September 12th, 2013
07:40 PM ET
7 years 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. Lynda/Minnesota

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

    Judging from the comments thus far, Rudy? Iffy at best.

    September 13, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  2. Jimmy123

    I love Gingrich but I also feel he is over reacting and lacking tolerance on this one by criticizing Putin's personal endeavors.

    It is Russia who is projecting itself as the "exceptional" dove with its mediation towards resolve to armed conflict. Something we strive for and, understandably, support. We also risk sparking a horrific escalation even when we seek brief and short lived intervention.

    September 13, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  3. Joe

    as long as the objective is achieved, it does not matter who the other guy is (Russian thought about Bush the same way, a CIA guy)
    This Gingrich guy has no respect for Putin, that's fine, but he also has no respect for our president when he pollutes the air like as he did. He is playing for his constituency, ignoring the greater good of our nation

    September 13, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  4. Bubba

    Putin has been learning from Limbaugh on how to use the bully pulpit, and is experiencing great success.

    September 13, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. Pliny

    Putin is a dictator, just like assad.

    And he is leading a kleptocracy that is stealing russia out from under it's people.

    If it were not for the nuclear weapons (that they stole from us), russia would be nothing but a collectoin of backwards peasants.

    September 13, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. st

    Yes Putin is a thug but he made our President look like a sissy.

    September 13, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  7. NameScott

    Pot calling kettle

    September 13, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  8. Eric Ekstrom

    It takes one to know one mr Gingrich.

    September 13, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  9. midwest-tom

    Bottom line: propaganda war facilitated by U.S. media. Russia/China/Iran/North Korea/ et al. will win every time, because we build the weapon that they outlaw. Bloodless foreign "victory"...fine by me. This is the new face of war, but it's only effective against free nations.

    September 13, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  10. Name

    How does it makes him a dectator when he wants piece in the World? And yes we have to respect him as any other individual. Why are we always taking things so aggressively and want to attack people and countries?

    September 13, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  11. nisan

    Soviet Empire collapse without bloodshead, dozens nations get freedom from Russians (Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, E.Germany, Czech, Hugary, Poland, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine.. and many more), but America still in the Cold War. Americans think that to build democracy in Russia should take a few years, but it'll takes a few new generations.
    US and NATO actions do not helping Russians to build democracy, but make them scare: NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, Iraq, NATO troops moved right to Russian borders. For sure Putin and Russians are not "happy" by this actions.

    September 13, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  12. Rudy NYC


    Putin is a thug thats fine, but we can not say he is a thug because he was KGB, remember Bush senior was CIA
    Bush senior was VP back when there still was a KGB and a USSR. Now, fast forward 20-30 years.

    September 13, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  13. dl

    Translation: I'm jealous I'm not the President (Gingrich)

    September 13, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  14. Conan the Librarian

    But Putin and Gingrich have so much in common! Both of them abused, lied to, cheated on, and dumped their wives. Both are in love with themselves. I think they would make a great couple!

    September 13, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  15. Durundal

    So we made Russian jump in and drag its wayward arms customers to the table after we threatened to level their country....How is this a loss for America? Russia is looking out for their interests and we are adhering to the letter of the law according to UN resolutions dealing with the usage of chemical weapons. What moron seriously takes that as a game of 'scoring points'?

    September 13, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  16. Name

    We need to stop being so aggressive against other countries and their leaders. Find pieceful way to deal with conflicts!

    September 13, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  17. Denese

    Gingrich is horrible and should never, ever give an opinion about anyone else.

    September 13, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  18. Allison

    Putin only inserted himself for his own personal/political gain. Trust me, we'll find out later that there was a method to his madness.

    September 13, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  19. mb2010a

    I can't believe I.m saying this, but I have to agree with Newt on this one...I don't even like the guy.

    September 13, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  20. Tampa Tim

    After reading the love comments from right wingnuts towards Putin, it means the new GOP motto should be,"Commies First."

    September 13, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  21. Veeblefester

    Obama turns into Bush and Gingrinch is absolutely dead on the money about Putin. I think my head is going to explode.

    September 13, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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.
    Can we PLEASE put that to the test?
    If only to see if Wake up is right?!

    September 13, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  23. Roy meddock

    Gingrich is irrelevant. He believes in demonizing the other side. Had America bombed Syria the sectarian war could have erupted into a regional war. The instability would have definitely affected us. The Gingrich's of the world with their poorly educated sterile vision just believe in reaching out and crushing someone.

    September 13, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  24. Alfranken1

    It's kinda like global warming - we can keep telling ourselves that it's not happening all the way to, and possibly beyond, the point the ice caps completely melt.

    We can also keep telling ourselves that we are exceptional all the way past the point that we are a poor nation in debt with a poor education, affordable health care out of reach, .... and continue to become insulted when anyone points that out.

    September 13, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  25. Mick Ball

    I've never agreed with anything Newt Gingrich ever said....but he couldn't be more right in this case – Putin is 100% THUG!!!

    September 13, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
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