Vladimir Putin Wrote an Op-Ed on Syria for The New York Times

Abby Ohlheiser, Atlantic Wire
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Abby Ohlheiser, Atlantic Wire
Sept. 12, 2013, 6:02 a.m.

Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin, already es­tab­lished as a prom­in­ent artist, sing­er, and judo mas­ter, has now ad­ded New York Times con­trib­ut­or to his re­sume. As the U.S. steps back from a plan to bomb Syr­ia, Putin de­cided ” to speak dir­ectly to the Amer­ic­an people” in a New York Times op-ed pub­lished Wed­nes­day even­ing. After re­mind­ing Amer­ica of the good times — “[we] de­feated the Nazis to­geth­er,” he writes — Putin launches in­to an ar­gu­ment for “cau­tion,” claim­ing that a U.S. strike against Syr­ia could “throw the en­tire sys­tem of in­ter­na­tion­al law and or­der out of bal­ance.”  Here’s more: 

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. A strike would in­crease vi­ol­ence and un­leash a new wave of ter­ror­ism. It could un­der­mine mul­ti­lat­er­al ef­forts to re­solve the Ir­a­ni­an nuc­le­ar prob­lem and the Is­raeli-Palestini­an con­flict and fur­ther destabil­ize the Middle East and North Africa.

Of course, the Rus­si­an pres­id­ent is already ad­dress­ing an Amer­ic­an pub­lic skep­tic­al of any plan to in­ter­vene in Syr­ia, and that might be the point: as Syr­i­an pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad tried to do in an in­ter­view with Charlie Rose earli­er this week, Putin is likely sens­ing the dir­ec­tion of the wind of U.S. pub­lic opin­ion here, and try­ing to ap­peal to it. That’s even as Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry heads to Rus­sia to work on a pos­sible dip­lo­mat­ic solu­tion to the Syr­i­an situ­ation. And while he’s at it, Putin weighs in on what he thinks Amer­ica stands for in an­oth­er key pas­sage: 

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. 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.”

At the same time, Putin in­serts the latest ver­sion of an ar­gu­ment that’s led to the coun­try’s re­peated use of a veto on the U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil against pretty much any res­ol­u­tion con­demning the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, es­pe­cially after the Au­gust 21st chem­ic­al at­tacks. “There is every reas­on to be­lieve it was used not by the Syr­i­an Army,” Putin writes, but by op­pos­i­tion forces, to pro­voke in­ter­ven­tion by their power­ful for­eign pat­rons, who would be sid­ing with the fun­da­ment­al­ists.” Rus­sia has been one of Syr­ia’s strongest al­lies through the con­flict in the coun­try.

Putin also finds room to close with a cri­ti­cism of Amer­ic­an Ex­cep­tion­al­ism, a no­tion Pres­id­ent Obama gave slightly more than a dog whistle to in his Tues­day ad­dress to the coun­try:

My work­ing and per­son­al re­la­tion­ship with Pres­id­ent Obama is marked by grow­ing trust. I ap­pre­ci­ate this. I care­fully stud­ied his ad­dress to the na­tion on Tues­day. And I would rather dis­agree with a case he made on Amer­ic­an ex­cep­tion­al­ism, stat­ing that the United States’ policy is “what makes Amer­ica dif­fer­ent. It’s what makes us ex­cep­tion­al.” It is ex­tremely dan­ger­ous to en­cour­age people to see them­selves as ex­cep­tion­al, whatever the mo­tiv­a­tion. 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 closes with an ap­peal that, one might sus­pect, will fall flat to the ears of any of Rus­sia’s LGBT res­id­ents, who cur­rently face a series of highly re­strict­ive laws sup­por­ted by Putin and his gov­ern­ment: “We are all dif­fer­ent, but when we ask for the Lord’s bless­ings, we must not for­get that God cre­ated us equal.” 

Re­prin­ted with per­mis­sion from the At­lantic Wire. The ori­gin­al story can be found here.

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