Monday 22 January 2018

Putin uses 'New York Times' to warn against strike Obama: no comment

Peter Foster Washington

The US must obey international law and not strike Syria without the approval of the United Nations, Vladimir Putin warned yesterday as he used the editorial pages of 'The New York Times' to make his own personal address to the American people.

"The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not," scolded the Russian president in a 1,000-word article that challenged notions of US "exceptionalism" – the idea that its unique institutions and values grant America the moral right to intervene in world affairs.

Mr Putin accused America of pursuing foreign policy by "brute force" and said it had failed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

He also repeated his claim that the Syrian rebels, not the Assad regime, were responsible for the chemical weapons attack in Damascus and warned that any unilateral military strike could trigger the collapse of the UN and "unleash a new wave of terrorism".

The article published on the eve of yesterday's exploratory US-Russia talks in Geneva was met with indignation from leaders of both US political parties who took exception to being lectured to by a man with Mr Putin's record on human rights and military intervention in Chechnya.

Senator John McCain, the hawkish Republican senator who has called for US intervention in Syria, said the article was "an insult to the intelligence of every American", while Senator Robert Menendez, the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee said he had "almost wanted to vomit" after reading it.

Leon Panetta, the former US defence secretary, warned that Mr Putin was trying to "weaken the United States" as it tried to resolve the Syria crisis. "President Putin should be the last person to lecture the United States about our human values and our human rights and what we stand for," he added.

However Mr Putin used the article to play on the reluctance of the US public to get involved in another Middle Eastern conflict.

"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," wrote Mr Putin, arguing that after Iraq, America was no longer seen as a model of democracy.

He repeated Moscow's claim that it was Syrian rebels who fired chemical weapons on August 21, even though the rockets came from government-controlled territory and were of a type not known to be possessed by rebel forces.

Mr Obama ignored questions on the article as he spoke to reporters before a cabinet meeting in Washington yesterday, while White House officials declined to comment publicly but contended that the article showed how invested Mr Putin now was in the talks in Geneva. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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