September 12th, 2013
07:40 PM ET
10 months ago

Gingrich: Putin is a dictator and a thug

(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 waist, 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."


Filed under: Crossfire • Newt Gingrich • Russia
soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. Jules

    I don't often agree with Gingrich, but sure do on his assessment of Putin. Anyone who thinks Putin wants diplomacy does not know his history. This is a delaying tactic so that Syria can hide their weapons or get them out of the country, They will probably be shipped to Russia – Syria will invite UN inspectors in, they find nothing and then the weapons get shipped back. Let's remember that Russia is not a democracy, although Putin would like people to believe it is – Putin keeps switching between the top two jobs in the country, but even when he is not in the top job, he still runs the show. He is a dictator.

    September 13, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  2. Phyllis Gwendoline Williams

    Russian President Vladimir Putin... should be congratulated for saving the world from possible destruction+++

    September 13, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  3. jbird68

    This ham should stay quiet, rather than interfere with The Administrations stake in negotiations.

    September 13, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  4. tokan

    Gingrich is a sad little irrelevant man who is still stuck in 1987.

    September 13, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  5. Dee G.

    Shockingly enough, for a change, I actually agree with the Newtster!

    September 13, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  6. Democratic American

    In America, we live in a dictarorship too... Since the beginning of time I've heard of Gingrich this, Gingrich that, and he is not the only one in the same situation... Why? ... Because thhe hves been in our political system for decades, there should be a restriction on how many terms a politician should be in power, to give the opportunity to other "good people."

    September 13, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Rick McDaniel

    Gingrich is amusing, but in truth, Putin sees the reality of the situation, far more clearly than our own leaders, and his analysis of the situation, in Syria, is absolutely dead on.
    -----------------------
    How long is it going to take for all the newly discovered Putin fans to realize that praising the man's words also means that you agree with his down playing of American exceptionalism? How long is it going to take for the Putin fans to realize that they are singing the praises of a man who is a dictator in every sense of the word, except for his job title? How long is it going for take for the Putin fans to realize that if an op-ed like this appeared in Moscow, that he would shut down the media outlet and arrest the author and publishers?

    How long is it going to take for the Putin fans to realize that they are acting as anti-American as you can get?

    September 13, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    Well Newt you and your ilk have accomplished most of what you have spent the past 5 years attempting to do. Give yourselves a pat on the back GOP. For the past 5 years you have done absolutely nothing to move this country forward. You and your ilk have openly expressed the nastiest thoughts ever about a POTUS. You have encouraged your followers to question his birth, oppose everything he proposes and even secession from the United States and now you have even managed to get many of them to take the word of an ex KGB agent, dictating thug over our President. Well done guys, well done!!
    --------------

    I'm tipping my hat to you this morning, Wake Up.

    September 13, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  9. Wake up People!

    Thanks Dominican Mama and DD. These comments sicken me to my stomach. Supporting a KGB agent dictator who is ACTUALLY a communist, while calling our own POTUS the exact very same things.

    A house divided, cannot stand. This is the beginning of the end. Putin is very smart and he sees the level of hatred directed at President Obama and plans to use it to his advantage.

    September 13, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  10. Oxana

    At least Putin is trying to solve the conflict peacefully. Should we care abut Putin background now?

    September 13, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  11. Wow!

    I can't believe I agree with Newt!

    September 13, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  12. Lynda/Minnesota

    @Wake Up:

    I'm tipping my hat to you this morning ...

    September 13, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  13. Bob

    Putin is a better American than Obama!

    September 13, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  14. kipper215

    Throwing rocks in a glass house Newt. Our government is supporting terrorist in Syria. Our Government does not follow the will of the people. Our government is illegally spying on us. I truly hope that voters will wake up and vote all these long time crooked politicians out of office and force you into retirement.

    September 13, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  15. Wake up People!

    Dominican Mama, Data Driven and Lynda.

    Thank you so much for the kind words. I have been kind of quiet lately due to either being zapped or just not really seeing the point in responding the comments. But you ladies and gentlemen have been handling your business. But this topic and the comments had me so mad I could have bitten off my own tongue. I can't believe THIS is the America I used to love so much. The past 5 years have truly opened my eyes and changed me in ways I would never have believed just 6 years ago.

    September 13, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  16. What's in that tea anyway?

    Country before Party right GOP / Tea Trolls ...yeah right! You've spent five years making President Obama to be a communist dictator, and the moment a real communist dictator insults him and this country, you jump right on the band wagon (...an ex KBG agent)...really? ...I know...you guys aren't racists, not bigots, just idiots that oppose Obama's ideas. Well you are right in alignment with this Putey thug....Time to do the Ed Snowden thing, head over to Russian...we certainly don't need you here.

    September 13, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  17. manomundo

    A sure sign of a small mind is an inability to consider anyone else's viewpoint. Gingrich is Exhibit A. As for Putin being ex-KGB, let's remember that the first Bush was ex-CIA. And Putin had every right to go after terrorists, just as the U.S. does, so what's this about Putin being a thug for defending his country? Gingrich, and many others, should learn to be less self-important.

    September 13, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  18. Travis

    Ugh. All this effort to make Putin look bad and us look good in this mess is not helping our image in the rest of the world. Melodramatic statements like that of Senator Menendez and attacks on Putin's character just make the rest of the world see us as completely full of ourselves. Just admit it, already: Putin helped us avoid military conflict in Syria. Shake hands with him and say, "Thanks. We couldn't have done it without you." Then the world might not think we're so arrogant.

    September 13, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  19. Michael

    I'd like to see Gingrich say that stuff to Putin's face.

    September 13, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  20. adam101

    Putin is a thug thats fine, but we can not say he is a thug because he was KGB, remember Bush senior was CIA

    September 13, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  21. Amazed

    Do any of you people(well most) have any idea what you are talking about? @Lynda/Minnesota, how does this article succeed in causing us to "to take the word of an ex KGB agent, dictating thug over our President."? He is warning Americans against believing Putin. This man has a vested interest in Syria and I believe Newt sees through all of Putin's BS.

    September 13, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ Wake up People!
    I understand how you feel BUT don't let the FEW, the hateful, the racists, and the willfully ignorant take away your pride of country.
    And they are in the MINORITY they are just loud, embarrassing, and duplicitous.
    REMEMBER the night he was elected by a true rainbow coalition of citizens.
    AND remember his decsive re-election last year by more of the same.
    We've ALL come a long way in this country but there will always be the "usual suspects".
    Don't let them make you despair or lose sight of how far we've come although we've still got a ways to go.
    God bless.

    September 13, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  23. steve

    Listen to all the liberals putting down Gingrich and proping up Putin. Proof positive they hate Republicans more than they love America.

    September 13, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  24. Wake up People!

    Here's an idea for the Putin fan club. Pack your ish and move to Russia. When ole Vlad does something you don't like, and he will, go online and say some of the vile things you say about President Obama and see what happens. I dare you. I guarantee you will be begging to get back to freedom.

    September 13, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  25. sonny chapman

    Anti American ? That's a good name for the trigger happy Repubs. who opposed Obama's threat to bomb Syria. They told Bush/Cheney DO IT re: Iraq (talk about no exit strategy, or Defined Mission). Instead of giving Obama support to strengthen his negotiating position, like many Dems. who opposed Iraq but wanted to strengthen Bush's hand, in case he didn't want war, even if they had grave doubts about Doing Iraq, these PATRIOTS(just ask them) did all that they could to score cheap political points. Country First ?

    September 13, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
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