WASHINGTON – Russian President Vladimir V. Putin used an opinion piece in today’s New York Times to assert that it’s alarming to him that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States.
In an unusual outreach aimed directly at the American people, the Russian leader, a day after President Obama said he will delay seeking congressional authorization for a Syrian strike, said he doubts that such interventions are in the long-term interest of the United States.
He also said millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model for democracy but as a nation relying solely on brute force.
In the article, first posted Wednesday night on the Times website, Putin repeats his contention that there is every reason to believe that Syrian rebels, not Bashar Assad’s government, were responsible for the poison gas attack on a Damascus suburb last month. The Russian leader said he supports the effort to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control.
Putin also made clear he is no fan of the idea of American exceptionalism and suggested that God isn’t either.
“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” Putin wrote. ”We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
Meanwhile, key international players, including Russia, were moving on two diplomatic fronts Wednesday to try to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, and a fresh effort appeared to be under way to get the Syrian government and opposition to peace talks.
The five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, who have been deeply divided over Syria, met late Wednesday to discuss what to include in a new resolution requiring that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile be secured and dismantled. They later left Russia’s U.N. mission without commenting.
At the same time, U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were heading to Geneva with teams of experts for talks today about the nuts and bolts of putting Syria’s chemical weapons under international control and destroying them, diplomats said.
The U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, was also heading to Geneva to be available to meet Kerry and Lavrov.
The diplomatic flurry follows the threat of U.S. missile strikes against Assad’s regime and a surprise offer from Kerry that Assad could avert U.S. military action by turning over “every single bit of his chemical weapons” to international control in a week. Russia, Syria’s most important ally, and Assad’s government quickly agreed on the broad proposal, but details still need to be worked out.