September 12th, 2013
07:40 PM ET
7 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. Journey

    I remember when the U.S. ran that exceptionally bright idea of a Soviet economy into the ground back in the 80's...maybe still a little wounded pride from that so I'll let Putin pass on this one. Sputnik was a neat program for the few weeks it lasted...one of the U.S. satellites just left the solar system. Let people on the other side of the world have their consolation prizes from time to time.

    September 13, 2013 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  2. escher

    Don't often agree with Ging, but he is dead on this time. The rush of Americans calling Putin "strong" and a hero is disgusting. But then a majority of people don't really look beneath the surface of international politics, they just react in a superficial knee-jerk manner.

    September 13, 2013 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  3. duneduder

    Wow, Newt, takes one to know one...

    September 13, 2013 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  4. MDD

    Right on target.
    Putin needs to be ignored.

    September 13, 2013 03:12 am at 3:12 am |
  5. Wisemann

    Whoever Putin may be, in this situation he is absolutely right. And that is what matters.
    I know of another politician, democratically elected, who preached his nation exceptionalism and was willing to wage wars as he pleased. But he ended up committing suicide in the Furer's Bunker in April, 1945.
    Personally I respect Newt Gingrich- he is one of the best among the CNN clowns. As a failed presidential candidate, he may be jealous of Putin- that may explain his rhetoric, quite unfortunate and in fact stupid on this occasion. Normally Newt is quite smart.

    September 13, 2013 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  6. No

    Nobody respects your views or opinions Grinch

    September 13, 2013 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  7. Jack Waterman

    I used to think that Mr Gingrich was, at least, an intelligent and thoughtful statesman. His comments about Mr Putin are unbecoming a person of his stature. The commentary coming out of the US Political circles is childish, disrespectful, and extremely disappointing. I am not sure I understand where all the hyperbole and rhetoric comes from, but I find it stunning that any leader who does not agree with the US and toes the line 100% is referred to as a "thug", a "dictator" an "Adolf Hitler" or a "tyrant". We must, as citizens, demand our leaders behave responsibly

    September 13, 2013 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  8. seafoodwatch

    Wasn't Newt the guy who was responsible for unregulating the housing market, letting his thug buddies screw over millions of Americans and walk away.

    September 13, 2013 04:14 am at 4:14 am |
  9. W.

    It is a rare occasion when I have to agree with Mr. Gingrich. President Putin is a "strongman" in just as much the same manner as Assad. His opportunities to exploit power are more subtle and shrouded, but he commands with impunity, and imposes his will without discretion.

    September 13, 2013 04:27 am at 4:27 am |
  10. Thanks Newt

    Thanks Newt, Putin do you believe in god? Do you believe in Jesus Christ? no? then what to you believe in? I will answer, Communism, and all the wonders it's brought the Russian people. Putin, is not to be trust. Google the Pravda and read.

    Americans don't be fools, we know better when it comes to the Russian Government.

    End of Story

    September 13, 2013 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  11. Jewel

    Right, a thug, but also a thief. Don't foreget Gingrich, Putin stole that superbowl ring. He says he didn't steal it but offered to replace it. LOL He says the United States is not exceptional, but that ring is on display at the Kremlin, proves the United States is exceptional.

    September 13, 2013 04:51 am at 4:51 am |
  12. john williams

    Americans are shocked when they hear a world leader talking common sense. After all, we are numb from hearing all the lies coming out of DC. Israel, Britain and the US are the real axis of evil and we are tripping over ourselves trying to decide who to bomb next. We are at the end of the empire and other than Mcdonalds jobs there just aint much left to do so let's go kill some brown people and steal there stuff!!! This Gvt has become a joke on so many levels...Thanks Putin for adding some sanity to the discussion.

    September 13, 2013 04:58 am at 4:58 am |
  13. Chris Hodges

    While I'm not usually a fan of Mr. Gingrich, I will say, in his assessment of Vladimir Putin, he hit the nail on the head. Very well put, Sir and I believe that our President and Secretary of State Kerry probably feel the same way, although they are not free to make such commentary.

    September 13, 2013 05:01 am at 5:01 am |
  14. Bert974

    Endlessly claiming the Syrian government used nerve gas is a bad idea.

    September 13, 2013 05:03 am at 5:03 am |
  15. Bert974

    Putin: Gingrich is a dictator and a thug. So isn't O'Bama.
    Only in Amerika would you have the right to say that. Ha, you bet.
    Hello, anybody out there. Ah, . . . your "rights" are protecting you. Uh-huh, sure. You bet.

    September 13, 2013 05:13 am at 5:13 am |
  16. ron

    obama is a dictator in my book...look what he has done in the past with excutive powers...to get what he wants...and avoiding congress...

    September 13, 2013 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  17. harry

    does Gingrich really matters now?

    September 13, 2013 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  18. Brad

    For once I actually agree with Newt we should not be giving this dictator any credence!

    September 13, 2013 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
  19. Frank

    I hope you realize that no one cares what Gengrich thinks. When he was speaker of the house, his own party threw him out. The only reason why they let him run in the Republican primaries is to let the other canidates look good

    September 13, 2013 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  20. curious2

    Vladimir Putin think that he can take the American people for granted......he's trying to use our form of Ddemocracy as a tool to divide the American people.....even going as far as using a theological.....suggestion......the man is cunning and crafty......

    September 13, 2013 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  21. Marie MD

    Finally something the Grinch knoweth about . . . . his party is full is dictators . . . . the crazy Canadian thinks there should be 100 Jesse Helms in congress, gomer, cornyn and the flake go to Egypt and made fools of themselves, their leader is a fat addicted on drugs guy, they continue to try to buy elections.
    All part of .gbeing a dictator, crazy, full of themselves and extremely dangerous to the people of any country.

    September 13, 2013 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  22. DL

    We are not exceptional, including Gingrich. I can understand why the world, including Europe, gets irritated with loud, fat and boisterous Americans. We need to learn we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. We need to work as a team with the rest of the world.

    September 13, 2013 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  23. G

    no wonder america can get along with any body

    September 13, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  24. s. pasha

    Putin may be or may not be all that Newt Gingrich say's, but one thing is clear by his comments, Gingrich is a total Idiot. no wonder why he never got elected as the American President. many would beg to differ on his views which was quite evident by the reaction of the guy sitting next to him. what he says might appeal to some ignorant red neck, but I am sure most will listen to this Idiot and shake their head. grow up newt and smell the coffee.

    September 13, 2013 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  25. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    Newt Gingrich is not always right, but regarding Putin, Gingrich is 100% correct.

    September 13, 2013 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
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