TODAY   |  September 12, 2013

Putin writes NY Times op-ed urging caution in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s op ed in the New York Times blames the Syrian rebels, not the Assad regime, for chemical attacks as world leaders will meet in Geneva to discuss a potential Syrian chemical weapons disarmament. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> now to the development in syria. john kerry kicking off with his russian counterpart. vladmir putin is out with an editorial aimed at the white house . published in the new york times. andrea mitchell has the latest from geneva. andrea, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning to you, savannah. well, vladmir putin has tried to seize the pr advantage, claiming the rebels, not the assad regime, for that chemical attack . as john kerry arievled in geneva this morning, people dismissed the putin column. that is not what he and his foreign minister are telling them. but in today's new york times, putin says there is every reason to believe sarin gas was used not by the army but the opposition forces. he warned it would unleash a few wave of terrorism in the region. he takes a swipe at president obama 's speech saying it is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional. later today , kerry will meet with his russian counterpart to find out was putin 's column clever pr or are the russians serious about eliminating assad 's chemical weapons ? they're counting on putin having a lot at stake.

>> russia has, i think to its credit, put its prestige on the line.

>> reporter: but has zigzagging weakened the bargaining position?

>> i think 23 will have a crippled negotiating team, putin holds the cards on getting rid of the chemical weapons .

>> reporter: even if an agreement is reached, can it work? the arsenal is believed to be 1,000 tons if scattered. this photo shows bunkers on the periphery.

>> this will be a lengthy process, given the volume of what everyone suspects syria has. it will take years to eliminate these stocks.

>> reporter: and one big plus, though, for the u.s. side going into these talks is that the u.n. inspectors that went to the chemical site have reportedly concluded, agreeing with the u.s. it was likely the assad regime, brought in the opposition, responsible for that horrendous attack.

>> andrea mitchell , thank you so much. leon panetta served as the secretary of defense and