US & Canada

Syria crisis: US lawmakers dismiss Putin editorial

US Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham ollowing their meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, DC 2 September 2013
Image caption Senator John McCain (seen here earlier) called the editorial "an insult to the intelligence of every American"

US lawmakers have responded negatively to Russian President Vladimir Putin's op-ed in the New York Times about the Syria crisis.

The White House has not officially responded to the piece but other US officials have discounted it.

Mr Putin's editorial, a direct personal appeal to Americans, argued a US military strike against Syria could unleash a new wave of terrorism.

One senator said he had almost thrown up while reading it at dinner.

"I almost wanted to vomit," Democratic Senator Robert Menendez told CNN.

"I worry when someone who came up through the KGB tells us what is in our national interests and what is not," the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee said. "It really raises the question of how serious the Russian proposal is."

'Weaken our resolve'

The op-ed comes as President Barack Obama threatened strikes in Syria, accusing the Syrian regime of killing hundreds in a poison-gas attack on 21 August.

Instead, Russia, an ally of Damascus, proposed that Syria hand over its chemical arsenal.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is preparing to meet Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva later to discuss Moscow's proposal.

In his New York Times article, Mr Putin said a US strike "will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria's borders".

While Syria has now admitted to holding stockpiles of chemical weapons, Mr Putin argued in the editorial that the 21 August attack was probably carried out by opposition forces "to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons".

Among those critical of the article was former US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, who said the Russian president was not in a position to lecture the US about human rights.

"I think it's pretty clear that the whole purpose of that was to try to weaken our resolve," Mr Panetta told NBC News. "He was trying to, in his own way, weaken the United States and the effort to negotiate these issues."

Senator John McCain, who has long called for US military action in Syria, called the article "an insult to the intelligence of every American".

But former Nixon and Reagan White House adviser and conservative commentator Pat Buchanan told Fox News it was "an outstanding piece".

"Vladimir Putin made a better case against US strikes in Syria than the president of the United States did last night," Mr Buchanan said.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama said on Thursday he hoped Mr Kerry's discussions with Mr Lavrov would lead to a concrete result.

Unnamed White House officials have told US media Mr Putin should follow up his editorial with actions, telling NBC and CNN he was "fully invested" in Syria destroying its chemical weapons.