Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly does not want the U.S. to go ahead with their planned strike on Syria, but he reportedly "doesn't exclude" the possibility of a United Nations approved strike.
As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gears up to vote on President Obama's resolution for a military strike, Obama headed to Sweden, in a snub to the Russian president who granted asylum to National Security Agency-leak Edward Snowden. With some free time on his hands, Putin sat down with the Associated Press to talk about the mounting tensions prior to the G-20 summit.
In the interview, Putin said that while Russia has provided some parts for the Syrian air defense missile system, it has frozen the remaining shipments to the country and would consider selling the to other nations if the U.S. decides to unilaterally attack Syria.
He rejected the notion that government of Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons near Damascus in an August attack that reportedly killed more than 1,000 men women and children. According to Putin, Assad's forces are winning the war against the rebels, which makes it unlikely that they would risk the repercussions that come with a chemical attack.
"It seems absolutely absurd that the armed forces...in these conditions they would start using forbidden chemical weapons while realizing quite well that it could serve as a pretext for applying sanctions against them, including the use of force," he said. He also expressed skepticism at any alleged proof that the U.S. may have, likening it to flawed intelligence that pinpointed "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq during the Bush administration.
When asked how Russia would respond if the U.S. did not heed his warnings to wait for the U.N. Security Council, Putin said it was "too early" to discuss the scenario, but added "We have our ideas about what we will do and how we will do it in case the situation develops toward the use of force or otherwise."
If the U.S. did decide to wait on a decision from the United Nations Security Council, they run the risk of the whole operation being shutdown if Russia chooses to use its veto power.
Putin also addressed the tense relationship between himself and President Barack Obama, who has publicly scolded the Russian leader for the country's intolerance to gay citizens. Putin vehemently denied being anti-gay, citing famous Russians like Tchaikovsky who were gay and saying "Truth be told, we don't love him because of that, but he was a great musician and we all love his music."
He also said rumors that those holding rainbow flags or other displaying other signs in support of the gay community would not be punished during the winter olympics.
Putin also talked about the harboring of Edward Snowden, which he promised was not an elaborate plan and partially blamed on poor decision making by the U.S. intelligence agencies who could have allowed Snowden to fly into a country with more lax security in order to apprehend him.
Of the relationship with Obama, Putin said, "President Obama hasn't been elected by the American people in order to be pleasant to Russia. And your humble servant hasn't been elected by the people of Russia to be pleasant to someone either."