What Putin has to say to Americans about Syria

If I were a Russian, I don’t think I would be a supporter of President Vladimir Putin.  Russia is a country where opponents of the regime die mysteriously, a tightly-knit group of self-described oligarchs control finance and industry and holdovers from the old Soviet Union are entrenched in government.  But I think Putin made a lot of sense his New York Times article about Syria yesterday.

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.  It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multi-religious country.  There are few champions of democracy in Syria.  But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government.  The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations.  This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria?  After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali.  This threatens us all.

He also stated:

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.”

He ended the article with these words:

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.  We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

via NYTimes.com.

President Putin, it is true, has his own reasons for not wanting the Syrian government to be overthrown.  Syria has been a Russian client state since the days of the old Soviet Union.  It provides the Russian Federation with its only naval base on the Mediterranean.   It is a potential outlet for a natural gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea region of Russia and Central Asia.

And while the Russian government’s proposal for a turnover of Syrian chemical weapons to an international authority sounds good, it would be impossible to implement while the country is in the middle of a civil war.  After all, the United States promised in 1990 to get rid of our chemical weapons stockpiles by 2012, and has not managed to do so.

But the governments of the United States, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have reasons for supporting the rebels which have more to do with pipeline routes, geopolitical advantage and Sunni-Shiite struggles than with humanitarism.  There is nothing at stake in Syria’s civil war that justifies a U.S. attack on Syria.

If anything, a U.S. attack and the possibility of a U.S. invasion would make Bashar al-Assad cling to his poison gas weapons more strongly than ever.  If you are ruler of a country threatened by a high-tech military superpower, would you give up anything that might deter attack or help defend against attack?

Click on A Plea for Caution from Russia for Vladimir Putin’s complete New York Times article.

Click on Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concerns for background information by Nafeez Ahmed in The Guardian.   Hat tip to Rochester Indymedia.

Click on The Syrian conflict and gas pipeline routes for more background information.

Note: I added some additional quotes by President Putin to my original post after Atticus on BlogTruth called my attention to their significance.

[Added 9/13/13]

Click on Arguing With President Putin by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.  It is not enough to say that President Putin has no standing to lecture the United States because of Russia’s bloody war in Chechnya.  What does it say about the United States that the best we can say for ourselves is that we are no worse than Putin’s Russia?

Click on What Putin Understands That Most Americans Don’t for comment by James Fallows of The Atlantic.

[Added 9/14/13]

Click on Putin Lectures Obama by Franklin C. Spinney, a former military analyst for the Pentagon, on how extraordinary it is for Vladimir Putin, a product of the Soviet KGB, to be in a position to lecture the President of the United States on common sense and restraint.

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One Response to “What Putin has to say to Americans about Syria”

  1. Holden Says:

    I heard a great clip of John Kerry talking about our Syrian strategy. In the clip, he said at least three times that we just needed to strike a few strategic locations and that the conflict would be brief.

    A few days before that I heard President Obama mention one of our objectives was to preserve the free flow of energy.

    I think it is completely safe to assume this is all about blowing up some opposing company, nation or both’s pipelines, refineries or something else related to natural gas. Just like it always is in the middle east.

    Like

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