In a new twist to the Syrian crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin has appealed to the American people that an American attack against Syria would set a dangerous precedent, undermine international law and potentially lead to the death of the United Nations.
In an op-ed published in the New York Times Putin wrote, “From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.”
While many readers might be taken in by his arguments, it is important to point out that from the beginning of the conflict, Putin has used Russia’s veto on the Security Council no less than three times, blocking rhetorical condemnation of Bashar al-Assad and harsher economic sanctions against Syria.
From the outset of the conflict Russia has continued to be the largest arms exporter to Syria, which has permitted Assad to continue targeting civilians. Just this week, UN investigators released a report detailing that while war crimes were committed by both sides of the conflict, Damascus had in addition committed crimes against humanity.
Putin also categorically denied that the Syrian government was behind the recent chemical weapons attacks that had outraged the world. Shortly before his op-ed was published, the influential New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report that made the opposite claim.
What strikes me as the most hypocritical comment though was Putin making the case that “We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.” While he chastises President Obama for contemplating action without the backing of the UN Security Council, he failed to mention that under his leadership, Russia intervened unilaterally in Georgia back in 2008.
Selective memory? Yes. Is Vladimir Putin really a voice of reason? No.