The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee fired back at Russian President Vladimir Putin with an opinion piece in a Moscow newspaper Tuesday after Putin wrote his own op-ed in The New York Times last week.
Writing in The Moscow Times, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) accused Putin of a “surreal blend of hypocrisy and convenient ignorance of the facts” after the Russian leader urged the U.S. not to take action in Syria.
“Putin wryly characterizes his opposition to Western involvement in Syria as a benevolent appeal of empathy for the innocents and respect for international law. Putin has warned that the violence in Syria would be worsened by U.S. intervention,” the 10-term congressman wrote. “He humbly omitted Russia’s role in that affair: in the millions of tons of equipment, ammunition and arms that he has sent to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. These weapons have killed far more Syrians than chemical weapons. With more than 100,000 Syrian civilians killed, the blood of scores of innocents is on Putin’s hands.”
Putin, McKeon said, “is spinning a tall tale that the American people don’t buy and the international community shouldn’t believe.”
“The Americans who read Putin’s op-ed are not dupes. They are aware of the suppression of the Russian people, the intimidation of journalists and the wanton disregard for basic human rights. In addition, they are able to identify irony when they see it — particularly when it is Putin who is making a spontaneous appeal for humanitarianism and the observance of rule of law,” he wrote.
McKeon said Putin has two “glaringly obvious strategic aims”: to keep his “puppet” Bashar Assad in power in Syria and to suggest that the U.S. “is in decline.” Insisting that the U.S. not act without the approval of the United Nations, where Russia has veto power, is the “only true measure of great-power status” Putin can play.
“Putin miscalculated when he tried to mask his self-interest with benevolence,” McKeon wrote. “He also miscalculated in achieving his second objective, using a surreal blend of hypocrisy and convenient ignorance of the facts. No one should confuse U.S. reluctance to use force at this time in Syria with a reluctance to defend our national security or to use all means necessary to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”
The committee chairman said President Barack Obama “may well not have persuaded Americans” or members of Congress on Syria, “[b]ut this is a temporary failure of leadership, and the current circumstances are unique.”
“Demonstrate to us that vital U.S. interests are at stake, and we will act decisively,” McKeon said.
Speaking directly to Putin’s knock on “American exceptionalism,” McKeon concluded: “History is on our side. Putin may be a fair-weather U.N. fan. So be it. But make no mistake: It is the U.S., not the UN, that has provided the strategic framework for stability and peace since World War II.”
“That responsibility will continue for decades to come — with or without the approval of Putin,” McKeon wrote.