This week brought the arrival of Op-Ed Diplomacy, as Presidents Putin and Obama (via the brilliant satiric brain of Albert Brooks) took to the New York Times and The Huffington Post respectively to address the ongoing crisis in Syria. Putin, speaking "directly to the American people," extolled international law, made a case against a retaliatory U.S. strike and chided "American exceptionalism," saying that "God created us equal." (Except, of course, for gay people). "Mr. Putin," Obama/Brooks responded, "we put a man on the moon and you barely got a monkey home safely... It's one thing to put down exceptionalism, but before you do that, you at least have to produce one Broadway show, or make one commercial airliner, or invent one type of salad." Putin, "Obama" noted, cares so much for his people, rather than see them argue, he will "graciously offer them the solace of prison." We'll happily publish President Putin's reply -- unless it's from Yakov Smirnoff.
It's not what Vladimir Putin's New York Times op-ed says that's so worrisome; it's what it doesn't say. As a Russian and as someone who has been to Syria multiple times since the beginning of the conflict to investigate war crimes and other violations, I would like to mention a few things Putin overlooked. There is not a single mention in Putin's article, addressed to the American people, of the egregious crimes committed by the Syrian government and extensively documented by the UN Commission of Inquiry, local and international human rights groups, and numerous journalists: deliberate and indiscriminate killings of tens of thousands of civilians, executions, torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests. His op-ed also makes no mention of Russia's ongoing transfer of arms to Assad throughout the past two and a half years.