WASHINGTON – Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that any US military strike on Syria that circumvents the United Nations would undermine the global body and risk unleashing a wave of terror.
Such military action would "result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria's borders," Putin wrote in an op-ed piece appearing in the New York Times on Wednesday.
"No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorisation," he wrote.
The article appeared on the website of the Times at the same time as US Secretary of State John Kerry headed to Geneva for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on a Russian plan that could see Syria give up its chemical weapons.
The two diplomats were to hold their talks in the Swiss capital on Thursday.
Putin wrote in his commentary that an American military strike could lead to massive loss of life and would foment unrest throughout the already restive Middle East.
"A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilise the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance."
Putin maintained his steadfast support of Assad, writing that there was "every reason to believe" that it was not the Syrian government but rebel forces used sarin gas in an August 21 attack in the Damascus suburbs.
Putin asserted that the rebels did so to "provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons."
He issued his dire warning one day after US President Barack Obama postponed a threat to strike Syria, after Assad's government welcomed the Russian plan to gather and destroy its chemical arsenal.
US warships ready to 'strike hard' if called upon: Navy
Meanwhile, US warships in the Mediterranean remain ready to "strike hard" against the Syrian regime if ordered by President Barack Obama, the Navy's top civilian said on Wednesday.
Even as Washington put off possible military action against Damascus to pursue a last-ditch diplomatic solution, comments from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus provided a reminder that American destroyers equipped with cruise missiles are still in place in the eastern Mediterranean with no orders to leave.
"Two weeks ago, when new and horrifying images from Syria flashed across our televisions and streamed across our iPads, the US Navy and Marine Corps team was already there, in the Mediterranean and the waters of the Middle East," Mabus said in a speech at the National Defense University.
"I guarantee you that if we are called upon to strike, we will strike hard and we will strike fast," Mabus said. – afp