Russia's President Putin warns US over Syria action

 

President Putin said any non-UN sanctioned intervention would be interpreted as "aggression"

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the US and its allies against taking one-sided action in Syria.

He said any military strikes without UN approval would be "an aggression".

US President Barack Obama has called for punitive action in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack.

Mr Putin said Russia did not rule out supporting a UN Security Council resolution authorising force, if it was proved "beyond doubt" that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons.

On Tuesday evening, members of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations agreed on a draft resolution backing the use of military force.

Analysis

President Vladimir Putin's position on any military action against Syria was in the most part very robust.

He said any use of force without a United Nations Security Council resolution would be "an aggression."

He went on to say that although Russia has suspended supplies of the sophisticated S-300 air defence missiles, he would consider supplying S-300s to other regions in the event of an American attack. That could be seen as a veiled threat to supply S-300s to Iran.

But President Putin did leave open the slight chance of a Russian change of position - something he has not done before.

He said he did not "exclude" the possibility of Russia supporting a UN Security Council resolution authorising force, if it was proved "beyond doubt" that President Assad used chemical weapons against his own people.

Of course that is a high bar, but it has given him a little wriggle room.

The measure, to be voted on next week, sets a time limit of 60 days on any operation.

According to the draft resolution, the operation would be restricted to a "limited and tailored use of the United States Armed Forces against Syria", and prohibit the use of any ground forces.

The US has put the death toll from the alleged chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus on 21 August at 1,429, though other countries and organisations have given lower figures.

Convincing evidence

Mr Putin was speaking ahead of the G20 summit in St Petersburg, which opens on Thursday and is supposed to concentrate on the global economy, but now looks likely to be dominated by the crisis in Syria.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Associated Press and Russia's state Channel 1 television, Mr Putin said it was "ludicrous'' that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russia, would use chemical weapons at a time when it was gaining ground against the rebels.

"If there is evidence that chemical weapons were used, and by the regular army... then this evidence must be presented to the UN Security Council. And it must be convincing," Mr Putin said.

But he added that Russia would "be ready to act in the most decisive and serious way" if there was clear proof of what weapons were used and who used them.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford in Moscow said while that, of course, is a high bar, it has at least given him a little wriggle room.

Mr Putin said it was "too early" to talk about what Russia would do if America took action without a UN resolution.

He confirmed that Russia had currently suspended delivering further components of S-300 air defence missile systems to Syria, but added that "if we see steps are taken that violate the existing international norms, we shall think how we should act in the future, in particular regarding supplies of such sensitive weapons to certain regions of the world."

S-300 air defence missile system

  • series of long-range surface-to-air missile units
  • can target aircraft and engage ballistic missiles
  • Russia has provided some components to Syria but has frozen further shipments

According to our correspondent, this could be seen as a veiled threat to supply S-300s to Iran.

'Not the time to be spectators'

Ahead of next week's vote in Congress on whether to back military strikes in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the Senate foreign relations committee on Tuesday to promote the Obama administration's case.

He said there was evidence "beyond any reasonable doubt" that the forces of President Bashar al-Assad regime had prepared for a chemical weapons attack before 21 August.

"This is not the time for armchair isolationism," Mr Kerry added. "This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter."

Start Quote

If the president is not unhappy with this first motion, some who want deeper and more serious involvement, aimed at toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, may be”

End Quote

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel supported Mr Kerry, stating that the "the word of the United States must mean something".

So too did Henry Kissinger, who was the US secretary of state from 1973 to 1977 and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr Kissinger told the BBC that doing nothing would be "catastrophic", and "would show a degree of dysfunction in our political system that would be very unfortunate".

But the BBC's Jane O'Brien, in Washington, says Mr Obama still faces a tough task winning the support of the American people.

The latest opinion poll shows public opposition to involvement in the Syrian conflict is growing, with six out of 10 Americans against missile strikes.

Refugee crisis

France has strongly backed the US plan for military action, and the French parliament is due to debate the issue later on Wednesday.

Daniel Sandford looks at the current relationship between the Cold War rivals

There have been growing calls from leading French politicians for their country's parliament - like those in the US and UK - to be allowed to vote on whether to intervene militarily in Syria.

However, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday: "A vote today would not make much sense because all elements aren't there yet. For instance, we don't know yet if the US Congress will say yes or will say no. What would be the sense of asking lawmakers to vote on an action that would eventually not take place?"

Mr Fabius insisted that military action was necessary.

"If you want a political solution, you have to move the situation. If there's no sanction, Bashar al-Assad will say: 'That's fine, I'll continue what I'm doing,'" he added.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron had also backed Mr Obama, but the British parliament rejected a resolution on military action.

Senate draft resolution on Syria

PDF download Document Link URL[151KB]

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More than 100,000 people are thought to have died since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011.

The UN refugee agency says more than two million Syrians were now registered as refugees, and a further 4.25 million have been displaced within Syria.

The UN says this is the worst refugee crisis for 20 years, with numbers not seen since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

The foreign ministers of four of Syria's neighbours - Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq - are meeting at the United Nations in Geneva on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

The ministers hope to persuade other richer countries to offer more support.

 

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Syria conflict

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  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 1290.

    Anyone who has truly studied the conflict knows that there is no moderate opposition. It's an illusion of a minority of Syrians, most of them who are not even fighting.

    The REALITY is that it isn't a civil war, most of the fighters are non-Syrians, outsiders from many countries with backing from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey.

    These fighters are marauders and disrupt peaceful neighborhoods.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1289.

    @1250. MassMediocrity Yeah, civil war is a nasty business, usually with mass casualties on either side. The diff between our civil wars (US Independence for example) is we weren't using mass genocide weapons. You shot the person shooting at you, not everyone in the vicinity including women and children. I deplore the loss of any life, but when it's as needless as Chem Warfare, we needs to step in.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1288.

    1260. gruffmeister - The ww1 ww2 point is that, had the beginnings of WW1 been handled better, it may have been curtailed, and had that happened, Europe wouldn't have been in such a massive depression afterwards, no Treaty of Versailles, no "humiliation" no hyper inflation and no eventual rise of the far right and all the power to Hitler, a stretch maybe, but not naive thinking

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1287.

    Technically if the US invades Syria, shouldn't we act to prevent an illegal war?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1286.

    1/2 Interesting development by Putin saying that he may support attacks if Syrian regime has been shown incontrovertably to have used chemical weapons..... Very clever move in my opinion.... but I'm sure that Obama can see through it, and I'm sure that Putin knows that Obama can see through it..... but he's banking that enough members of Congress won't be quite as canny.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 1285.

    You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Putin knows fully well that Syria used chemical weapons probabily provided by him. And, is there any intelligence left in the House of Commons for not supporting the US. How hopeless is the situation

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1284.

    Fix Syria? We can't even fix Detroit.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1283.

    1271.Anastasia
    'Britain is so critical of America' - Only on this matter, at this moment.
    'When something needs to be done, they are the country who will do it.' - Thanks
    'The apathy in the UK is very frustrating.' - It's not apathy. Most of us aren't convinced; not by a long shot. There's a difference.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1282.

    @1256.lovedothscathe
    Satellite images show the rockets loaded with sarin gas
    ---
    could you see the gas inside the rockets on the images?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1281.

    Its easy to become cynical of US foreign policy. Especially when you consider that the plight of the Syrian's is due to this two year war, that the US have been waging in proxy for two years (this is public) with the strategy of toppling Assad and replacing with a US friendly puppet. The islamist jihadist rebels have been slaughtering civilians too.. US policy causes instability and suffering.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1280.

    Last week Cameron, insisted that any action against Syria would be a "shot across Syria's Bows". A warning against Assad using Chemical weapons again.
    This week it seems that military action as morphed into "regime change". We in the UK are very lucky that Parliament voted against otherwise we would have signed up to to a military operation that wasn't sanctioned.

  • Comment number 1279.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1278.

    @1260

    No-one is saying Hitler was a 'nice' person, however, you neglect the rest of the Nazi high-command when you talk of the treatment of the Jews.

    Himmler was the main architect behind the gas chambers. If you want to talk about Himmler, the Holocaust and the treatment of Jewish captives, that's a completely different conversation to Chemical Weapons.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1277.

    Stemming the flow of arms to both sides in the civil war is crucial to protecting civilians. Military action would do the opposite as Russia would provide Assad with the military aid to stay in power. So we can strike heroic postures and play the tough guy with Putin if we want, but it will only demonstrate that our leaders don't give a damn about protecting civilians in Syria.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1276.

    Putin is a Subject Matter Expert in aggression having exported it in his previous presidencies.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1275.

    Kerry now will be a candidate For Nobel peace prize after Kissinger. Putin has spoilt his chance. Gorbachev received by agreeing with West's demand.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1274.

    @1256.lovedothscathe

    And where are YOU getting your intelligence from? The Guardian? You seem to forget that 10 years ago similar intelligence showed WMD "capable of being launched in 45 minutes". The location of a few artillery pieces does not prove a damning indictment - but even if it did how does bombing with Cruise missiles help the Syrian population? And why should we get involved?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1273.

    @692.SgtTimBob
    it's unlikely that the opposition have the capability of carrying out chemical attacks like this"

    Why do people believe that? The Tokyo subway Sarin attacks were done with plastic bags full of the agent, and a sharpened umbrella to pierce them.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1272.

    1260.gruffmeister
    It's naive of you to think that killing more Syrians will help Syria. What will you tell the families of innocent lost ones? "Whoops?"

    What is it about avoiding foreign entanglements, and entangling alliances, the very type that killed millions in WWI, WWII, Vietnam Iraq etc etc, that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington warned USA against that you disagree with?

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 1271.

    I can't wait until the evidence that the government carried out these attacks is produced. Britain is so critical of America, but when something needs to be done, they are the country who will do it. The apathy in the UK is very frustrating.

 

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