Putin takes exception to America's 'exceptionalism'
As his plan to secure Syria's chemical weapons put Russian President Vladimir Putin centre stage, he reached out to American people to warn the US against bypassing the United Nations and pursuing military action
"The potential strike by the United States against Syria ... will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria's borders," he wrote in a New York Times op-ed published online Wednesday night.
"A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism," Putin wrote using the piece "to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders ... at a time of insufficient communication between our societies."
"We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilised diplomatic and political settlement," he wrote asking President Barack Obama to pursue the possibility of a diplomatic settlement to the Syrian crisis.
Calling the ongoing civil war an "internal conflict, fuelled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition," Putin cautioned against siding with an opposition in Syria which he said includes "more than enough (Al) Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes."
Russia, he said, is "not protecting the Syrian government" but rather favours "a compromise plan."
Military action against the Syrian government without UN Security Council approval "is unacceptable under the United Nations charter and would constitute an act of aggression," Putin wrote.
He and Obama share "a growing trust," Putin wrote but also challenged Obama's case for American exceptionalism in his speech Tuesday night
"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation." Putin wrote.
"We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal," he concluded.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by phone Wednesday, on the eve of their scheduled meeting in Switzerland.
The two discussed a "shared objective of having a substantive discussion about the mechanics of identifying, verifying and ultimately destroying Assad's chemical weapons stockpile," officials said.
Kerry is taking an interagency team of experts to deal with "identifying the mechanics" of how the plan will work, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said. "So how would you go in? How would you destroy? What are the steps you would take?"
The US was going into the talks with "eyes wide open," she said. "Our goal here is to test the seriousness of this proposal, to talk about the specifics of how this would get done,"
White House spokesman Jay Carney also said that any diplomatic solution on Syria's chemical weapons "needs to be credible, it needs to be verifiable, and we will work with our allies and partners to test whether it can be achieved."
Trying to reach a diplomatic solution on Syria's chemical weapons "will take some time," he acknowledged. Still, the timeline is finite, Carney said. It's "certainly not the case that were are interested in delay or avoidance of accountability here."
But even as the US pursues a diplomatic solution, the CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria marking a major escalation of the US role in Syria's civil war, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear, it said citing unnamed US officials and Syrian figures.