenal before they are turned over to international control.
The Wall St. Journal reported today that the Syrian government is already moving chemical weapons across the country. The Assad regime has reportedly moved weapons to as many as 50 sites in Syria through an elite unit called Unit 450.
According to the WSJ story that cites American and Middle Eastern officials, “the movements of chemical weapons by Syria’s elite Unit 450 could complicate any U.S. bombing campaign in Syria over its alleged chemical attacks. It also raises questions about implementation of a Russian proposal that calls for the regime to surrender control of its stockpile.”
“The U.S. wants any military strikes in Syria to send a message to the heads of Unit 450 that there is a steep price for following orders to use chemical weapons,” U.S. officials said.
“At the same time, the U.S. doesn’t want any strike to destabilize the unit so much that it loses control of its chemical weapons, giving rebels a chance to seize the arsenal” according to the Wall St. Journal.