Addressing the United Nations General Assembly for the first time in more than a decade, Russian President Vladamir Putin called Monday for a broad anti-terror coalition aimed at stopping the Islamic State—and in a pointed challenge to President Barack Obama, hinted that this coalition should back the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The team, Putin explained, would be “similar to the anti-Hitler coalition.” Speaking about the Islamic State in lurid terms, he added, “We cannot allow these criminals who have already tasted blood to return back home and continue their evil.”
“Russia stands ready to work with its partners on the basis of consensus,” Putin said. It’s not clear, though, whether he expects the US to be one of these “partners.” According to the Washington Post, Putin has historically used the word “partners” to refer to countries with whom relations are tense.
Putin also spoke gravely about the lack of political stability in the Middle East and North Africa after the Arab Spring, saying, “Nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life. I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, ‘Do you realize now what you have done?'”
Putin’s remarks come on the heels of Sunday’s news that Russia, Iraq, Iran, and Syria had entered an agreement to share military intelligence about the Islamic State. The announcement blindsided United States intelligence officials, according to the New York Times.
In his own Monday address to the General Assembly a few hours earlier, President Obama claimed that he’d be willing to work with “any nation, including Russia and Iran,” to create a resolution that would help put a stop to the crisis in Syria. But the methods he endorsed contrast sharply with Putin’s. He also ruled out working with “tyrants like Bashar al-Assad,” and said there could be no “return to the previous status quo” in Syria.