December 7, 2013
President Putin says US strike on Syria could escalate conflict
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against a US strike on Syria, saying such action risked escalating the conflict beyond that country and unleashing terrorist attacks.
Writing in the New York Times, Putin said there were "few champions of democracy" in the 2-1/2-year-old civil war in Syria, "but there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all types battling the government."
He repeated assertions by his government and Damascus that an August chemical weapons attack that the United States blames on President Bashar al-Assad's government was likely the work of opposition forces seeking to provoke foreign intervention.
President Barack Obama wants to hold Assad accountable for the suspected attack in a Damascus neighborhood on Aug. 21 that US officials say killed about 1,400 people, including 400 children.
Obama said in a speech on Tuesday that he had asked Congress to put off a vote on his request to authorize military action in Syria to let diplomacy play out around a Russian proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control, although he said the threat was still needed to ensure Syria complies.
Putin cautioned against taking military action without UN Security Council authorization, saying, "We must stop using the language of force."
"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," Putin wrote.