5 takeaways from Vladimir Putin's New York Times editorial

acarlson@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 12, 2013 

Vladimir Putin has something to say to America. He has a lot of things to say, actually.

Yesterday, The New York Times ran an op-ed from the Russian president, headlined "A Plea for Caution From Russia."

It begins, "Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies."

The column is very long and very interesting -- did the Kremlin reach out to the Times about writing a column? vice-versa? -- and you should probably read it.

Here are five of Putin's main points:

1. The Syrian conflict is not, in essence, a civil war. "Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country," he said. "There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government."

2. Russia wants peace: "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."

3. A military strike that bypasses international law would be a strike against international law: "[I]f you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded."

4. Intervention by force is "pointless": "Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day."

5. America isn't 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 ... We are all different."

Notably, several of Putin's claims are in debate, both here in America and abroad -- not the least of which is the real nature of Russia's support for Syria's ruling family. But it isn't every day that a foreign leader addresses us in one of our country's most influential media outlets.

What would you say back?

Related stories:

White House: Russian prestige on the line in Syria

Kerry set to test Russia on Syria weapons

Military: Budget cuts threaten ops like Syria

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