Pat Buchanan: Putin 'Made a Better Case' Than Obama on Syria

September 12, 2013 - 8:12 AM


President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, on Monday, June 17, 2013. (Evan Vucci/AP)

( - Conservative pundit Patrick Buchanan says Vladimir Putin's op-ed in the New York Times is an "outstanding piece" that "made a better case against U.S. strikes in Syria" than President Obama has done in arguing for U.S. strikes.

"I read the whole thing, and I read it twice," Buchanan told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren Wednesday night. "And candidly, it was an outstanding piece, and I think Vladimir Putin made a better case against U.S. strikes in Syria than the president of the United States did last night, Greta.

"And I think he (Putin) laid out one of the real dangers here, which is that jihadists and terrorists, as well the al Qaeda folks inside Syria and others -- they're pouring in from the West and Russia. And if the Assad regime falls, in whose hands do these chemical weapons go?

"I don't think Assad is any threat to use chemical weapons against the United States or Israel. As for some of the people in the rebel community, I think they are a real threat to use them."

Putin's proposal to have Syria hand over its chemical weapons stockpiles is not verifiable, Buchanan said. "But I'll tell you this, Greta. Russia is the player here. It is the big player, not the United States. Russia alone has the lines to Assad. Russia alone can get Assad to identify where the weapons are. He alone can get Assad to -- you know, to tell him where to go to pick up the weapons. We don't have any contact there at all. So for the short term, I think we've got to rely upon Russia.

"You know, Ms. Albright once said the United States is the indispensable nation. For the next couple of weeks, in dealing with this crisis and resolving it, Russia is the indispensable nation."

In  his op-ed, Putin warned the United States about the dangers of claiming to be exceptional:

"I carefully studied his (Obama's) address to the nation on Tuesday," Putin wrote. "And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is 'what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.' It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."

Buchanan said he disagrees with Putin on that point: "I don't think that President Obama said we are exceptional because of our policies. I think he said that he feels that our beliefs, our concern about international norms, our concern about human rights, the record we have, makes us exceptional. So I don't agree with President Putin there. I do agree the United States is in many ways an exceptional nation.

"But President Putin makes the point -- he asks -- this exceptional nation idea has taken us into war against Iraq, war in Afghanistan 10 years, war in Libya. And now we're moving toward a war in Syria. What good has it done for human rights and what good has it done for the United States of America?"

Buchanan said Putin is making the same case that the Obama administration's American critics have been making: "What Putin is doing here, he is reaching out to the anti-war community in the United States, the anti-interventionist community on Syria, which as we know, recently, is probably up around 60, 70, 80 percent of the American people. And he's doing it in an op-ed, and I think it's very effective."

Buchanan said Russia's national interests in Syria align with those of the U.S. in some ways, such as keeping chemical weapons out of the hands of al Qaeda and keeping terrorists out of Russia. But unlike the U.S., Russia wants Assad to survive and he doesn't want war with Iran.

Buchanan recalled that when he worked for President Ronald Reagan, "he was desperate to get to talk to the Russians," and he finally got his chance with Mikhail Gorbachev.

As for Obama -- "What is the United States doing stiffing the president of Russia, not having meetings with him?" Buchanan asked. "I think it makes us look petty. I think, frankly, in the last week, Vladimir Putin has looked like a statesman."