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Putin Remains Adamant:
No Regime Change in Syria

June 8, 2012 (EIRNS)—Russian President Vladimir Putin used the occasion of his first overseas trip taking office, to forcefully assert that Russia will not allow any foreign military intervention for regime change in Syria. First in Berlin, during his meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel on June 1, and later in the day in Paris with President François Hollande, Putin stressed that his government will block any attempt to push a military option through the United Nations Security Council.

Ever since the massacre at Houla on May 25, Britain, France, Germany, and the United States have been pressing for sharp Security Council action against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, claiming that it was government loyalists who carried out the massacre. In reality, there is no evidence supporting this claim. Indeed, the initial investigation by a Syrian commission, detailed a heavily armed rebel assault on the Houla and two nearby villages, beginning with coordinated assaults on five police compounds.

Nonetheless, the commitment to overthrow President Assad has escalated from several leading NATO nations, in particular, France and Turkey. During the joint press conference, held by the Russian and French leaders, Hollande stated that no progress in Syria is possible until Assad is removed from power, while Putin defiantly made clear that France has no right to demand regime change, and that such calls virtually assure that Syria and the broader region will descend into chaos.

That issue is at the center of a raging fight within the U.S. government. Following a May 30 Security Council briefing from Kofi Annan, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters that if Russia and China continue to block UNSC action against Assad, the United States will seek an alternative venue for the overthrow of the Syrian government. Rice spoke under the presumption that she had the full backing of President Barack Obama, who has fully embraced the anti-nation-state doctrine of "humanitarian interventionism," otherwise known as "Responsibility to Protect" ("R2P"). What it comes down to is a doctrine of preventive war, which is explicitly banned by the UN Charter.

Directly opposed to that is the "Putin Doctrine," which rejects humanitarian interventionist regime change as a violation of the most fundamental rules of international conduct. In a speech in early May, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev explicitly threatened that such military "humanitarian interventions" could lead to thermonuclear war.

Rice's outburst did not go unchallenged from within the Obama Administration itself. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have made clear that they are opposed to the R2P doctrine, and that they consider U.S. military-to-military relations with both Russia and China to be a priority for maintaining global stability. Within 36 hours of Rice's threats, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta delivered a contrary message, declaring that the U.S. has no intention of carrying out any military action against Syria.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently stressed that U.S.-Russian military cooperation is a top priority, with far more areas of agreement and cooperation than areas of dispute. He announced that he had invited his Russian counterpart, General Makarov, to Washington in early July, where he hopes to work out a mutually satisfactory understanding on the missile defense dispute. He acknowledged that the Russian concerns are legitimate, because in a later phase of deployment, Russian strategic ballistic missiles could be intercepted by the planned four-phase European ABM system.

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