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.


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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  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    A. My bank took all my money away from me. This is outrageous, I'll attack them
    B. Do you have the evidence?
    A. Yes, of course
    B. So show it to the police and let them resolve the issues for you?
    A. No, I cant show police the evidence, i cant tell the police how much money I have. The evidence private.
    B. So what you're going to do?
    A. I am going to attack them. I've the evidence!

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    Putin can take his threats and shove them. He expects cooperation with the US after his "talk to the hand" approach with Snowden. Your scummy friends are going down Vlady!

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    The UK, France and the US have recently taken the habbit of presenting as "humanitarian" what is simply the pursuit of state interest. This masquerade is so unacceptable that even the International Crisis Group has been forced to make a Syria statement. Their statement really sums it all up:

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    Putin is sounding the most reasonable on the subject of Syria.
    If only his stance was driven by concern for the people of Syria rather than self-interest.
    When did the US acted without self-interest? In Iraq? In Libya? In Egypt?

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    It might seem a REALLY dumb question, but if they have undeniable proof, why isn't this being presented to the international community at the UN?

    Given France and the US came up with widly different figures for the numbers killed, it's not surprising that so many of us are asking searching questions!

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    The us would do better to solve its own problems before launching a missile strikes in a country which never asked for its services and let the UN do its job.After all,charity begins at home.
    America become more independently aggressive with the cold war after 911 understandably,it treats aggression as a moral right when ever where ever they want it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    EMPORER WIBBLE on a point of accuracy the biggest mass murderer of the 20th century was not Adolf Hitler but Josef Stalin
    Correct. But none of my posts have mentioned Hitler or Stalin! Have you confused me with someone else?

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    When a questionable Russian makes more sense than the west, this is when we should re-evaluate our leaders. The Yankee contingent like to promote sensationalist comments, but ultimately they show how little they know about the world and how unqualified they are to make any kind of recommendation on the world scale. Lets hope casualties are not solely on the Syrian side.

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    Israel sees Syrian failed state as perfect. Israelis have granted oil rights in Golan Heights (shareholders include Rupert Murdoch & Jacob Rothschild), but Golan is part of Syria. Perennially short of water, Israel covets Litani River (S. Lebanon).
    One of US strike’s probable objectives will be to degrade Syria’s air defenses, so Israeli Air Force can enter Syrian airspace & bomb at will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    "The only way Assad will go to the negotiating table is if you hold a gun to his head."

    Not true. Assad made open offers of talks. Its rebels who won't come to table. He offered concessions and reforms for peace. They won't accept anything accept his step down. He's the wrong sect of Islam, too Westernised and not aligned to their ideological thinking. You cannot reason with those people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.

    Why are all the comments about either Assad or the opposition? Like those two forces compose all of Syria.
    Syria had a population of 22 million. the Syrian Goverment Armed forces prehaps equals 300,000-350,000. Opposition about 100,000 - 150,000.
    What about the 21million plus, of Syrians not involved who are trying to live out their lives? .

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.

    @639 L_CM

    I totally agree Obama has shot his mouth off and now he has to go down this route an old saying springs to mind
    Show the proof Obama that is all people are asking not speculation or hearsay, PROOF.

    Enage Brain Before Putting Mouth Into Gear

  • rate this

    Comment number 678.

    Perhaps we could do with a more positive correspondent? It's almost unprecedented for Putin to suspend arms deliveries to an ally, so why the negative responses. i.e; "veiled threat" & the need to topple Assad etc? Perhaps we shouldn't always judge others as we judge ourselves in terms of suspicious motives. Also, any attack at this stage, surgical or otherwise is still questionable legally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 677.

    President Kennedy presented physical factual evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba to the UN in October 1962. All we have right now is words from lower case president Obama and his minions. It is not unreasonable to expect factual and not hearsay evidence to be presented. The Syrian people have suffered enough at the hands of Assad the Butcher. Why can't lcp Obama do something right for a change?

  • rate this

    Comment number 676.

    The U.N weapons inspectors will not apportion blame. But a vicious chemical attack has been launched killing more than 1200 innocent people. The world has a responsibility to punish the perpetrator ; a clear signal that future reprehensible acts would be met by an even stronger response. Kerry made an excellent case which the American law-makers will find extremely compelling. Punitive ACTION!

  • rate this

    Comment number 675.

    Despite my opinions that Putin is a low life KGB Thug given power over an entire country...I have to agree on this single point. I'm an American and I don't wanna see us get involved in another situation we have no business being involved in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 674.

    Russia has adopted the realpolitik. Yes, Assad is a despotic savage but what good does it do to replace him with a new and probably even worse despotic savage at the cost of who knows how many innocent lives?

  • rate this

    Comment number 673.

    The facts are that Syria is in huge trouble. 4mill+ refugees is extraordinary. Imagine being forced from your home with your family. It's awful, and that's before the death toll.

    Someone has used chemical weapons, probably both sides. The world needs to mount a huge humanitarian effort.

    All 'evidence' needs to be presented to the UN. Then they control the negotiation and peacekeeping process

  • rate this

    Comment number 672.

    Time to hit Syria with nukes now to end this sorry mess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 671.

    649.Emperor Wibble
    "If only Putin's stance was driven by concern for the people of Syria rather than self-interest."
    His job is only to care for the Russian people. His job isn't global policeman, nor to provide welfare to distant foreigners. His job is to protect Russia.

    If only our leaders did the same.

    If you want to help Syrians, you do it yourself. It's not our government's prerogative.


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