Tags: times | putin | obama | syria

NY Times: Putin Now Front and Center on Syria Crisis

Image: NY Times: Putin Now Front and Center on Syria Crisis

Thursday, 12 Sep 2013 11:24 AM

By Lisa Barron

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Just one week after President Barack Obama asked Congress to authorize a military strike against Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has suddenly become the lead actor in the international drama playing out to settle the crisis.

According to the New York Times, the Russian leader has basically stolen the show from Obama by offering his own plan that Syrian President Bashar Assad turn over his chemical arsenal to international control and by dispatching his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to Geneva to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in an attempt to hammer out the details.

"Mr. Putin appears to have achieved several objectives, largely at Washington's expense," wrote the Times' Steven Lee Myers on Thursday, noting that Putin "has handed a diplomatic lifeline to his longtime ally in Syria," has "stopped Mr. Obama from going around the United Nations Security Council," and has "boxed Mr. Obama into treating Moscow as an essential partner" on the issue.

Myers quoted Ian Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, who said in a conference call Wednesday, "Putin probably had his best day as president in years yesterday, and I suspect he's enjoying himself right now."

The Russian media apparently agreed, with the Moscow television channel NTV reportedly saying in its broadcast Wednesday night that Putin "has become a hero in the world these days" and should perhaps be considered as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

But Putin's own foray into the media via his own op-ed piece on the Times' website late Wednesday has drawn sharp criticism from many, according to CNN, which cited a number of people, including a senator and prominent journalist, who basically went on line to tell the Russian to mind his own business.

The Russian leader used his op-ed to argue against U.S. military intervention in Syria while at the same disputing the idea of American exceptionalism, suggested by Obama in his address to the nation Tuesday night.

In the speech, Obama maintained that even if the U.S. can't be a global policeman it should at least take action in certain horrific situations like a chemical attack on innocent civilians, which he argued is in keeping with the nation's national interest.

"That's what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth," he said.

But Putin wrote, "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation." He added, "We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."

That line didn't go over well with everyone, CNN reported, pointing to several tweets, including one from Florida political consultant Sarah Rumpf.

"Hey Putin," Rumpf tweeted, "next time you wanna write a letter to convince America about something, how about you skip saying we're not exceptional? #rude."

"In his open letter Putin says 'God created us all equal' - guess he forgot about the gays & his discriminatory laws," tweeted Kristopher Wells, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, in reference to Russia's new law banning public displays or discussions of gay rights.

Another tweet took issue with Putin's insistence that military action against Syrian can only be taken with approval from the United Nations.

"Man who launched military action in Georgia and Chechnya without UN say-so says wars without it are illegal?" tweeted the journalist John Podhoretz.

The cable news network also quoted Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez as saying that Putin's op-ed made him want to throw up.

"I almost wanted to vomit," he said. "I worry when someone who came up through the KGB tells us what is in our national interests and what is not. It really raises the question of how serious the Russian proposal is."

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