Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) promised a fiery rebuttal to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s New York Times op-ed this week on the sensational Pravda website, but the House Armed Services Committee chairman beat the senator to the punch in a more reputable newspaper.
Writing in The Moscow Times today, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) noted that “using flowery language about internationalism, diplomacy and compassion, Putin made a few reasonable points, but by and large he drew entirely the wrong conclusions about the nature of the Syrian conflict and the lessons he should learn about the U.S. response.”
“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. 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,” McKeon continued.
The chairman noted that “Putin and his Chinese counterparts” have blocked UN Security Council action against Assad since the bloody crackdown began in 2011. “I imagine the Security Council was as surprised as I was to see Putin’s tanks rolling towards Tblisi, Georgia in 2008,” he added.
“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,” McKeon wrote. “But it is difficult to overlook his glaringly obvious strategic aims. Putin is trying to achieve two simple objectives. First, he wants his puppet Assad to remain in power, and he wants the Russian Navy to have the ability to park their ships at the five heavy piers in Tartus, Syria. Second, Putin wants to mischaracterize the resolve and nature of Americans, suggesting that the U.S. is in decline and rules without a rudder.”
“…Putin miscalculated when he tried to mask his self-interest with benevolence. 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.”
McKeon acknowledged that President Obama has made a poor case to America for involvement in Syria and many of his colleagues are skeptical as well.
“But 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,” he continued. “History is on our side. Putin may be a fair-weather UN 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.”
The Moscow Times topped it off with this great editorial cartoon: