Russian President Vladimir Putin called for military action against terrorism in a New York Times op-ed piece
— 14 years before his latest opinion piece appeared Thursday arguing against a U.S. strike in Syria.
"Terrorism today knows no boundaries. Its purveyors collaborate with each other over vast distances," wrote Putin, then the Russian prime minister.
At the time, Putin was writing to defend his country's action against insurgents in Chechnya and pointed out, nearly two years before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, how Americans could not understand such acts of terror within their own country.
"No government can stand idly by when terrorism strikes. It is the solemn duty of all governments to protect their citizens from danger," wrote Putin, who had been in the country's No. 2 spot under President Boris Yeltsin for just three months.
Putin's piece, "Why We Must Act," said America understood the need to strike back following bombings at U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
"The same terrorists who were associated with the bombing of America's embassies have a foothold in the Caucasus," he wrote. "We know that Shamil Basayev, the so-called Chechen warlord, gets assistance on the ground from an itinerant guerrilla leader with a dossier similar to that of Osama bin Laden. And one of your television networks recently reported that — according to United States intelligence sources — bin Laden himself is helping to finance the guerrillas.
"We also know that most Chechens — whatever their feelings about Russia — are neither fanatics nor willing hosts to the extremists who seek to transform Chechnya into a killing field," he continued.
"No rational people desire their territory to become a permanent playground for murderers and kidnappers, even if the perpetrators cloak their cause in religion."
Putin's 1999 words were in stark contrast to the op-ed he wrote in Thursday's Times,
in which he excoriated Obama's plan to bomb Syria. In that piece he said such action would be against international law unless it gained approval from the United Nations.
"The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the Pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders."
In 1999, he likened the situation in Chechnya to a U.S. state breaking away — even naming Montana and Idaho as two states that could take such action.
"Eventually, they are assisted by foreign adventurers with their own agenda who use that troubled region as a base to launch violent raids against a neighboring state. Lives and property are destroyed — as a means of expanding the chaos.
"Russians do not need to view the latest James Bond movie to see that macabre story unfold," he said.
"When a society's core interests are besieged by violent elements, responsible leaders must respond."
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