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Russian President Vladimir Putin presented his case for caution in Syria directly to the American people. Putin wrote an op-ed for Thursday’s New York Times that went live online Wednesday night. In the article he titled “A Plea for Caution From Russia” Putin warned that a potential strike by the United States in Syria could unleash a new wave of terrorism, increase violence and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. He goes on to list a number of other possible negative outcomes resulting from a US missile attack, but everything he wrote in this piece has already been said. There was absolutely no new information in this article at all. After I finished reading his list of helpful warnings, to me the whole thing made him look like a slick opportunist trying to snub the president while taking advantage of America’s current foreign relations dilemma knowing that our president is in a tough situation domestically. Although Putin makes a few good points in his op-ed and on the surface he may seem sincerely concerned, we still must remember who this man is, and what he is capable of. Putin is a former KGB thug who behaves more like a dictator than an elected president. He talks about respecting international law and norms but rarely does this himself.
Remember the name Paul Klebnikov? He was an American journalist writing for Forbes Magazine. Because of his knowledge about Russian business Forbes reassigned him to Moscow to head a Russian version of Forbes. While he held that position he published a number of scathing articles about Putin and other Russian billionaires and soon after started to receive death threats. After a year in his new position he was found murdered and authorities said it looked like a professional hit. President Bush appealed directly to Vladimir Putin for help in finding those responsible and Putin refused. That murder was never solved and after that there were no more scathing articles written in Russia about Putin. So even if President Obama wanted to write a response op-ed to be published in Russia, he would have a very hard time finding a publication to publish it. Things like this occur in Russia every day but Putin sits on his high horse to lecture us Americans about what’s right and just.
Putin’s op-ed also makes a case for nonintervention when it comes to foreign governments. This is almost laughable coming from him because he refused to extradite NSA hacker Edward Snowden (who stole US government secrets) so he could face trial by the American Justice System. This does not sound like a man who wants to help Americans out of the kindness of his heart. I’m not even going to get into the atrocities Putin has bestowed upon his neighboring country of Chechnya and their ongoing contentious sometimes violent relationships with Latvia, Lithuania. And I don’t remember Mr. Putin and his government calling on the UN security council in 2008, when they decided to intervene in Georgia. The intentions and motivations of this stubby 3ft little man is to embarrass our president and make us look like war hungry aggressors. You don’t write a piece like this if diplomacy is what you’re seeking. Granted President Obama’s perceived indecisiveness opened the door rather wide for foreign critique but when it comes from someone like Putin the hypocrisy is inescapable.
There was one point in Putin’s op-ed that I did agree with, it was the part about “American Exceptionalism”. Every time former President Bush would bring this up in a speech or press conference I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. When President Obama said it in his address to the nation last night it made me cringe. Coming from an African American president who’s witnessed the dangers of elevating one race over another to justify inequality, he should know better. No matter who you are or where you were born, we were all created equal in the eyes of God.
My position on Syria has not changed or wavered one bit. I think it’s a mistake for us to bomb them for using chemical weapons. Diplomacy diplomacy diplomacy, we have to give it a chance. Launching missiles to bomb a country who does not pose an immediate threat to our country is absolutely positively the wrong thing to do. I can sympathize with the president’s position and I understand why he feels so strongly about punishing Syria for gassing all of those children and innocent bystanders. I’ve seen the video footage and I agree that no human should be able to do that without consequences, but we must exhaust every possible avenue before we try to solve it with our military. I want to see the senator Barack Obama from ten years ago when he was anti-war and voting no on the war in Iraq. Where did that guy go? When you or I watch the news and see horrible things going on around the world there’s not much we as average citizens can do about it. But when you’re the president of the most powerful nation on earth and you see senseless suffering, I’m sure that need to do something is even stronger because you have the power to do something. That moral obligation weighs heavy on every US president. But there are limits to American power. The rest of the world understands this… we as proud American citizens are slowly realizing this as well.