The G20 host at St. Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin, swept the conference (excluding France and Canada) behind his obdurate objection to military intervention in Syria and against President Barack Obama’s resolve to punish Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons, DEBKAfile reports. Putin wouldn’t budge on this question, even brushing off the demand for safe access for international humanitarian assistance to reach the millions of desperately distressed Syrian civilians. The Russian leader insisted that the US had no proof of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons in eastern Damascus on Aug. 21 and demanded that the world wait for the UN inspectors’ report. Putin was able muster behind his position the BRICS group (Russia, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa), which feared a military strike against Syria could have “an extremely negative effect” on the global economy and the European Union (barring France) whose president said efforts should focus on a political settlement, echoing echoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphatic demand.
From his corner at the St. Petersburg summit, Obama appealed to the US Congress to back him up for a military operation against Syria with a time limit of 90 days.