Putin writes to American people in New York Times op-ed

The Takeaway

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote to the American people in an New York Times editorial published on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. (Photo courtesy of the Kremlin.)

For the first time since 1999, Russian President Vladmir Putin addressed the United States people directly by writing an editorial titled "A Plea for Caution From Russia" published Thursday in the New York Times.

Putin's previous op-ed came in the midst of the conflict in Chechnya, while he was Russia's prime minister. His latest addresses the possible U.S. intervention in Syria's bloody civil war, which Congress and President Barack Obama are debating. Putin remarked that part of his motivation for breaking the decade-plus silence was his sense that communication between the two countries has lacked.

In a national address on Tuesday, President Obama advocated for "modest" targeted strikes in Syria. The president said that America should not stand by while thousands of innocent Syrians are being killed in their own country.

Putin called for the United States to operate within the guidelines of the United Nations Security Council.

"We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos," Putin wrote. "The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not."

Putin also warned that violence would cause further violence, unleash more terrorism and potentially undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem, mediate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and generally stabilize the Middle East.

Many of Putin's arguments, including the stance that a Syrian rebel victory would not guarantee lasting peace in the country, were reminiscent of those being made by Republican senators in Congress as well as dovish Democrats, said Steven Lee Myers, Moscow Bureau Chief for the New York Times.

However, Putin's editorial went over poorly with many top lawmakers in Washington. Sen. Bob Menendez said he "wanted to vomit" after reading the piece, House Speaker John Boehner said, "I was insulted," and Sen. John McCain said in a tweet that "Putin's NYT op-ed is an insult to the intelligence of every American."

Putin wrote the piece himself, originally in Russian and then had it translated, Myers said. 

"I do believe that Putin's audience here was the world," Myers said. "He was trying to reach, as he said, to the American people and American officials there as this debate unfolds."

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