Putin's NYT Op-Ed Roils Washington

Thursday, 12 Sep 2013 12:21 PM

By Newsmax Staff

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Reaction came swiftly Thursday to Vladimir Putin's surprise appearance in the op-ed pages of The New York Times, where he challenged President Barack Obama over Syria.

Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan called the Russian president's article "outstanding," while Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez said it made him want to vomit.



Others from both left and right slammed Moscow's strongman for lecturing the United States about human rights.

But all sides agreed it was a stunning propaganda coup for Putin with the Times itself saying that the 60-year-old former KGB chief is now clearly the most powerful leader in the world.

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"Suddenly Mr. Putin has eclipsed Mr. Obama as the world leader driving the agenda in the Syria crisis," the Times wrote on Thursday, the same day that his op-ed appeared.

"He is offering a potential, if still highly uncertain, alternative to what he has vocally criticized as America’s militarism and reasserted Russian interests in a region where it had been marginalized since the collapse of the Soviet Union."

Among Putin's victories, the Times noted, were: giving Syrian President Bashar Assad a lifeline just as he appeared close to losing power; preventing Obama acting without first getting backing from the United Nations Security Council, where Russia holds a veto; and making Russia "indispensible" in containing the Syrian conflict.

But it was the op-ed in the Times that was seen as Putin's coup de grace.

Buchanan was full of praise for the article. "Candidly, it was an outstanding piece," the two-time presidential candidate told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren.

Buchanan said Putin made a better case against U.S. strikes in Syria than Obama made in favor of them in his Tuesday night address to the nation.

"Frankly, in the last week, Vladimir Putin looks like a statesman," Buchanan said.

Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had a far lower opinion of Putin's writing. He told CNN's Jake Tapper, "I have to be honest with you, I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit."

"I worry when someone who came up through the KGB tells us what's in our national interest and what is not," added the New Jersey Democrat, who described the editorial as "very much in-your-face,"

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, meanwhile, said it was no surprise that Putin had used the Times to get his point across.

"It is galling for this strong man to be wagging his finger at America about peace and international law," she said Thursday on "Fox & Friends."

On the same show, Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. said Obama needed to read the article.

"Josef Stalin is smiling from the grave this morning," said Johnson, who called the New York Times piece "a full-throated attack on our president and on our country."

"Putin has the nerve to go to the New York Times this morning to try and break off the American left and embarrass the president in New York City in the liberal newspaper of record," he added.

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," commentator Andrea Mitchell called Putin's article "brazen" action, but nonetheless "a PR stunt."

"He is trying to appeal to the world," she added.

Columnist John Podhoretz talked about the irony of Putin's position. He expressed his incredulity in a tweet. "Man who launched military action in Georgia and Chechnya without UN say-so says wars without it are illegal?"

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also weighed in, claiming the op-ed was aimed at "weakening the resolve" of the United States over Syria.

"First and foremost, we have to understand that President Putin should be the last person to lecture the United States about our human values and our human rights and what we stand for," said the former Pentagon chief.

"We know what we stand for. We know what we are fighting for in the world. And I think his effort to try to do this by a column in The New York Times is just not going to work. We know who the Russians are."

The White House itself tried to play down the furor caused by the article, with CNN quoting one senior aide as pointing out that Putin was now "fully invested" in dismantling Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

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The same official said Putin's dismissal of American exceptionalism was "irrelevant."

"He put this proposal forward and he’s now invested in it," the official said.

"That's good. That's the best possible reaction. He's fully invested in Syria's CW disarmament and that’s potentially better than a military strike – which would deter and degrade but wouldn’t get rid of all the chemical weapons. He now owns this. He has fully asserted ownership of it and he needs to deliver.”

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