Gingrich: Putin is a dictator and a thug
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Americans shouldn’t let Vladimir Putin’s opinions get under their skin because the Russian president is a one-time KGB officer whose primary interest is nationalism, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday.
“While we have to deal with him as the president of Russia, we don’t have to respect his views. We don’t have to respect his opinions,” said Gingrich, co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire.”
“And frankly, we should laugh at him when he tries to lecture America about exceptionalism, because he ain’t exceptional. He’s just one more in a long tradition of dictators and thugs.”
Putin rattled some Americans, including high-profile figures in Washington, when he argued in a New York Times op-ed against U.S. military intervention in Syria. In the final paragraph, he took issue with the idea of America being the proverbial shining city on a hill.
“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” he wrote.
His comment was a jab at President Barack Obama who said in a speech on Tuesday America has an obligation to respond to situations like the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.
“That’s what makes us exceptional,” Obama said.
Some were not amused by Putin’s advice.
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez said on CNN the piece made him almost want “to vomit,” and House Speaker John Boehner said he was “insulted.”
Read: Vladimir Putin’s comments on American exceptionalism, Syria cause a fuss
But Gingrich said Putin shouldn’t be taken seriously.
“This is a guy who, for public relations purposes, wrestles bears. He shoots tigers, stripped to the waste, to prove he’s a tough guy,” he said.
The former House speaker pointed to Putin’s history as a former intelligence officer for the KGB, where he worked from 1975-1992.
Gingrich also argued Putin was behind the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the conflict in Chechnya has killed thousands.
He expressed doubt the opinion piece was even written by Putin, saying it was likely penned by a Washington speechwriters.
“You can go through and read that document and you could find at every single stage find that it’s a lie,” Gingrich said. “For us to take it seriously is a sign that we have forgotten who Vladimir Putin is.”
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